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Blending Cigars Part II

In today’s world, many men (at least self-respecting men!) enjoy a great cigar, even if only occasionally. Cigar smoking is a relaxing art form with many intricacies. There are many different types of wrappers, fillers, binders, sizes, shapes, flavors, and strengths to choose from. Although these multiple options provide each individual a unique smoking experience, it is very easy to become overwhelmed and confused when purchasing cigars, especially if you are not a seasoned enthusiast. Therefore, let’s take a short journey through the “cigar world” and learn how to choose the perfect stick.

First, most cigars originate from three countries: Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, and Honduras. Of course most have heard of Cuban cigars but due to the embargo, these sticks are not available in the United States. Unlike cigars of many years ago however, country of origin doesn’t matter as much as the origin of the tobacco itself.

Basically, cigars come in three different strengths: mild, medium, and full-bodied. Obviously a mild cigar will have less of an impact on the palate than a full-bodied smoke. A seasoned aficionado will probably choose a medium to full-bodied cigar simply because those individuals have developed a taste for richer, stronger and more robust cigars. Also, the longer a cigar ages, the mellower it becomes as any lingering acidic content diminishes and the tobaccos blend and marry, producing a smooth smoke. Occasional smokers should stay away from full-bodied cigars and choose a nice mild-bodied stick, perhaps one utilizing a Connecticut shade wrapper. Speaking of wrappers, these play a huge role in the flavor of each cigar and must be discussed.

A cigar’s flavor is derived largely from its wrapper. There are many different varieties of wrapper leaf, which originate from a multitude of countries from the United States to Africa and everywhere in between. One of the most common is a Connecticut-shade leaf, which has a light tan color and thin, elastic quality. Generally speaking, cigars made with Connecticut shade, or similarly, Ecuador wrappers, tend to be milder in body. Another general classification of wrapper is Maduro. This type of leaf is typically grown at the “crown” or top of the leaf and gets the most sun exposure; then after cultivation it undergoes a fermentation process that brings all of the oils and sugars to the surface creating a leaf very dark in color. Maduro wrappers typically lend a slight sweetness. Other wrappers such as Sumatra and Corojo leaf tend to add hints of pepper and may leave spicy sensations noticeable on the lips. Of course these are generalities, not to mention there are numerous other wrapper varieties and the art of the blender comes into play as well to create even more exceptions. With that in mind, lets move on to our last topic for discussion: size and shape.

Cigars of course come in many different shapes and sizes. For the purpose of this article, let’s only discuss a few of the most popular sizes available: Robusto, Corona, Toro, Torpedo, and Churchill. Cigars in a Robusto size will normally be 5 inches long and have a 50-ring gauge. Ring gauge refers to the diameter or width of a cigar, measured in 64ths. So a 50-ring gauge is 50/64 of an inch in diameter - and is about the size of a quarter, while a 40 ring will be about the size of a dime. Coronas range from 5 to 6.5 inches long and will have a ring gauge of about 44. Toro sized smokes usually have the same ring gauge as a Robusto but are an inch longer, adding about an extra 15 to 20 minutes of smoking time. Churchill sized cigars average 7 inches in length, usually consisting of a 48 to 50-ring gauge. Torpedos are easily recognizable due to the pointed tip at the head of the cigar and can be cut to any ring gauge from a 30 to a 54. Different ring gauge sizes and lengths impact flavor because the bigger the gauge, the more smoke will enter the palate per draw and the longer the cigar, the cooler it will smoke, all else equal. If you are unsure of size preference, a 6”x50 Toro shape is a safe bet for gift giving.

Remember, cigars are a thing of beauty....and as they say “a thing of beauty is a joy forever.” So it’s hard to go wrong with a gift of cigars!