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For some reason or another, some cigars don't make the final cut to be dubbed a first, and as a result, are called "seconds." Some enthusiasts instantly shun any cigar labeled second, mistake, overrun, etc. This can prove to be a big error in judgment – factory seconds are often an excellent opportunity to pick up a first-class cigar at coach prices.
So, what exactly is a second? I’m glad you asked. When producing a line of cigars, each cigar is inspected to ensure that quality is aesthetically perfect, and construction is flawless. Any abnormalities, no matter how minuscule, cause a cigar to be set aside from the bunch even when only cosmetic. While those that “pass the test” get placed into the line’s regular packaging, those set aside are sometimes sold as “seconds” or “factory selects.” Same quality tobaccos, same aging and fermentation processes, same everything…except the price!
The most common reason for a cigar being classified as a second is its appearance. The most prominent leaf within a cigar is the wrapper. It sells the cigar. Many cigar makers, like Rocky Patel, Manuel Quesada, and Nick Perdomo, inspect each cigar for discrepancies in color. Too light or too dark? Not good enough. Sunspots or noticeable veins? Set it aside. Generally, this doesn’t affect the cigar quality but simply the aesthetics. The untrained eye often does not detect a difference, but those that do this stuff all day long don’t tolerate the slightest inconsistency. Thus "seconds" are born.
Seconds of another kind are sometimes called “mistakes.” Cigars are hand-made, man-made products, so mistakes are bound to happen. Maybe a cigar was rolled too thick, cut too short, or blended with the wrong tobacco. Rather than scrap a first-rate cigar, the manufacturer gets creative and unloads them, usually at a significant discount, making their misfortune your gold.
Last but not least, overruns. When producing millions of cigars by hand each year, it’s not uncommon to over-produce here and there. When this happens, we experience ‘cigar liquidation.’ Overruns are not seconds or mistakes, they are simply overproduced cigars sold at low prices. Even the finest lines rolled by a cigar maker can fall victim to an overrun situation. Like seconds, these cigars are gems waiting in tow.
Moral of the story? Don’t discredit a cigar out of hand just because it’s been marked as a second. It could be the perfect way to find the ultimate $1 to $2 everyday cigar. It’s like sipping a 25-year-old Macallan single malt from an Old Grandad bottle; it’s our little secret.