My Thoughts on Hestia “Craft” Cigarettes
Sometime last year, I stumbled across something a little more unique: Hestia Tobacco Company.
Who is Hestia?
Hestia Tobacco Company, founded in 2010 by a gentleman named David Sley, began by manufacturing filtered cigars 1 in small-scale. In more recent years the company has really boomed, and they’ve transitioned over to manufacturing true cigarettes, which they proudly claim are “the finest cigarettes on earth,” according to the little card they attach when you order from them.
Hestia currently has only two varieties: Hesper Form and Stone Form. Both are marketed under the name Hestia Craft Cigarettes (think of it like “craft” beer, I guess). Hesper Form was the original, full-flavored variety; Stone Form is a more mellow variety, released later by popular demand. Unlike most other manufacturers, they do not have a menthol variety (which to me is a good sign). I ended up purchasing a carton of the Hesper Form, and splitting it with a few friends.
Obtaining the Pack
So, how the hell does one obtain a pack of Hestia? Unless you live in their distribution zone (which at the time of this article being published is only 4 states), you have to order them online. On top of that, you gotta buy them by the carton. 10 packs. 200 cigarettes. If you want to try Hestia, you gotta commit. You’re making an investment; you’re taking a gamble. And if you don’t like them? Sucks to be you. Maybe you could donate them to a smoker in need.
In my case, I paid $110 for the carton with shipping included, though if you live inside their distribution zone, your price will be substantially cheaper. Luckily, I had a few friends who wanted to go in on the carton with me, so I didn’t have to foot the whole cost. Still, even at the most inflated price of $110, a carton of Hestia is comparable to the cost of an average carton of cigarettes. That’s fantastic, especially when you consider what you’re getting.
I received my carton pretty quickly. I think it only took two or three days to arrive after I’d ordered. I was honestly surprised that you’re even allowed to ship cigarettes in the mail, but apparently it’s possible. From Hestia’s FAQ page, “we are embargoed from using all the normal shippers, and are relegated to a constellation of regional shippers, for which we are eternally grateful. … It’s a reporting and regulatory nightmare.”
I recognize that there is a cultural stigma around tobacco in general, especially around cigarettes. In the case of cigarettes specifically, I would even say it’s warranted, at least to a degree. Big Tobacco is no more innocent than Big Pharma or Big Food, people are just more culturally aware of the sins of Big Tobacco than of other major industries. The quality of the tobacco grown for use in U.S. market cigarettes is just awful, with a handful of narrow exceptions – and even those rare exceptions are often grown or manufactured under less-than-ideal conditions. If you’ve had the opportunity to taste an array of tobacco, you can tell when it’s not right, and the leaf they’re growing for cigarettes today falls at the rock bottom of the totem pole. It’s for this reason that I don’t like cigarettes. They just use poor leaf, and you can taste it. Still, it’s good to remember that Lipton is not Tea, Maxwell House is not Coffee, and Marlboro is not Tobacco.
Contrast that with cigars, my favorite form of the leaf. Cigars are a complex art, and to make one correctly requires strict adherence to craftsmanship. Those skills, from cultivation, to blending, to rolling, have traditionally been passed down from grandfather to father, father to son. A nice cigar is something you can sit down with, think about, and appreciate in many ways. If you’re going to sell poor tobacco, cigars are just not the best way to do it.
So then, what are you to do when the occasion calls for the brief, casual smoking experience that cigarettes offer? Most obviously, you could have a cigarette, but it would taste bad. You could also light a cigar, which would offer a much nicer experience, but you might not have an hour to smoke it, or the social atmosphere may discourage it. For me, that’s where Hestia comes in. Hestia sources their leaf from family farms who cultivate rightly, ditching the quick-n-dirty American approach for one that takes effort – but that effort is strongly rewarded. Make no mistake, this is the best cigarette I’ve ever had. Nothing compares. No taste of paper, chemicals, metals, or anything foreign, just fine tobacco. Someone who tried them with me described them as “good tobacco that happens to be in a paper tube.” A good cigarette is something that hasn’t existed for a long time, and Hestia is aiming to redeem something that never had to be bastardized. It’s interesting to smoke a cigarette that wasn’t made by Big Tobacco. I think there’s a reason they’re named after the Keeper of the Hearth.
Would I take a pack of Hestia instead of a fine cigar, or a good pipe? Not very often. Still, I am certainly going to keep them stocked in my tobacco cabinet for when the occasions arise.
Fun Fact: The term “filtered cigar” is sort of a misnomer that exists mostly for legal reasons in the U.S. market. Cigarette manufacturers will sometimes label a product as a “filtered cigar” in order to circumvent tax hikes. If the cigarettes weigh more than 3lbs. per thousand, they are subject to a substantially higher tax rate at sale. This is where you get the distinction between “Class A” and “Class B” cigarettes. The Class A distinction is reserved for cigarettes that weigh less than 3lbs. per thousand, and Class B cigarettes are classified as weighing more than 3lbs. per thousand. By labelling these cigarettes, which would normally be classified as Class B cigarettes, as “filtered cigars” instead, they don’t have to pay the excise – so long as the manufacturer uses a rolling paper that is at least two-thirds tobacco fiber. “Filtered cigars” do not represent true cigars, in the same way that fermented grape Kool-Aid is not representative of fine wine. ↩︎