Not every day can be a Montecristo Habana day. Well, I suppose it could be, but that gets expensive quickly. For those who want a good tasting cigar without the associated price tag, there have been a number of inexpensive options popping up and the budget friendly version offered by the Drew Estate house is their Factory Smokes band.
Why are there a bunch of lower priced “premium” cigars popping on the market? Between the proposed FDA regulation of tobacco and the fact that this is an under served segment of the market in general, it’s a natural move for cigar manufacturers to make. The thing I appreciate about the Drew Estates offering is that their low cost version are being marketed and presented as a deliberate act instead of as an afterthought like some others.
Some manufacturers seem to have taken a rather understandable approach to this market segment, identifying the typical buyer as a budget conscious smoker that still wants to enjoy their cigar and presenting their product as a “factory second.” In other words, a cigar from another production line that for whatever reason (usually cosmetic) didn’t make the cut and would have otherwise been discarded. It’s not that the cigar is going to be a bad smoke, it’s just that it doesn’t meet the standards of the line.
Drew Estate has taken great pains to point out that their Factory Smokes line is not one of those “factory seconds” products. They deliberately designed a product to meet the needs of the budget priced bundle cigar market, taking their time to ensure that the product was still worthy of the Drew Estate name while remaining at or below $2.75 per cigar.
Looking at the end result you can definitely tell that this isn’t held to the same standard as Drew Estate’s other products. The wrapper isn’t as smooth and perfect as some of their other lines like the Liga Pravada band, showing some significant bumps and veins. And the cap construction isn’t as well accomplished, often coming slightly undone as I remove the cigar from the plastic sheath. But these flaws seem to be mainly cosmetic, and I haven’t had a single Factory Smokes cigar disintegrate on me while smoking yet.
The band continues the theme of “this isn’t the cigar for celebrating” with its straightforward and no-frills design. The entire logo is simply the name of the brand (“Factory Smokes”) on a black background with a colored solid border that denotes the variety of cigar. Honestly, I appreciate the design. It feels like the brand is being sufficiently self aware, acknowledging that this isn’t a fancy indulgence but instead an everyday smoke. In contrast, I think the Quorum cigars I reviewed previously try to elevate the cigar through the branding, which isn’t really what’s important to the consumer here.
I tried two versions of this cigar, the Connecticut Shade (yellow bordered label) and the Maduro (red, above). And in both cases, the cigar was exactly one unit of cigar. There were no surprises, and I didn’t feel like the cigar had any flavor progression or change throughout the entire smoke.
Both cigars offered a flavor profile that is about as inoffensive and standard as possible, with distinct earthy notes and a bit of hay mixed in. The only real difference is that the maduro version was markedly richer, but the flavor was consistent enough as to be unremarkable. From there, the flavor just remained consistent throughout the entire cigar.
The one complaint I do have is that the cigar tends to wander. Thanks to the aforementioned construction and the lower quality ingredients, the cigar doesn’t burn straight and consistent. Instead, it tends to skew to one side and needs some touch ups and assistance along the way. It’s not a deal killer, just something to keep an eye on.
Really, what more do you want from your budget priced cigar? It’s not terrible, it doesn’t do anything strange or funky, and it’s dirt cheap. It might not have the delicate flavors and deliciousness of some of the other Drew Estate offerings, but if you want those you can feel free to splurge and get the better cigar. This is a brand that knows what it is and consistently delivers, and I plan on keeping at least a few in stock for those times when the cigar is a secondary concern or when I’ve got a guest who honestly wouldn’t know the difference.
Overall Rating: 4/5
It’s not the greatest cigar in the world. But it’s good enough for something to puff on while taking a stroll around the neighborhood or to give you something to do while the grill does its thing to the steaks.