Cigars are diverse. They not only vary wildly in taste and strength but also in ring gauge and length. But all of that aside, they only come in two shapes: round or box-pressed. Most people agree that the flat surface nature of box-pressed cigars is useful in preventing them from rolling off tables and ashtrays, thus saving absentminded smokers from suffering the immeasurable grief of marked-up furniture, burned carpets, and damaged or wasted cigars. But there’s actually much more to box-pressing than mere safety and functionality. This was something made clear by none other than Christian Eiroa himself at a past event, who said he believes box pressing also impacts the flavor of a cigar. Manufacturers are quick to point out that cigar size can influence taste, but few manufactures offer their blends in both box-pressed and round shapes.
While the specific reasons for box pressing cigars remain a topic of debate, it’s generally agreed that the technique originated with Cuban cigars in the early 20th century. Some people believe that manufacturers packed their cigars tightly to save on shipping cost, while others believe it was done intentionally to prevent the cigars from rolling during shipment, therefore limiting the amount of damage the cigars could sustain in transport. While a variety of manufacturers now offer some form of box-pressed cigars, the Padron 1964 Anniversary (released during the cigar boom of the 1990s) brought box-pressed cigars back to the forefront. This box-pressed profile is now a hallmark of their brand, a feature that is present on all of their anniversary series releases.
Early box-pressed cigars used the box itself to help form the cigars that were freshly rolled and still malleable. After packaging, pressure was gradually added to the boxes, which helped compress the cigars into their box-pressed shape. This is a technique that is still in use today. The end result is cigars that have softer corners and may still retain some of their original shape.
Another technique that’s used to form the box-pressed shape is called trunk pressing. Instead of being placed in a box, the cigars are placed in a square wooden mold and pressed for up to 12 hours. After the specified time, the cigars are then rotated and pressed for an equal amount of time. These cigars typically have sharper, more well-defined corners. They’re also typically more expensive due to the extra labor involved, as well as the slowed production speed.
One thing you may have noticed about box-pressed cigars is that they fit in the mouth slightly differently compared to rounded cigars. Box-pressed cigars are harder to keep pressed between your lips, which causes a greater amount of air to be pulled in from around the cigar and into your mouth when it’s puffed. The result is a cooler draw and thus, a slightly different taste.
It’s also a generally accepted fact that box-pressed cigars burn more slowly than round cigars. This could also be a byproduct of the thicker wrappers that are traditionally used on box-pressed cigars, as thinner wrappers are more fragile and more prone to cracking under pressure.
All in all, box-pressed cigars seem to be preferred by aficionados, as past ratings indicate that many high-scoring cigars also just so happen to have been box-pressed.
As with other aspects of cigar smoking, the debate between box-pressed versus round comes down to personal preference. If you’re not familiar with both, consider trying some of your favorite blends in box-pressed and round shapes to see which you prefer. The easiest way to try this experiment would be with Medulla Oblongata cigars, which use the exact same blend and size and are available in both round and box-pressed. We recommend you give both a try and see which you like better!