Cigars Information - How To Appreciate Fine Cigars and Brands
Learning about the various parts of a cigar—and what goes into them—can go a long way toward helping you understand why cigars taste the way they do. Here are the basics:
Head. The closed end of the cigar; this is the end of the cigar that must be clipped before smoking.
Cap. A small, round piece of tobacco that’s glued to the head of the cigar in order to secure the wrapper and prevent it from unraveling.
Body. The main part of the cigar.
Foot. Also referred to as the tuck; the end of the cigar that you light.
Filler. The tobacco leaves used to fill the middle of the cigar. Premium handmade cigars use long filler (long tobacco leaves); machine-made cigars use short filler (cut-up pieces of tobacco).
Binder. The thick, tough tobacco leaf used to wrap around the filler tobacco to hold it together.
Wrapper. The silky, smooth tobacco leaf that is wrapped around the binder to complete the cigar; the determining factor in how a cigar looks and on how it feels on your lips. Wrappers lend a distinct flavor to each cigar, and can be distinguished primarily by their color. There are seven main colors:
- Double claro: Light green to yellow color; created with a heat-assisted quick-drying process; very mild, slightly sweet taste.
- Claro: Light tan color; shade-grown, picked before they’re mature, then quickly air-dried; smooth, mild taste.
- Natural: Light brown color; usually sun-grown; medium to fuller-bodied taste.
- Colorado: Medium to reddish brown color; usually shade-grown; rich, strong taste.
- Colorado Maduro: Dark brown color; aromatic and rich in taste.
- Maduro: Dark, reddish brown to almost black color; fermented for long period of time or cooked in a pressure chamber; usually sweet and strong in flavor.
- Oscuro: Almost black color (darker than maduro); created by leaving the leaves on the plant to ferment for a long period of time; full-bodied taste.
Cigar Shapes and Sizes
Cigars come in a huge range of sizes and shapes, from tiny Rothschilds to giant Gran Coronas. Length is measure in inches, while width is measured by ring gauge (diameter measures in 64ths of an inch). The most common shape for a cigar is called a “parejo” or “corona” shape, which has a cylindrical body, straight sides, one end open, and a cap on one end. Irregularly shaped cigars, or “figurados,” include variations such as the culebra (three small cigars twisted together), perfecto (tapered on both ends), and torpedo (straight-bodied and tapering to a closed, pointed head).
Every smoker has their preference; you may have to try a variety of shapes and sizes yourself before you find the length and gauge that best suit your particular tastes.
Before you smoke your cigar, you must first shave off the cap using a cigar cutter or scissor. The object of cutting the cap is to create an opening that’s wide enough for smoking but doesn’t damage the structure of the cigar. If you clip too much of the cap, it may peel off entirely while you’re smoking; so ideally you should cut only 1/16 of an inch from the cigar’s end, and use a very sharp cutter to ensure precision. The 3 most common cigar cutters are: guillotine cutter which leaves a straight cut on the cigar, the wedge cutter which leaves a V shaped cut on the cigar, and the Bullet cutter (also known as the hole punch) which puts a hole in the cap of the cigar, instead of cutting it off.
When lighting your cigar, take your time—going too fast can result in an uneven burn. Using a cigar lighter or a strip of cedar (lighting devices that won’t affect the taste of your cigar), hold your cigar above and close to the flame without allowing the end to touch it directly. Rotate the cigar slowly until the whole circumference of the tip is glowing; then blow softly on the embers until you achieve a smooth ash on the end. Then take a puff!
There is always more to learn about cigars, but we hope this will aid you in choosing the cigars that are right for you—and in making sure you cut and light them properly so you’re sure to enjoy them the way they should be enjoyed. For information on how to store cigars, see our humidors page.