Cigar 101

Selecting a Cigar

Choosing a cigar can be an overwhelming task when you are confronted with hundreds and maybe even thousands of choices. What color do you look for? What size do you want? Are there tell tale signs to watch out for when buying a cigar? All these questions will be answered.

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Color

Without getting into too much detail, let’s look at the most obvious aspect of a cigar: color. The shade of the wrapper usually is an indication of the flavor of the cigar. The darker the cigar, the more likely it will be spicier. This is more of a rule of thumb than a hard fast rule. Most new cigar smokers will appreciate a lighter color. These are the general categories of color: 

 

Double Claro - Known to have a greenish tint on its wrapper. It's a light cigar that has had limited aging. Claro - Typically signifies that the cigar will be mild. It has a light brown color.

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 - This wrapper is your standard brown color. Slightly stronger than the Claro but still considered mild.

Maduro - These wrappers are dark brown and give off an excellent aroma. They are considered medium to strong cigars.

Oscuro - The Oscuro has a very dark brown, practically black wrapper and is strong in flavor.

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 at 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.

 

Size

The names of cigar sizes rarely have anything to do with the actual size of the cigar. There aren't any universal standards to go by, so the best you can do is keep in mind that the size thing is just a guideline. And that is no more readily apparent than after you notice that one manufacturer's churchill is the same size as another's double corona.

There are, however, "classic" measurements which will, when you become more familiar with them, will allow some general assumptions about a cigar's size. For instance, after you get to know the classic measurements, the next time you see the words "Double Corona" on the outside of a cigar box you'll know right away that what's inside is not a collection of short cigars.

But then you'll also want to keep in mind that just because the box says "Churchills" doesn't mean the cigars are going to be 7 inches long with a 48 ring gauge.

All you really need to remember is that cigars, in terms of their size, are generally listed by length in inches and the ring gauge, or the cigar's girth, which is in 64ths of an inch. So, a classic Churchill is 7 inches long and 48/64ths of an inch thick.

When choosing a size, it is important that you remember that the bigger the cigar, the longer it will take to smoke it. For new cigar smokers it is a good idea to stick with Coronas and Robustos.

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