Cigar 101 - Prerequisites

In this Part, we will tackle 4 sections that are purely related to the general knowledge that every Cigar Aficionado should have prior to enjoying a good Cigar:
A. History
B. Parts of a Cigar: cap, body, foot, wrappers, binders, fillers...
C. Shapes & Sizes.
D. Colors.

A. History

a. history

The history of cigars starts with Native Americans long time before Christopher Columbus discovered tobacco in 1492. They were smoking tobacco either through a pipe or rolled up in a large leaf.

Christopher Columbus is responsible of introducing the Cigar to Europe through his companions. Three of his crewmen during his 1492 journey, Rodrigo de Jerez, Hector Fuentes and Luis de Torres, are said to have encountered tobacco for the first time on the island of Hispaniola. They showed an interest in Cigar and spread the word and activity in their areas.

Tobacco growing regions: Fine tobacco is grown all over the world. The finest is considered to be from Cuba’s Vuelta Abajo area in the Pinar del Rio region of the country’s western side. Other prominent tobacco growing regions are:

  • Dominican Republic’s city of Santiago in the northern half of the country.
  • Ecuador, which produces both filler and wrapper tobacco.
  • The Central American Countries of Honduras and Nicaragua.
  • Mexico’s San Andreas Valley which is the famous sun-grown variant of Sumatra-seed tobacco which serves as a wrapper for many cigars.
  • Connecticut, USA, which has the finest wrapper leaf in the world.
  • Cameroon…

Note that differences in regions will result in differences in color and flavor.


Cigar Etiquette Pro

Cigar Etiquette Pro

B. Parts of a cigar; wrappers, binders, fillers

B. Parts of a cigar; wrappers, binders, fillers

A Cigar is a 100% natural product. It has many parts both in its length and in depth. Vertically it consists of a head, body and foot.

The Cap is a little piece of tobacco from the wrapper (that is why it has the same color) and applied to the top of a cigar (The head) with natural glue so that no external flavor will affect the Cigar taste. Its purpose is to give the cigar a finished look and to help keep the wrapper from unraveling.

The Body is the main part of a cigar.

The Foot (some will call it Tuck) is the other end of the cigar that you light. The body of a cigar consists of three main layers: the wrapper, binder and filler.

The wrapper is the outside leaf – the identity of the Cigar that is first visible to a smoker, as its color and texture are the physical description of the cigar's character. It provides 30% to 60% of the cigar’s flavor. They are usually very high quality leaves, available in colors ranging from Double Claro (the lightest), to Oscuro (the darkest). Wrappers leaves come from the bottom of the tobacco plant – volado

The binder holds the filler leaves. It is used to provide a smooth service for adhering the wrapper, and also for its combustibility, to ensure that the cigar burns well. The binder leaves are harvested from the middle of the tobacco plant, seco.

The filler tobaccos are the heart of a cigar, held together by the binder. They consist of different tobaccos – often from different countries - designed to complement the flavor of the wrapper. Generally, filler is responsible for determining how strong a cigar smokes.

Many Cigars that you can find in the market are produced by machines. As such, they definitely lack the quality, flavor and aroma that good hand made Cigars can have called: Hecho a Mano – (Made by Hand).

Experienced Cigar rollers can roll up to a few hundred cigars per day. These rolled Cigars are incredibly taken care of with great attention, and are subject to many quality tests and measurements. These are also differentiated by the tobacco leaves that form the fillers and which are grouped in 3 major categories:

  1. Short Fill: These are mainly made of the leaf leftover that might be used in other type of Cigars. The whole group is assorted in a binder piece of leaf, and then closed in the “wrapper” leaf. Mainly it is the cheapest hand rolled Cigar.
  2. Medium Fill: Similar as the above, however the leaf is less chopped. Cigar smokers avoid this type as well.
  3. Long fill: Those are the whole leaves that will be rolled into each other to be used as the filler. These are important parts of the Cigars and contribute into the overall flavor.


C. Shapes & sizes

C. Shapes & sizes

Before we talk about the Shape and Size of a Cigar, it is important to understand that the same terminology of a Cigar shape/size can vary from brand to brand. That is why, we usually describe the shape by mentioning the Shape and Size together, which will form the identification label of the Cigar itself.

It is important as well to note that the Cigar shape and size can never be a hint for how strong a Cigar is: it is irrelevant. Moreover, a Robusto size at one brand might be full bodied (for example), where the same size at another brand can be medium.

So, Cigars are measured by their Length (in Inches mainly) and their "Ring Gauge", which is the measurement of their diameter. All sizes are grouped under two main categories:

  • Parejos,
  • Figurados.

Parejos: They are usually straight sided Cigars, with the foot open ended where we light them.

Many sizes are grouped under the Parejos, we will list them from smaller to bigger:

  1. Petit corona: 4 1/2", 40 to 42 ring gauge.
  2. Robusto: 4 3/4 to 5 1/2", 48 to 52 ring gauge.
  3. Corona: 5 1/2 to 6", 42 to 44 ring gauge.
  4. Corona Gorda: 5 5/8", 46 ring gauge.
  5. Toro: 6", 50 to 52 ring gauge.
  6. Churchill: 7", 47 ring gauge.
  7. Panetela: 5 to 7 1/2", 34 to 38 ring gauge.
  8. Double Corona: 7 1/2 to 8 1/2", 49 to 52 ring gauge.

Figurados: Any cigar that is not a straight sided size, thus does not fall under the "Parejos" category. Same as above, we will list them from smalled to bigger:

  1. Belicoso: Short Pyramid, 5 to 5 1/2", 50 ring gauge.
  2. Pyramid: 6 to 7", ring gauge starts with 40 at the head and ends with 50 to 52 at the foot. (please do not confuse between a Pyramid with an open foot and a Torpedo with a closed foot).
  3. Torpedo: It's kind of a Pyramid, but with a closed foot and a tipped head. This type of Cigars is rare, that is why nowadays it is confused with the Pyramid size.
  4. Perfecto: It has many sizes (from 4 1/2 to 9", and a ring gauge from 38 to 48).



D. Colors

D. Colors

Cigar Wrappers can be found in many colors, from the pale colors to the dark ones.

We have 7 different colors same as the rainbow has 7 colors. And as a hint, Cigar Aficionado mentioned that: "just as the State of Colorado is in the middle of the United States, the color "Colorado" comes in the center of the Color range."

Let us list below the different colors from Dark to Light:

  1. Oscuro: Black color, Often called "Double Maduro". It is used from the top leaves of the plant where they are kept as long as possible.
  2. Maduro: Deep Brown color to almost black, its rappers has a mild aroma. Its leaves are fermented for longer period or toasted in a pressure chamber.
  3. Colorado Maduro: Between Maduro and Colorado.
  4. Colorado: Grown in Shade with a medium brown color. Its wrappers are full flavored and a light aroma.
  5. Colorado Claro: Grown under direct sunlight with a light brown color.
  6. Claro: Growing in shade - under tents with a light fresh brown color, its leaves are picked just before fully maturity and are exposed to air drying. Wrapper has slight flavor which will give way for the filler to show its taste.
  7. Double Claro: Light green color; harvested before it fully matures and exposed to heat. It has a mild flavor and is also called "Candella".