Premium cigars are distinguished by certain key features that set them apart from the non-premium crowd.

You might think that concept of a premium cigar is pretty straightforward, but is it? 

Exactly what constitutes a premium cigar?

Though not an exhaustive list, the following will take a closer look at 6 defining features that truly put premium cigars in a class of their own.

1. Made by Hand

It is a widely held belief that cigars made by handcraft are considered premium. Premium cigars are hand-rolled by skilled artisans who have typically mastered the art of tobacco rolling over the course of many years.

Alternatively, many non-premium cigars are made by machine process.

Hands rolling tobacco into a cigar

Furthermore, premium cigars are often made with rare or delicate tobacco leaves which can present additional challenges in rolling due to their unique characteristics.

The Cameroon-grown leaf which is applied to the Arturo Fuente Hemingway Signature for example, is a small and thin leaf which requires a greater degree of skill to work with.

Though not all cigars made by hand are premium, all premium cigars are made by hand.

2. Long Filler

In addition to being made by hand, premium cigars typically make use of long filler tobacco.

Filler tobacco is the innermost part of the cigar, and long filler refers to whole tobacco leaves that run the entire length of the cigar. They are carefully selected for their appearance, flavor, aroma and burning characteristics.

The outside scraps that are leftover are frequently incorporated into non-premium cigars, which can be made either by hand or machine.

3. Tobacco Quality

Premium cigars typically use high-quality tobacco leaves which have been grown in the most optimal regions from within the top tobacco-growing nations.

These leaves are often aged for several years to develop more complex and nuanced flavors in the final product. This meticulous process typically results in a richer and more complex smoking experience when compared to other cigars that may use lower-grade tobacco.

The wrapper leaf that is applied to a premium cigar is typically more smooth and visually appealing than lower-grade leaf which may exhibit a greater degree of blemishes. Leaf that does not qualify for wrapper use on a premium cigar may be utilized as a binder, as long filler, or even as a wrapper for a non-premium cigar.

Some non-premium cigars will incorporate Homogenized Tobacco Leaf (HTL) as a wrapper or binder. Though it burns and tastes much like natural tobacco, HTL is a man-made mixture of tobacco scrap and cellulose that is formed into a paper before being incorporated into a cigar.

4. Cost

Though there is no hard and fast rule stating that an expensive cigar is a good cigar, it is commonly understood that a premium cigar will usually cost more than a non-premium one due to the raw materials required, and the labor-intensive processes involved.

One of the main reasons for price differences are the quality of the tobacco that is used in premium cigars. Premium cigars are often made from tobacco leaves that have been carefully grown, selected, fermented and aged. This meticulous process takes time, which elevates the cost of a cigar.

Alternatively, most non-premium cigars are made from more cost-effective materials in a shorter period of time.

Together, the more expensive raw materials and the labor-intensive process of making a hand rolled cigar are factors that contribute to the higher price of a premium cigar.

5. Limited Quantities

Premium cigars are often produced in limited quantities and may be aged for extended periods of time before being released to the market. Cigars like the Cohiba Behike or Arturo Fuente Don Carlos Eye of the Shark are considered premium due to their rare tobaccos, limited availability, extensive aging process, and exceptional quality.

2017 #1 Cigar of the Year, Arturo Fuente Don Carlos Eye of the Shark

As an agricultural product, premium cigars require extreme care to achieve consistency in both quality and taste. Growing seasons with less than ideal weather conditions can alter the quality of a crop and the tobaccos required to create a specific cigar. Successful cigar makers know that a product cannot be sent to market if it is not in line with the the expected quality and flavor profile, and therefore things tend to take time to be executed properly.

The ultimate goal is to create high-quality cigars that consistently deliver a particular flavor profile that consumers have come to expect. Limited quantities are the result, which means that demand may exceed the availability of a particular premium cigar.

6. Luxury

Premium cigars are often associated with luxury and sophistication, largely appealing to connoisseurs who appreciate the finer things in life.

From the intricate cigar bands and elegant packaging to the complex flavor profiles and smooth, effortless draws, every aspect of a premium cigar is designed to provide a refined and luxurious smoking experience.

Though a fancy smoking jacket and $700 J.T. Dupont lighter is definitely not required, premium cigars do come with an air of luxury about them, and as a result are often reserved for special occasions.

Bonus: Shape

Whether a roller is constructing a standard Parejo or a Figurado, cigar rolling is a revered skill and art form required to create a premium cigar. Though the overwhelming majority of cigars are made as a standard cylindrical Parejo, the dead giveaway of a premium cigar may be its complex Figurado shape.

The Punch Rare Corojo Champion exhibits a unique Perfecto shape

Figurado cigars are known for their tapered ends and varying ring gauges throughout the length of the cigar, which can make them more challenging to roll. Examples of Figurado cigars include Belicosos, Piramides, Perfectos, Torpedos, Diademas and more.

This does not mean that all Parejos are easier to roll; many like the Lonsdale or Presidente for example can be just as complex and require a greater degree of skill that is akin to rolling a Figurado.

Though cigar shape is not always an indicator of a whether a cigar is premium or not, the extra level of craftsmanship involved in making a Figurado can at times be a clear indicator of a premium cigar.


Premium cigars are typically defined as being hand-rolled from high-quality tobacco. They are often available in limited quantities, may feature more complex shapes, and are considered luxury item that is sold to the public at a greater cost than non-premium cigars.

Whether you’re smoking a premium or non-premium cigar, what matters most of course is your enjoyment of it.