Cigar Technical Information


The first thing you should do is closely examine the "head" of the cigar - this is the closed end that needs to be clipped. Almost all have what is called a "cap" - a bit of tobacco leaf used to close of the end - you should be able to see how far down the length of the cigar the cap goes by inspection. Typically only a 1/4" - 3/8" or so; sometimes much less, and on figurado shapes sometimes quite longer. Anyhow wherever the cap stops is your cutting limit - cut beneath the cap's line or even too close and your cigar will start to unwravel. Cut the minimal amount possible while trying to open approx. 75%-85% of the cigar end's surface area. Sometimes this means a cut as little as 1/32" down, where other times almost 3/8" - it depends entirely on the individual cigar's roll and cap construction.

The single bladed cutters that cost about $3.00 typically do a fair job of clipping the cap. One thing to keep in mind when using a guillotine cutter is to line up your cigar at eye level and to them clipped it quickly and decisively.


1. If you use a match, wait till the sulphur burns off before using it to light you cigar. Also if you can find those fancy long cedar matches all the better.

2. If you use a lighter, use a butane one. The gasoline based ones impart a foul flavor to your smoke.

3. I preheat the foot (the open end) by slowly rolling the cigar above the flame at an angle allowing a tiny black ring forms all the way around the wrapper. I don't allow the flame to touch the cigar.

4. Then I place the cigar in my mouth, and draw in as I repeat the process, slowly rolling the cigar at an angle above the flame, but never letting the lighter flame actually touch the cigar. I guess about a 1/2 inch or so away. What appears to happen is the flame seems to leap from lighter up onto the foot of the cigar, even though my stogie never comes in direct contact with the lighter's flame. Remember to slowly spin the cigar to establish an even burn.

5. If the burn appears uneven, reapeat the previous step on the appropriate side to even the burn. If it is just a bit uneven, gently blow on the end in the appropriate place to intensify the heat there, and will then take a couple steady draws, but will then just wait a minute before continuing to puff. This short delay seems to allow the cigar a chance to stabilize and self correct the burn. Sit back and relax!

6. If the cigar happens to go out, I just knock off the ash, gently blow through the cigar to clear out the old smoke, then re-light using the same process as outlined above.

Classical Cigar Shapes by Lenght:

Ring size is the cigar's diameter, measured in 64ths of an inch. Thus a 32 ring cigar will measure 1/2 inch in diameter. Although many catalogs list ring sizes, they may deviate from each by a couple of points on specific cigars.

Small Panatela (5" x 33)
Short Panatela (5" x 38)
Slim Panatela (6" x 34)
Panatela (6" x 38)
Long Panatela (7 1/2" x 38)

Petit Corona (5" x 42)
Corona (5 1/2" x 42)
Corona Extra (5 1/2" x 46)
Robusto1 (5" x 50)
Long Corona (6" x 42)
Toro (6" x 50)
Lonsdale (6 1/2" x 42)
Grand Corona (6 1/2" x 46)
Churchill2 (7" x 47)
Giant Corona (7 1/2" x 44)
Double Corona (7 3/4" x 49)

Petite Belicoso (5" x 50)
Belicoso (6" x 50)
Torpedo (6 1/2" x 52)
Pyramid (7" x various)
Giant4 (9" x52)


The wrapper is the outside layer of tobacco on a cigar. It gives a cigar one of its primary flavor components. Wrappers are usually very high quality leaves, and are available in colors ranging from double claro, the lightest to Oscuro, the darkest. Wrappers are very important to the taste of a fine cigar, and described in detail in another section of the FAQ.


Binder leaves are the intermediate leaf used to hold the bunch of filler tobacco together. These vary considerably from one manufacturer to the next.


Filler is the bunch of tobacco found at the center of the cigar. Generally the filler is responsible for determining how strong a cigar will smoke. There are two types of filler: long filler, which contains the whole leaf running from the head to the foot of the cigar, and short filler, comprised of scraps of tobacco (often the trimmed ends of long fillers).

The blending of wrappers, fillers and binders determines the overall flavor of a cigar. There is an art to blending tobaccos and as you smoke different cigars, you will notice how the various tobaccos interplay with one another.

Wrapper Types:

DOUBLE CLARO (also called Candela or American Market Select)- green to greenish brown. The color is achieved by picking the leaf before it reaches maturity, and then drying it rapidly. Very mild, almost bland with very little oil.

CLARO - light tan. Usually this is the color of shade grown tobacco. Connecticut Shade wrappers are said to be some of the finest in the world. Shade grown tobacco is grown under large canopies to protect the tobacco from harsh sunlight. Neutral flavor and smooth smoking.

NATURAL - (also called English Market Select) light brown to brown. These are most often sun grown, meaning they are not protected by canopies like shade grown leaves. Fuller bodied flavor than shade grown leaves, but still very smooth.

COLORADO CLARO - mid-brown, tawny. (For example, brands such as Dominican Partagas or Fuentes, using Camaroon wrappers.)

COLORADO - reddish dark brown, aromatic. A cigar with this wrapper tastes robust and rich.

COLORADO MADURO - dark brown, medium strength, slightly more aromatic the maduro. Usually gives a rich flavor, as found in many of the best Honduran cigars.

MADURO - dark brown to very dark brown. These usually have more texture and veining than the lighter wrappers. They are often described as oily looking, with stronger taste - sweet to some palates with a unique aroma.

OSCURO - very dark brown or almost black. They are the strongest tasting of all wrappers. These wrappers tend to be from Nicaragua, Brazil, Mexico, or Connecticut Broadleaf.

The term EMS or English Market Selection is a broad one, which refers to brown cigars- anything other double claro, (EMS) essentially.

The darker the color, the sweeter and stronger the flavor is likely to be, and the greater the oil and sugar content of the wrapper. Darker wrappers will normally have spent longer on the tobacco plant. or come from higher altitudes: the extra exposure to sunlight produces both oil (as protection) and sugar (through photosynthesis). They will also have been fermented for longer.

Body, strength, flavor, and blends:

All too often, smokers confuse, or blur together, the concept of body, strength and flavor in a cigar. You had posited smoke volume as a possible component - interestingly enough, smoke volume does indeed relate to these factors as well - more on that in a moment.

Most smokers define a cigar's character to two primary components:
BODY (or 'strength', and even 'intensity'), and FLAVOR (the 'taste' that characterizes a particular cigar)

A full bodied cigar would be perceived as 'strong', but not necessarily as 'flavorful' - naturally, the converse is also true. Incidentally, many veteran smokers favor cigars characterized by both full body, and full flavor.

As an illustration... Many inexperienced smokers mistakenly assume that all Cuban cigars are 'full bodied' - in fact, a large number of the great Cuban cigars are prized for their 'delicate' (what some might regard as medium or even light) body. A classic case in point are the larger Cuban Hoyos (and many of the Cuban Montecristos) which are characterized by their unrivaled complexity of 'taste' (full flavor), and relatively mild (as compared to other Cuban cigars) body. Likewise, there are a few Cuban cigars that are found be to quite strong (full bodied), but not very flavorful (some of the Sancho Panza, and El Rey Del Mundo come to mind).

While it is true that a smoker will select a type of cigar on the basis of body (full, medium or light), many assume (wrongly) that all smokers desire cigars that are full flavored. Just as some individuals are put off by 'full flavored' cuisine (Szechuan, or Cajun for example) some smokers desire cigars that are more 'gently' flavored (the Macanudos are a prime example).

As you can clearly see, we're obviously not talking science here. In a discussion of cigar body and flavor, of paramount consideration is experience, and a frame of reference. As one embarks on a lifelong relationship with cigars, a DR Cohiba might be perceived as a wonderfully robust smoke -- however, after a year or two of smoking, that same cigar will cause the smoker to wonder if the manufacturer altered the blend of this 'once' great smoke. It's all a matter of ...taste.

Descriptive terms:

It's amazing what terms some people will use to describe the flavors and subtle nuances of their favorite cigar! - all of the following are actually used in a popular cigar magazine!

General Descriptors:


From The Spice Rack:
pepper (peppery)
black pepper
hot pepper
white pepper
spice (spicy)
aged spice
dried spice
sweet spice

What's For Dessert?:
burnt sugar
burnt chocolate
dark chocolate
cocoa bean
dried fruit
ripe fruit
citrus (citrusy)
burnt citrus
dried citrus
dried orange peel
nut (nutty)
roasted nut
toast (toasty)

Complimentary Beverages:
dark coffee
roasted coffee
dark roasted coffee
roasted coffee-bean
cream (creamy)

Back to Nature:
earth (earthy)
flint (flinty)
flowers (floral, flowery)
herbs (herbaceous)
peat (peat-like)
sand (sandy)
dry straw
vegetation (vegetal)
grass (grassy)
leaf (leafy)
stems (stemmy)
weeds (weedy)
wood (woody)
sweet wood
dry wood
cedar (cedary)
aged cedar
balsa wood
dried balsa wood
paper (papery)
dry paper

leather (leathery)
metal (metallic)


Cigars are naturally hydroscopic products. In common with many organic substances, they dry out in the absence of humidity in the air, or absorb moisture from the ambient air. They establish an equilibrium with the atmospheric humidity which surrounds them.

At 68% a cigar will slowly dry out and loose essential oils. At 74% and higher, organic molecules will break down out-of-order, producing unwanted tastes. More importantly, at 80% or higher, you're leaving your stogies wide open to grow mold. Neither cigars or humidors are a particularly sterile environment. Note that these are relative humidities - cigars should be stored at 70 - 73% RH regargless of temperature.

Glossary of Common Cigar Terms:

The following is a dictionary of tobacco terminology. It includes among other things; colors, parts, size, shape, etc.

The information is provided in an effort to assist you in your pursuit of tobacco enjoyment.

American Market Selection, a green colored outer wrapper on a cigar.

Paper placed around the cigar, usually near the head, originally used to protect white gloves from tobacco stains. Merchants quickly seized the idea and began using it as a place to put their fontmark (brand name). This allowed them to distinguish their cigars from that of their competitors. The band is now just an advertising means.

A single leaf of tobacco that is wound around the filler of the cigar to hold it together.

The main or middle of the cigar. The part between the head and foot of the cigar. The part of the cigar that is usually held by the fingers of the smoker.

Refers to the cigar when it consists of the filler and the binder, prior to the application of the wrapper leaf.

A group of cigars that are bundled together rather than boxed.

Comparable to the English Market Selection or EMS wrapper. The term cafe is used by General Cigar to describe the wrapper leaves used on the Macanudo line of premium cigars.

A wrapper from the African Camaroons.

A green colored wrapper. This tobacco is cured under very high heat.

Named after Winston Churchill. A man who smoked BIG, cigars. As you can guess, the churchill is a large cigar.

A light golden brown wrapper. Also called natural.

A medium brown wrapper.

The process of removing moisture from freshly harvested tobacco.

A device for clipping the end off a cigar. Some resemble scissors with curved blades; others look like small guillotines for making a straight or V-shaped notch. In addition one variety looks like a .44 magnum bullet and another a fountain pen, they pull apart to reveal a punch that cuts a round hole in the end of the cigar.

Double Claro is the result of picking the leaves prior to full maturity and quickly drying it. Sometimes referred to as American Market Selection. Macanudo calls this shade "Jade". Cigars with this wrapper are very, very mild!

Wrapper leaves that are slightly lighter in color than maduro.

The tobacco that makes up the heart or center of the cigar. There are two main types of filler, short and long. The filler is responsible for most of the flavor and smoking quality. Short filler consists of leaves that have been cut into many small pieces. The majority of machine made cigars are done so with short filler. Long filler on the other hand consists of tobacco leaves, not pieces, that run the length of the cigar. Long filler cigars are preferred as they buy better and allow for a more consistent draw.

Also called the "tuck". The part of the cigar that is lit.

This is a simple device which clips the capped end off of the cigar, leaving a straight, open circular end.

The end of the cigar that is placed in the mouth.

The tobacco that makes up the heart or center of the cigar. There are two main types of filler, short and long. Long filler on the other hand consists of tobacco leaves, not pieces, that run the length of the cigar. Long filler cigars are preferred as they buy better and allow for a more consistent draw.
A Spanish term which means the darkest tobacco. A dark brown wrapper.

A very dark wrapper. BLACK in color.

This is a device which merely punctures the cap of the cigar by creating a hole in its center. Several tools are available for this purpose. Some even come in the form of a key chain.
One variety looks like a .44 magnum bullet and another a fountain pen, they pull apart to reveal a punch that cuts a round hole in the end of the cigar.

As the name implies, a cigar that resembles a pyramid, torpedo of triangle in appearance. It tapers from a larger ring gauge at the foot to a smaller one at the head of the cigar.

The diameter of a cigar is referred to a 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.

Tobacco, usually the wrapper leaf of a cigar. For mildness, the wrapper is grown under tents and is not exposed to sunlight.

The tobacco that makes up the heart or center of the cigar. There are two main types of filler, short and long. Short filler consists of leaves that have been cut into many small pieces. The majority of machine made cigars are done so with short filler.

A cigar that is placed in a tube.

A cigar that is placed in a tube. Most tubes are aluminum while some are glass.

This again is a simple device which makes a vee shaped slit in the cap of the cigar. It's appearance is similar to a cat's eye when viewed from the end of the cigar.

The outermost tobacco leaf of the cigar. It must be free of holes, tears and other imperfections. The wrapper can provide clues to the quality and flavor of the cigar. It plays a very important part in the flavor and burn quality of the cigar.

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