What exactly are cigarillos?
They’re not as large as cigars or even petite cigars, but not as small as cigarettes. They burn drier than cigars, but taste closer to cigars than cigarettes. Indeed, this other tobacco product (OTP) segment definitely commands its own identity and is a product family that fares well with convenience store shoppers.
Technically, “cigarillo” is the Spanish word for “cigarette,” and it’s believed to have been born out of the Spanish-dominated cigar market centuries ago. According to Cigar Fundamentals, the first historical notation of cigarillos dates back to the 1830s and has swung in and out of popularity ever since. For example, when Westerns and foreign films of the 1950s featured characters smoking cigarillos, sales picked up. Far more recently, paparazzi have photographed celebrities like Rihanna indulging in a cigarillo. But c-stores can’t leave the marketing to Hollywood whims. And because the government restricts advertising for tobacco products, customer engagement with informed c-store staff is a far more effective marketing tool to convey the nuances of cigarillos versus little cigars or cigarettes.
Obviously, size is a defining characteristic. Typically, cigarillos measure between three and five inches, slightly longer than standard cigarettes, but far short of premium cigars. Even little cigars boast an average length of five inches. Cigarillos also have a bigger diameter than cigarettes, up to 10 centimeters versus eight centimeters. Still, that pales in comparison to fatter cigars that top out at 52 rings and 42 rings for petite cigars.
Internally, cigarillos may be more akin to cigarettes than cigars, at least in terms of moisture content. Cigars, regardless of size, contain a moist tobacco blend, which is why storing them in humidifiers is advised. Wetter tobacco, combined with the wider diameter, offers a slow burn. In fact, the smoke time for petite cigars could last between 30 and 45 minutes.
However, not everyone has that time availability when the urge to indulge strikes. That’s the convenience factor of cigarillos. Dry-cured tobacco blends with a lower moisture quotient provide a quicker burn. Oftentimes producers mix in cellulose to a homogenized binder, so it’s an even burn—cigars oftentimes require relighting. Even though they are machine-manufactured (like cigarettes), cigarillos are wrapped in tobacco leaves (like cigars) or brown tobacco-based paper, which deliver a taste experience closer to petite cigars than cigarettes.
Sold in tins or packs of various sizes, cigarillos fit easily into c-store back bars. Their unique position between cigars and cigarettes offers customers a hint of the cigar experience without the time commitments.