An introduction to Cigars including sizes, wrappers, factories, history.
THE STRUCTURE OF A CIGAR
A cigar has three components: the filler, the binder and the wrapper
The biggest mass of a cigar is the filler and in the case of hand made cigars it is usually strips of tobacco cut to the length of the cigar. This is known as long leaf.
Short leaf indicates smaller, cut-up pieces normally used for machine-made cigars. There are three different types or styles of leaves in use for the filler blend: Ligero, Seco, Volado.
- Binder (Capote)
This binder encloses the filler and gives the cigar its proper shape and size. Leaves used for this purpose usually have the tensile strength to hold the cigar together. In many cases the binder is selected almost entirely for its physical properties and may have indifferent smoking qualities. In the best Havanas, care is taken to ensure that it impacts a complementary flavour to the filler and wrapper. They require around 12 months of maturation.
A characteristic of a premium cigar is that it is made entirely of natural leaf and has no chemical additives. This is in contrast to many less expensive, mass-market, machine-made cigars which use homogenised binders made from leaf particles and cellulose.
The quality of the wrapper is crucial in any cigar and generally can account for anything up to 70 percent of the tobacco by value, while only being 10 percent by weight. A good wrapper should have flavour and steady-burning qualities. A smoker examines a cigar for appealing appearance, texture and aroma. This is where a good wrapper justifies its high cost.
Wrappers must be elastic and without coarse veins. They have to mature for at least 12 to 18 months if not longer. Wrappers of hand made non-Cuban cigars come from Cameroun, Connecticut, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua or Sumatra.
Within the wide spectrum of colours there are seven basic colours.
The variation in wrapper colour is determined by:
* the amount of sunlight a leaf is exposed to
* how the wrapper leaf is processed
* different types of tobacco leaf
From Light To Dark The Commonly Used Descriptions Are
claro claro, claro, colorado claro, colorado, colorado maduro, maduro, oscuro
- Claro Claro
Also known as Candela or Double Claro
A light green to yellow shade achieved by a heat-assisted quick drying process that retains the chlorophyll content of wrapper leaves. Such wrappers can taste slightly sweet.
A light tan colour, usually achieved by growing under shade tents, by picking the leaves before they mature and by quickly air drying them. Claro wrappers are relatively neutral in flavour and let the flavours of the "bunch" shine through. This is the colour of the classic mild cigar.
- Colorado Claro
A light tawny brown, sometimes called “natural” and is frequently grown in the full sun.
It has rich flavours and subtle aromas. Its colour normally indicates well matured shade-grown cigars.
- Colorado Maduro
Collage brown, medium strength and very aromatic, has the rich flavour found in many premium Honduran cigars.
Coffee brown and comes from the Spanish word for “ripe” and refers to the extra length of time needed to produce a rich, dark brown wrapper. It is sometimes thought of as the traditional Cuban colour and should be oily and silky with strong flavour and mild aroma. The full-bodied Cuban Bolivar is normally this colour.
Means dark and is blackish brown it is also called negro (black) in tobacco producing countries. It is usually left longer on the plant and is longer matured. This colour can be produced artificially by “cooking” the leaves in ovens or pressure cookers. These wrappers are strong, with little aroma and come mainly from Brazil, Mexico, Nicaragua and the sun-grown Connecticut Broadleaf.
Use a portable Humidor or a "tupperware" type container with a lightly dampened sponge to maintain the cigars. Cigars should be kept at approximately 70% humidity and 16-18ºC.
Before lighting your cigar, cut the firm end known as the head, (at the top of the curve of the cigar closed end). The cut must take off about two millimetres of the cap. This way you will not damage the wrapper. The type of cutter used is of personal choice. My preferences are guillotine cutters and cigar scissors.
Keep the flame an inch away from the cigar. First pre-heat the end of the cigar by rolling the cigar between your fingers while applying the flame for a few seconds then gently puff while lighting the cigar. This will ensure even burning and the pleasures of the cigar from the outset
CIGAR SHAPES & SIZES
The RING Gauge of a cigar is measured in 64ths of an inch.
A RING of 50 would be 50/64 which is approximately 19.8mm
Perfecto: Two closed rounded ends with a bulge in the middle.
Torpedo: Like the things that go off with a bang... the head shapes to a point.
Diamedes: May have an open or closed foot and sometimes a perfecto tip.
Pyramid: It has a pointed, closed head and widens to an open foot.
Belicoso: A small pyramid shaped cigar with a rounded head.
Culebras: Three panetelas braided together
The following sizes are a guide:
Type Ring Gauge Length Inch
Belicoso 52 4.5
Churchill 47 7
Cigaritto 30 4.5
Corona 42 5.5
Corona Gorda 46 5.6
Corona Grande 42 6
Demi Tasse 30 4
Diamedes 40/50 8
Double Corona 49 8
Giant Corona 45 7.5
Gran Corona 45 5.6
Gran Panatela 38 7.5
Lonsdale 42 6.5
Panatela 26 4.5
Perfecto 39 4.5
Petit Corona 42 5.5
President 52 8.5
Pyramid 36/54 7
Robusto 48 5
Torpedo 52 6.5
Toro 50 6
THE MAIN FACTORIES IN CUBA
You may be famililar with these letters eg HM stamped on the bottom of cigar boxes. It relates to their factory. Please note this list possibly needs updating.
HM: Heroes del Moncado, formerly El Rey Del Mundo
FPG: Francisco Perez German, formerly Partagas
BM: Briones Montot, formerly Romeo Y Julieta
FR: Fernando Roig, formerly La Corona
JM: Jose Marti, formerly H.Upmann
EL: El Laguito, the Cohiba factory
In addition to these there are at least two factories in the provinces outside of Havana
VSC: Villa Santa Clara
SS: Sancti Spiritus
A BRIEF HISTORY OF SOME CUBAN BRANDS
Distinctive label features the 19th century Venezuelan revolutionary hero Simon Bolivar who led the revolt against Spain. Bolivar brand, founded in 1901, taken over by Ramon and Rafael Cifuentes in early 1950’s when they promoted brand to present prominence.
Considered pride of Havanas. Named after what ancient Taino Indians of Cuba called tobacco. Cohiba are some of the finest cigars available. Created in 1968 for personal use of Cuban President, Fidel Castro, and for diplomatic gifts. In 1892 production increased to serve world cognoscenti. Fermentation is a unique factor in Cohiba cigars. Tobacco from other cigars undergoes two thorough fermentations, leaves for Cohiba go through a third fermentation at El Laguito. Some leaves are aged for 18 months during this process. While this process is costly it gives Cohiba cigars their finesse and refinement.
A new brand first launched on the UK market end of 1996. Cuaba, like Cohiba, is another old Taino Indian word. It describes a particularly flammable bush which was used to make flaming torches.
Not made in Cuba since 1992. Range was last owned by Max Oettinger Company of Basel Switzerland and made in Dominican Republic.
Created in 1966 as lower priced range than Montecristo.
- El Rey Del Mundo
Brand established in 1948. Means “King of the World”. Subtle aroma.
A relatively unknown brand wrapped in a manner not often seen in white tissue paper. This accentuates characteristic lightness or softness.
- H. Upmann
Brand established in 1844 by a German, Herman Upmann. Three years earlier with brother Alfonso, they set up a branch of their bank in Havana which subsequently failed. In the early 1930’s H. Upmann was bought by company Menendez y Garcia and they launched the brand Montecristo.
- Hoyo De Monterrey
One of the oldest brands of Havanas. Introduced in 1867 by Jose Gener who also founded La Escepcion brand. In the 1960’s a range of mainly small and medium sizes were introduced by Le Hoyo.
- La Corona
An old Cuban brand. Founded in 1844.
- La Escepcion
An old brand registered by Jose Gener who started Hoyo De Monterrey.
- La Gloria Cubaba
An old Havana brand. Re-introduced about 20 years ago by the Partagas factory.
Montecristo marque created in 1934 by Menendez and Garcia families.
Second oldest Cuban brand, established in 1845 by Dom Jaime Partagas, who founded La Flor de Tabacos Partagas in 1827.
- Por Larranaga
Reportedly the oldest brand still in production. Established in 1834.
One of the oldest brands still being made. Established by Manuel Lopez but more associated with Fernando Paticio, last private owner before Castro revolution.
- Quintero Y Hermano
An old brand which is one of the top selling Havanas in Germany.
- Rafael Gonzalez
An old Cuban brand. Originally created for the English market by George Samuel and Frank Warwick.
- Ramon Allones
Established in 1839 by Ramon Allones, an immigrant from Galacia Spain.
- Romeo Y Julieta
Established in 1875. In 1903 “Pepin” Rodriguez Fernandez, manager of the Cabanas factory in Havana bought out the business and promoted Romeo Y Julieta into one of the world’s leading cigar boards. Romeo Y Julieta was creator of the churchill size and appellation, in honour of Sir Winston Churchill. The Romeo y Juliet factory now called Briones Monoto.
- Saint Luis Rey
Created more than 50 years ago for the British market, not to be confused with San Luis Rey made in Cuba for the German market.
There is always much more detailed information on the net but I hope this was of interest to you.
Theo Rudman's Complete Pocket Guide to Cigars is a wealth of information too.
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