When we talk about premium hand-rolled cigars, we discuss the wrapper and the binder and the filler. Occasionally we hear the terms long filler and short filler tossed about and for beginning cigar smokers these can be some confusing terms. So what is a long filler cigar and how is a short filler cigar different?
All premium hand-rolled cigars will have a few things in common. They all have a natural leaf as the wrapper and they all have a natural leaf or two below the wrapper as a binder. They will also all have natural leaf tobacco as the filler but this is where some cigars begin to differ. The top of the line cigars are always long filler and the more inexpensive smokes may be short filler.
Long filler cigars are made by bunching together a variety of different whole leaves and this is the filler. Without getting into the techniques of creating a cigar, let us just say the roller then takes this filler and wraps a binder leaf around it. Eventually the roller will finish this cigar off with a high quality wrapper leaf, put a cap on it and then trim the cigar to the correct size. Many tobacco leaves range in the 7”-8” range and many cigars are in the 5”-6” finished length so the roller must cut perhaps 1”-2” in some cases of the finished cigar to get it to the correct size. All these trimmings created during a day of rolling cigars are not tossed in the trash! At the end of a day all these trimmings are gathered up and will be known as short filler!
Short filler is premium quality tobacco but it is essentially the by-product from making premium long filler cigars. Short filler is not floor sweepings nor is it inferior tobacco! Many times you are getting the same quality tobacco in a short filler cigar for $2.00 per stick when the long filler cigar might have been $10.00!
So what are the differences when smoking short filler versus long filler cigars? First thing that I always notice is I tend to get little pieces of tobacco in my mouth from short filler. While there may be some pieces of tobacco that are 1”-2” long there are also a lot of little bits and pieces in there. Second thing I notice is the cigar will not hold an ash. While a long filler can create an ash of 3”-4” long due to whole leaves burning, a short filler just being small bits and pieces has nothing to hold itself together with to form an ash. The final thing I notice is the taste. While the taste is not bad, it is also quite a bit different than the premium long filler that may have created it. The burn tends to be a little hotter and not quite as even and consistent as long filler, since the leaves are all mixed up rather than precisely layered and bunched. I liken it to a 7 layer dip where you get all the distinctive flavors. But if you toss that 7 layer dip in a blender and then try it you find it has a very different taste. In many cases these are minor drawbacks when you look at spending $2 for a smoke rather than $10 for the same tobaccos! Buy your short fillers from a reputable manufacturer like ABC and you will not be disappointed!
Steve Mungeer, ABC Fine Wine & Spirits category manager: premium cigars and craft beer
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