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Cigar Basics

Generally speaking, all cigars are more or less the same in appearance: long and cylindrical. This shape is generally referred to as a parejo, meaning parallel in Spanish. Although many popular figurado shapes (such as Torpedos, Perfectos, etc.) are available today, the vast majority of premium cigars sold today are still parejos.

Properly described, the shape of a cigar is measured according to length and diameter. The length of a cigar is measured in inches but the diameter is measured according to its ring gauge. Ring gauge is a unit of measurement divisible by 64. Most cigars have a ring gauge of 64 or less. There’s no real trick to this – the ring gauge system may appear confusing at first, but it is simply an antiquated system that measures the diameter of a cigar in units of 64 (64 is equal to 1 inch). Therefore, a ring gauge of 48 would be a 3/4? of an inch thick (48/64).

Parejos (Straight Barrel)
Figurados
  • Culebra: 3 panatelas twisted together
  • Diadema: (8x40) - (8x54) (closed and tapered head)
  • Pyramid: (6x40) - (7x54) (sharply tapered head and larger foot)
  • Torpedo: (6x40) - (7x54) (closed foot and a pointed head)
  • Belicoso: (5x50) - (5.5x50) (tapered head)
  • Perfecto: (4.5x38) - (9x48) (closed foot, a round head, and a bulge in the middle)
The tobacco growing season takes 18 weeks. The most prominent farming regions include Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, USA (Connecticut and Pennsylvania), Central African Republic (Cameroon), and Indonesia. From seed to cigar it takes between 2 - 3 years.

The parts of a cigar are divided into four basics: the cap (or tip); the head; the body, and the foot. The foot is the part you light and the cap is the part you cut off. A cigar is made up of three components: the filler; the binder and the wrapper. The filler is the “stuffing.” There are two general kinds of filler.

Lower-end cigars contain bits of tobacco leaf, known as short-filler, which are crammed together and shaped to fit a specific cigar size. The process is a lot like making hot dogs. In the same way a hot dog contains left over bits, short-filler cigars are made from scraps of premium fillers or sometimes rejected inferior leaves.

Higher-end cigars use long-filler tobaccos. This is where the inner leaves are rolled into a tube and run the entire length of the cigar. A cigar maker will blend different filler leaves together to create unique tastes and flavors, much like a winemaker crafts wine. Whether a cigar is made of short or long-filler tobaccos, the filler leaves are always secured within a leaf called the binder, which sits just beneath the wrapper. The tobacco is put into a wooden mold and pressed into shape for about an hour. All premium cigars – both short or long-filler – are labeled “hecho a mano,” which means made by hand.

Finally, the roller then wraps the bunch in a wrapper leaf which is supple, very elastic and visibly pleasing. The cigar is then capped and trimmed to uniform size. The finished product is aged at the very least 21 days and many factories age the finished cigars up to 24 months. A well-made cigar is one that’s firm but not tight and allows you to draw the smoke easily and consistently.

The wrapper is what you see on the outside of the cigar. The wrapper is the most important element of the cigar, as it gives a cigar not only its appearance and smell, but provides much of the taste as well. When you look at a cigar and run it under your nose, the wrapper is what you’re appreciating. Although manufacturers have identified over 100 different shades, only six are of great distinction.
  • Double Claro - Also known as "American Market Selection" (AMS) or "Candela", this is a green wrapper. Camacho Candela is an example of a cigar that uses a double claro wrapper.
  • Claro - This is a very light tan color, almost beige in shade; usually from Connecticut. Macanudo Café is an example of a cigar that has a Claro shade wrapper.
  • Colorado Claro - A medium brown found on many cigars, this category covers many descriptions. The most popular are "Natural", or "English Market Selection" (EMS). Tobaccos in this shade are grown in many different countries. Casa Magna is an example of a cigar that has a Colorado Claro wrapper.
  • Colorado - This shade is instantly recognizable by the obvious reddish tint. Carlos Torano Vault is an example of a cigar that has a Colorado wrapper.
  • Colorado Maduro - Darker than Colorado Claro in shade , this color is often associated with African tobacco, such as wrappers from Cameroon, or with Havana Seed tobacco grown in Honduras. Diamond Crown Maximus is an example of a cigar that uses a Colorado Maduro wrapper.
  • Maduro - Very dark brown or black; this category also includes the deep black "Oscuro" shade. Tobacco for Maduro wrappers is grown in Connecticut, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Brazil. 5 Vegas Gold Maduro is an example of a cigar that uses a maduro wrapper.
While there are many factors that go into selecting a cigar - including its construction, filler blend, quality of the tobaccos, wrapper, country of origin, reputation of the cigar maker, etc. - it’s ultimately a subjective choice, and all this contributes to the unique taste of a given cigar.