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Thinking Inside the Box: How Much does a Cigar’s Presentation Really Matter?

Cigar packaging runs the gamut from cellophane bundles to wood or cardboard boxes to leather, metal, and sometimes bone or other rarities. It seems like a lot of companies tend to spend a lot of time designing their boxes, often commissioning artists to lend a hand. All the fuss over presentation poses the question, how important is the box that your cigars come in?

Take Gurkha for example—they’re known for having some of the most extravagant cigar packaging around. As Zac mentioned in an earlier post, the original run of Gurkha Black Dragon came in hand-carved camel bone boxes of 100. Now their packing ranges from the simple wood boxes of the Ninja and Viper to the spaceship-esque Avenger G5 or the Warlord, which comes in a war-beaten treasure chest. This type of packaging is warranted for Gurkha’s cigars, as they tend to be pretty intense.

Then there’s Room 101 by Camacho, whose cigar boxes and bands are designed by the Room 101 fashion house in Los Angeles. They come in black boxes decorated with Japanese characters and symbols, but also have a lot of cryptic imagery in them that the company won’t explain. This adds a little bit of mystery to the brand, especially given that in Orwell’s 1984, Room 101 was a torture chamber in the Ministry of Love where peoples’ worst nightmares came to life. This isn’t to say that Room 101 cigars are nightmarish, but I definitely think that connotation adds some cool background to the smokes.

Then you have brands like Tatuaje, who tend to use understated packaging (usually wooden boxes with black or grey lettering and a simple Fleur-de-lis theme) but are some of the most highly-rated smokes around. Occasionally they’ll border on showy, like in the Red and Black releases, but usually they stay in the realm of modest. Judging from Tatuaje’s many 90-plus ratings in Cigar Aficionado and Cigar Insider, presentation doesn’t mean much.

But then again, maybe it does. Maybe the understated packaging is Tatuaje’s way of saying that they don’t need to show off to make an impression with their smokes. Maybe it leaves something to the imagination when cigars come in understated packaging—look at Illusione, for example. The cigars come in sparsely decorated wooden boxes with cryptic names like “f9,” “888,” and “MK,” and this just adds to the mystery of the brand. Years after the release of the cigars, Illusione owner Dion Giolito revealed the meaning behind each of the names. But the mystery is still there for people who don’t spend hours reading about cigars on the internet like I do.

To end this post with a bit of a convoluted statement, I’d say that presentation doesn’t matter much, but it also matters a lot. Gurkha’s cigars tend to be on the stronger end of the spectrum, and a lot of their packaging is badass enough to suggest that. Then you have Illusione’s cigars, which have an air of mystery about them that’s only compounded by their simple packaging. So in short, don’t let a cigar’s packaging deter you from smoking it. Make the leap and smoke the cigar, and think about how the packaging works as part of the whole smoking experience. Judge the book by its cover, but only after you’ve read it.