Updated: Jan 25
If you are learning about cigars, this article is perfect for you. We’ll walk you through the anatomy of cigars from the tobacco leaves used to craft the best cigars to all the different sizes and shapes. We hope you enjoy it.
Tobacco is a native plant that finds its origins in the amazon jungles. It was one of the offerings that central and south American indigenous tribes gave Cristobal Colon when he arrived in 1942. Learn more about the story of tobacco.
After harvesting, tobacco leaves are cured, aged, and processed in various ways. The resulting products may be smoked in cigarettes, cigars, and pipes, as we know, but also inhaled or chewed as some north American tribes did even before the conquest.
There are two main kinds of tobacco: dark tobacco and light tobacco.
Light tobacco is commonly used for pipes and cigarettes. Premium hand-rolled cigars are made of dark tobacco.
There are different types of tobacco. One of them is “criollo.” Criollo is the original leaf discovered by the Columbian conquest; in fact, the word “criollo” means native. Some tobacco seed varieties, such as the Dominican Criollo 98 or the Nicaraguan Criollo Esteli, use the term. Still, these result from later blendings searching for tobacco plants that don't suffer from mold and other diseases.
How is the tobacco plant used?
The tobacco plant is divided into three main parts: Ligero, Seco and Volado.
Ligero, the top part of the plant, has the most vigorous leaves thanks to the amount of sunlight the plant receives. The lower the leaf is, the thinner and lighter the taste of the leaf.
Seco is used chiefly as wrapper leaves. They are not too thick and not too thin, which makes them very malleable.
Volado: Volado leaf is more powerful than seco and less powerful than ligero. It tends to be thinner than ligero and thicker than seco.
The cigar itself has three parts: Head, Body, and foot.
The Head: The part of the cigar from which we smoke after cutting the cap or the tip.
The Foot: The end of the cigar that we light.
The Body: everything in between the head and the foot.
The cigar is built of 3 components: The filler, the binder, and the wrapper.
As you can deduce, the filler is the stuffing within the cigar. One of the main criteria that define cigar prices is the type and quality of the filler. There are two main kinds of general filler:
Short filler is bits of tobacco leaves crammed together and shaped to fill a specific cigar. This filler is found in less expensive cigar brands. It is also called picadura or chop and its also used in the process of machine-made cigars.
Long-filler is used exclusively in most hand-rolled premium cigars such as Chateau Diadem, Arturo Fuente, Romeo y Julieta, La Gloria Cubana, or Rocky Patel. Long-filler (or tripa in Spanish) is made up of whole tobacco leaves that encompass the entire length of the cigar.
Long filler processes
The two most common long filler cigar rolling processes are “acordion” and “entubado.”
Each long filler leaf in a cigar is folded from the outside multiple times and laid on top of other similarly folded leaves. The numerous folds in each leaf allow for an excellent draw by permitting air to flow through easily.
is the process where longer leaves are rolled into a tube and run the entire length of the cigar. Cigar makers will make a blend by mixing different filler leaves to create unique tastes and flavors.
Whether the cigar is stuffed with short or long-fillers, the cigar leaves are always secured within a leaf called the binder.
The binder forms the middle ring of the cigar tube. This layer is a tobacco leaf used to bind and contain the bunched filler tobacco inside a cigar. The binder sits just beneath the wrapper.
Some Binder characteristics
Binder leaves must be strong enough to hold the filler together.
Usually, they add a little flavor, but they help with combustion and blend well with the filler.
The leaves used for the binder must burn well.
The wrapper, or “la capa” in Spanish, is the outer layer of a cigar. Wrappers are the highest quality of leaves and are chosen for their structural integrity. They are selected for their lack of holes and imperfections.
Since the wrapper is the part of the cigar that is in contact with your lips during a smoke, its taste is fundamental. The wrapper also determines how evenly your cigar will burn.
One of the most renowned wrappers is the Ecuadorian Habano 2000, one that Chateau Diadem uses to craft its cigars.
Double claro: This is a green wrapper known as a “candela.”
Claro: Light tan, almost beige color wrapper usually referred to as Connecticut.
Colorado Claro: Medium brown color, often referred to as natural.
Colorado: Reddish tint wrapper
Colorado Maduro: Darker than the colorado, this wrapper is commonly associated with African tobacco such as Cameroon.
Maduro: Very dark brown, almost black color wrapper.
Cigar Shapes: Parejos and Figurados
Regarding shapes, cigar manufacturers can create any shape and size they choose; however, we mention, in this article, the most traditional ones.
Parejos are cigars that are parallel from head to foot with a round head.
Cigars that don't have these characteristics are called Figurados.
Robusto A relatively short cigar that has become the most popular cigar size in the world, especially in the United States. The size of a Robusto is generally 4 3/4 to 5 1/2 in by 48 to 52 ring gauge. Example: Chateau Diadem Robusto or Arturo Fuente Don Carlos Robusto.
Toro At 6 inches long and with a stout 50-plus-sized ring gauge, these are cigars meant to be savored slowly.
Churchill Traditionally 7 in by a 47-ring gauge. The most famous Churchill is Romeo y Julieta’s Churchill. This cigar size takes its name from the cigar aficionado legend and Britain’s prime minister Sir Winston Churchill.
Gordo “Fat” in Spanish, Gordo has bulging dimensions of roughly 6 to 7 inches in length with a 60-ring gauge.
Corona These parejos are straight-sided cigars with an open foot and a closed, rounded head. You can find Corona Gorda Petit Coronas and other sizes with this appellation.
A Figurado, or a figured shape, is contoured, and either one or both ends of the cigar will taper to a narrower ring gauge.
Belicoso is parallel, and the head tapers to a point.
Pyramid: Like the torpedo has a tapered head, but the body fans out towards the foot.
Perfecto: The widest part of the cigar is the middle of the body, and then it tapers to both the head and the foot.
Salomon: Tapered at the head, parallel through the body, and tapers to a tiny nub at the foot.
Cigars are measured by Length and diameter or ring gauge.
The length is simply the measure in inches from head to foot of a cigar. The cigar's diameter is described by its ring gauge, measured in 1/64 inch.
So, for example, a cigar with a ring gauge of 32 will be calculated at 32/64. In other words, that cigar would have a diameter of half an inch. The cigar ring gauge is expressed as a single number without the fraction (i.e., 46, 50, 52, 60). Ring gauge affects a cigar’s intensity and how long it will burn. Each cigar maker defines the ring gauge that better suits the strength and body they want for their blend. Thinner cigars burn hotter and faster than thicker cigars, which deliver a cooler less-concentrated draw.
The process of crafting premium hand-rolled cigars is one of the most exciting, meticulous, and fascinating of all the artisanal productions left in our society. When you know this process, you are more likely to value all the work behind the minutes of smoke and enjoy it even more.
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