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The ring gauge of a cigar goes hand-in-hand with its length since size drives a key component of style, construction, and burning experience. For illustration purposes, a ‘ring’ is equivalent to 1/64 of an inch in diameter – a 50-ring cigar equals 50/64 of an inch. While there are no set rules to the thickness of a cigar, there are industry standards most manufacturers follow, catering to the demands of the marketplace.
In the past, ring gauge was a product of Cuban cigar manufacturers' tribal knowledge. Most cigars were small in size: Petit Coronas and Lanceros were preferred among most consumers. Believe it or not, many years ago a 50-ring Rothschild was considered huge! However current production is largely driven by the American cigar consumer which demands ever more variety in both thickness and length, making 50-ring vitolas commonplace. In fact today we regularly see cigars boasting thick 58 and 60-ring frames and beyond. We even see special figurados and "artisan" style cigars, such as Perfectos and Salomons which contain several different thicknesses throughout the ‘barrel’ of the cigar. These are extremely difficult to roll but deliver a unique concentration of flavor to the palate.
As mentioned earlier, there are no set rules stating a Robusto must be a 50-ring or a Churchill must be a 49-ring. The ring gauge is set by the individual cigar maker, and represents the size he feels optimizes the flavor of his blend. As a point of reference, included below is a Ring Gauge Guide with the most common sizes you’ll find in today’s cigars.
Traditionally, when creating a new line, cigar makers often blend a Corona size first. Upon perfecting the blend in this size the other sizes within the line are then created, using the Corona as a base. While this is not the standard for all cigar makers, many use this technique.
Now, about the role a ring gauge plays. First and foremost, the thicker the cigar, the cooler the smoke. Thinner sizes tend to burn hot as you approach the nub and could lead to a harsh or bitter flavor. Second, the thickness of a cigar can drastically change the flavor due to the ratio of wrapper to filler. Thin cigars contain a lower proportion of filler, so the wrapper will play a more dominant role in flavor and strength. The same blend in a thicker format will differ in taste – as the maker utilizes more filler leaf, allowing him to become more creative with the blend. The wrapper plays a lesser role in this case but will still account for a good amount of flavor and strength.
Many enthusiasts are loyal to a specific format due to mouth and hand feel. However, many focus on flavor and strength. If this is you, you probably enjoy one line of cigars in a Robusto format but prefer a Corona in another line. This is the fun part! A chance to really dig into your favorite blends to discover new and exciting tastes you may be missing out on.
Actual Size Guide & Ruler