Cigar Shapes and Sizes - 

The size of a cigar, in name, is a nearly meaningless designation, the reason being that the size of a cigar, when determined by a name such as corona or robusto, is not a universal standard. In other words, one company's corona is another company's churchill even though both measure the exact same length and ring gauge. Once you understand this, most of the confusion regarding cigar size disappears.

There are, however, "classic" measurements for cigars that most cigar makers attempt to follow, Remember, just because a cigar is 7 inches in length with a 48 ring gauge doesn't necessarily mean that the manufacturer will designate that cigar as a churchill. All you really have to know is that cigars are categorized by length and ring gauge which is a fraction of an inch measured in 64ths. A cigar with a 52 ring gauge, for example, measures 52/64ths of an inch in diameter.


Cigar Structure - 

A cigar is made of three parts: filler, binder and wrapper.

The Filler gives a cigar its essential flavor. There are three different types of leaf that are normally used for the filler.

Ligero leaves from the top of the plant are dark and full in flavor. They have to be matured for at least three years before they can be used in cigar making. Ligero tobacco is always placed in the middle of the cigar, because it burns slowly. If it is too near the wrapper, the cigar will burn unevenly.

Seco leaves, from the middle of the plant, are much lighter in color and flavor. They are usually used after maturing for around 18 months.

Volado leaves, from the bottom of the plant, have little or no flavor, but they have good burning qualities. They are matured for about nine months before use.

The Binder encloses the filler and gives the cigar its proper shape and size. Binders usually come from the bottom part of the plant, where the leaves are thicker and have more strength.

The Wrapper is the outermost leaf of a cigar. Because its appearance is especially important, quality of the wrapper is crucial in any cigar and generally, can account for up to 70 percent of the tobacco by value. A good wrapper should have flavor and steady-burning qualities. Smokers examine a cigar for appealing appearance, texture and aroma and this is where a good wrapper justifies its high cost.

Hand Made vs Machine Made - 

The essential difference between handmade and machine-made cigars lies in the fact that, on the whole, most machine-made cigars aren't made with long fillers (fillers which run the whole length of the cigar) but with short fillers, which make the drawing and burning quality (they burn faster and become hotter) significantly inferior. The quality of wrappers on machine-made cigars is also usually inferior to those used on the best handmade.

Handmade cigars are so much more expensive than machine-made quite simply because they take longer to make, are labor-intensive, and use much more expensively produced and matured leaves. The hand making process also leads to wastage.

Cigar Terms

The smell of a burning cigar.
Paper placed around the cigar, usually near the head, originally used to protect white gloves from tobacco stains.
The body of the cigar.
A single leaf of tobacco wrapped around the filler to hold it together.
The mixture of tobaccos used in the cigar that provides each cigar with its unique character.
A harmless white film or spots on the wrapper caused by oils in the tobacco rising to the surface. This also indicates a stronger smoke.
The main or middle part of the cigar.
The smell of an unlit cigar.
The container used to package cigars.
The large pile of tobacco leaves as they undergo fermentation.
Refers to the cigar when it consists of the filler and the binder, before the application of the wrapper leaf.
Packaging method which uses cellophane overwrap on 25 or 50 cigars traditionally without bands. Bundles are usually cheaper than boxed cigars, and contain seconds of premium cigars.
The circular piece of wrapper leaf placed at the head of the cigar to secure the wrapper.
Professional cigar taster who determines a cigar's qualities of aroma, taste and texture.
The knife used in a cigar factory for cutting the wrapper leaf.
A large corona format cigar, usually 7 inches long with a 48 ring gauge named after Winston Churchill who liked large cigars.
A traditionally-proportioned cigar measuring 5 1/2 to 6 inches by 42 to 44 ring gauge.
A long robusto format 5 1/2 inches with a 46 ring gauge.
An exotic cigar consisting of three panatelas that are braided together to form one cigar.
The process of removing moisture from freshly harvested tobacco.
Filler tobacco consisting of chopped pieces most common in machine-made cigars.
A device for clipping the end off a cigar.
A small cigar around 4 inches by a 30 ring gauge.
Cigar with dimensions of 7 1/2 to 8 inches by a large gauge of 49 to 52.
The flow of smoke from a cigar. It can be too easy (hot) or too tight (plugged)
The tobacco that makes up the center of the cigar. There are two main types of filler, short and long.
A Spanish term that refers to cigars with exotic sizes, such as torpedos, pyramids, perfectos and culebras.
An alternative to a cap. The flag method of finishing a cigar involves shaping the wrapper leaf at the head of the cigar so that it secures the wrapper. Sometimes, it is tied off in a pigtail or curly head.
Also called the "tuck," it's the part of the cigar that is lit.
The room in which cigars are rolled at the factory.
A vegetable adhesive used to secure the head of the wrapper leaf around the finished bunch.
Individual leaves of tobacco that are hung together after harvest and tied at the top. These hands are piled together to make a bulk for fermentation.
A cigar that is bunched, bound and wrapped entirely by hand.
A cigar made entirely by hand with high quality wrapper and long filler.
The end of the cigar that is placed in the mouth.
A cigar which has a quick, loose draw. This is caused by the cigar being underfilled. It is usually accompanied by harsh flavors.
A box (but actually an environment) used to store or age cigars. Like a wine cellar, the box is fitted with devices to control temperature and humidity. The ideal environment should be 70F and 70% relative humidity.
One of three types of filler tobacco. This aromatic tobacco adds body to a cigar blend. Ligero means light in Spanish.
Whole leaves selected and rolled by hand to create a looser and easier draw of smoke.
A cigar typically 6 1/4 inches by a 42 or 44 ring gauge.
Cigars made entirely by machine. Heavier weight binders and wrappers are generally used and cut filler is used in place of long filler.
The device used in making cigars that gives shape to a finished bunch. Also, a fungis, which is potentially damaging, that forms on cigars when they are stored at too high a temperature.
Oils and resins found in tobacco that give it its smoking qualities.
A widely-varying cigar format ranging from 5 to 7 inches with a gauge from 34 to 38.
A cigar with a rounded head and a closed foot.
A short corona format usually 4 1/2 inches by a 40 ring gauge.
A tight spot in a cigar that prevents a proper draw.
A high grade cigar made by hand from 100% tobacco long leaf filler.
A cigar whose filler, binder and wrapper come from the same country.
A cigar with an open foot and a tapered head.
The diameter of a cigar is referred to as the ring gauge. It is a measurement equal to 1/64 of an inch. A 64 ring gauge would be one inch in thickness and a 32 ring gauge would be 1/2 inch thick.
A short churchill format typically 5 to 5 1/2 inches by a ring gauge of 50.
Highly skilled artisans who apply the wrapper to the bunch.
Spanish meaning "dry". This filler contributes aroma and is of medium-body.
Tobacco, usually the wrapper leaf of a cigar. For mildness, the wrapper is grown under tents and is not exposed to sunlight.
Tobacco grown under a canopy or tent producing a thinner, more elastic leaf used in the wrapper.
Chopped scraps of leaves hand-rolled, but more likely machine-rolled, to create a tight hard draw of smoke.
A 5-inch cigar with a 50 ring gauge, such as a robusto, should provide anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes of smoking pleasure. A double corona, a 7 1/2-inch cigar with a 50 ring gauge, may give over an hour's worth of smoking time. A thinner cigar, such as a lonsdale, smokes in less time than a cigar with a 50 ring gauge.
Tobacco which is grown in direct sunlight. This creates thicker veins and a thicker leaf.
Small bumps which texture the wrapper on a cigar.
Title earned by the master cigar rollers.
A cigar with a closed head and a closed foot.
A cigar that is placed in a tube. Most tubes are aluminum while some are glass.
The rib of the tobacco leaf. A quality cigar should not be too veined.
A type of filler tobacco chosen for its burning qualities.
The outermost tobacco leaf of the cigar.

Lighting a Cigar - 

Most people prefer to use matches or a butane lighter. When using matches, wooden ones are the best because they stay lit longer. If you opt for a lighter, make sure it uses butane fuel. Why? Well, just about anything else that you could use to light the cigar will affect the cigar's taste. Regular fluid lighters have an odor that can be transferred to the cigar if the flame is allowed to touch the foot.

Take the cigar in your hand and light your flame source. Slowly rotate the cigar in your fingers as you lightly toast the tobacco on the foot of the cigar. Try not to let the flame touch the foot as you rotate the cigar in your fingers. Put the cigar in your mouth and continue to light as you rotate the cigar, gently puffing in every few seconds.

When the cigar is lit, remove it from your mouth and look at the foot to make sure it is burning evenly. If it isn't, you can gently blow on the foot causing it to ignite the tobacco which is not burning or you can apply a flame to that area. If you have an area which is burning faster than the other areas, simply wet your finger and apply under the quick burning area, this should slow it down.

Relighting a Cigar - 

There will come a time, however, when one won't be able to finish their entire cigar without interruption and many smokers wonder if it's okay to relight a cigar or if the whole thing is ruined if put out before it's finished. The good news is that a cigar can be relit, though with some change of flavor.

As tar builds up in the tobacco during the smoking process, the flavor of the cigar inevitably changes. This change in and of itself is not necessarily unpleasant. In fact, some cigar smokers enjoy the flavor of a half to almost completely smoked cigar to a fresh one. The effect can seem more pronounced when a cigar is put out and relit, however.

The tobacco in the center of the cigar will likely have a different appearance than that around the edges. In most cases, it will be a bit darker. This is nothing to worry about and the cigar will smoke fine. The lighting process for relighting a cigar is identical to the first light, involving turning the cigar over the flame. Torch lighters, liquid-fuel lighters or butane lighters will work fine, there is nothing at all that differs in the lighting process.

Before relighting, either knock off the ash at the foot of the cigar or trim the cigar back to where the fresh tobacco and wrapper is exposed. Any cigar smoker should have either a cutting tool or one of the many cigar cutter lighters available on the market. When the cigar is cut back, the tobacco will likely appear somewhat discolored, usually darker, especially around the center of the cigar. This is nothing about which one needs to be concerned.

Given the size of most high-end cigars and the price that many of them command, it would be a terrible waste to throw half of one away. Cigars will sometimes go out whatever the reason, one doesn't need to be wasteful and the cigar can always be relit. Remember that multiple relights will increase the change in flavor so there may be a point where the quality of the smoke changes enough to make it undesirable to some smokers. Most often, however, even the most sensitive and discriminating smokers will find the taste of a cigar that has been relit once or twice completely acceptable and just as enjoyable.

Cutting a Cigar - 

Cutting your cigar properly is the first step in ensuring that you do not have an uneven burn. Some smokers will allow up to ½ inch of uneven burn before attempting correction, while others will only allow up to ¼ of an inch.

Uneven Cigar Burn - 

First, you should know that many high-quality cigars can correct themselves if you just leave them alone. Usually, the uneven burn will be corrected within a space of ½ inch. However, if the cigar doesn’t correct itself, you will need to use your lighter to ignite the tobacco and wrapper in the area that is not burning. However, if the only portion of your cigar not burning is the outer wrapper or a very light layer of tobacco, you’re advised to leave it alone.

However, if you have a large amount of tobacco not burning, you’ll need to relight the cigar. Take out your torch lighter and light it. Hold the lighter just before the unlit tobacco, but do not touch the tobacco with the flame. Instead, you should simply hold it close enough that the lighter heats up the tobacco. Take an experimental draw on the cigar and determine if the area will ignite. If it will not, you will need to move the flame a bit closer and hold it for another moment. Take another draw and the tobacco should light. Smoke the cigar gently until the uneven burn is corrected and you’ll find you can still enjoy that smoke.

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