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There has been a shift in the cigar market over the last few years. Double Toro, Gordo, Gigante, Sixty – call it what you will – big ring gauges are the new big thing. 60-ring….and beyond…. are popping up in virtually every cigar line and they’re selling like mad. You would think it’s an obvious choice. Substantially more tobacco, marginally more expensive. It’s part of the American mindset that bigger is better, and often it is. But in the case of cigars, bigger isn’t necessarily better, just different.
Big ring cigars do offer some real benefits. They naturally burn longer; they burn much cooler and pump out volumes of thick smoke. You can puff on a 60-ring until you get blue in the face, and it probably won’t burn hot or harsh. And then there’s the whole ‘best bang for your buck’ thing. Pound for pound, or weight vs. cost, big ring cigars are usually the best buy.
But tobacco doesn’t work that way. Filler tobaccos are significantly less expensive than the wrapper, which is why smaller-ring and bigger-ring cigars, despite their size difference, maintain a somewhat similar price. They both utilize a comparable amount of wrapper leaf. Leading to my next point; smaller ring cigars have a much more favorable wrapper-to-filler ratio.
But before I begin my pro smaller ring cigar rant, let me explain a bit. I like a fat 60-ring cigar and I also like a 44-ring gauge or smaller. In my rotation, each one has its place and each one offers me something different. Just try a Gordo and then a Corona in the same blend and I’m confident you’ll see the difference. You’ll see differing opinions on the matter – some say the wrapper accounts for 60% of a cigar's flavor, and some say up to 90%. Regardless of the percentage, most people agree that the wrapper accounts for a majority of the cigar’s flavor. That is why the wrapper is the most expensive (and most flavorful) part. For this reason, many of the traditional Cuban cigar makers favor thin ring sizes – despite their poor sales performance. On a 7.5”x38 Lancero, the majority of the cigar is wrapper and on a 6”x60 Double Toro, the great majority is filler. But if you’re using an expensive and flavorful wrapper leaf, it’s hard to justify diluting it with an abundance of filler. Smaller ring cigars do burn hotter, so it’s essential that you take your time and smoke them slowly. If you can handle that, they normally offer a purer, more flavorful experience. It’s like skipping all the sides and just eating steak…all night long.
Keep puffing on big-ring sizes and enjoy them. But if you haven't yet, try a Lancero, Corona, or Panatela. Smoke it slowly and experience something different.