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Cigar 101

Terms & Definitions
Amarillo - A yellow wrapper leaf grown under shade.

Amatista - A glass jar containing 50 or 25 cigars, sealed and sold as factory fresh.

Band - A paper ring around the head of most cigars. Cigar bands are often printed with the name of the brand, country of origin, and/or indication that the cigar is hand-rolled. They often have colorful graphics, which have made them a popular collectors item.

Barrel - The main body of the cigar.

Belicoso - Traditionally a short, pyramid-shaped cigar, 5 or 5 1/2 inches in length with a shorter, more rounded taper at the head and a ring gauge of 50 or less. Belicoso is often used to describe Coronas or Corona Gordas with a tapered head.

Binder - The portion of leaf used to hold together the blend of filler leaves; with the wrapper and filler, it is one of the three main components in a cigar.

Blend - The mix tobacco in a cigar, including up to five types of filler leaves, a binder leaf and an outer wrapper.

Boite Nature - The cedar box in which many cigars are sold.

Book Style (also, Booking) - A rolling method by which the cigarmaker lays the filler leaves atop one another, then rolls them up like a scroll. Book style, or booking, is common in Honduras. The alternate style is based on the old Cuban method called entubar.

Bouquet - The smell, or nose of a fine cigar. A badly stored cigars can lose its bouquet.

Box - The container used to package cigars.

Box-pressed - The slightly square appearance taken on by cigars packed tightly in a box.

Bull's-Eye Piercer - A device for opening the closed head of A cigar before smoking.

Bunch - Up to four different types of filler tobacco blended to create the body of the cigar. The bunch is held together by the binder.

Bundle - A packaging method designed with economy in mind that uses a cellophane overwrap. It usually contains 25 or 50 cigars, traditionally without bands. Bundles, oftentimes seconds of premium brands, are usually less expensive than boxed cigars.

Burros (also called bulks) - The piles, or bulks, in which cigar tobacco is fermented. They can be six feet tall and are carefully monitored. If the heat level inside them gets too high, the burro is taken apart to slow the fermentation.

Cabinet Selection - Cigars packed in a wooden box rather than the standard cardboard or paper-covered cigar boxes. These are preferable when buying cigars for aging.

Candela - A bright green shade of wrapper, achieved by a heat-curing process that fixes the chlorophyll content of the wrapper while it's still in the barn. Also referred to as double claro.

Cap - A circular piece of wrapper leaf placed at the head of the cigar.

Capa - The cigar's wrapper (also called the binder).

Case - In the cigar production process, workers case (slightly moisten) aged tobacco so it will be easy for hand rollers to work with.

Catador - A professional cigar taster who determines a cigar's qualities of taste, texture and aroma.

Chaveta (roller's knife) - The knife used in a cigar factory for cutting the wrapper leaf.

Churchill - A large Corona-format cigar.

Claro - The lightest in color (like milky coffee) wrapper, usually mild and is also sometimes called a "natural."

Colorado - A medium-brown to brownish-red shade of wrapper tobacco. Colorado cigars are usually aromatic and are associated with well-matured cigars.

Corojos - Plants chosen to provide wrapper leaves and grown under a gauze sunscreen.

Corona - The most familiar size and shape for premium cigars: generally straight-sided with an open foot and a closed, rounded head.

Culebra - A cigar made of three Panetelas braided together.

Curing - The process of drying newly harvested tobaccos.

Diademas - A big cigar with a closed and tapered head, generally about eight inches long; the foot may be open or closed like a Perfecto.

Dominican Republic - East of Cuba with a similar growing climate, the Dominican Republic has recently become a major exporter of cigars, mostly to the U.S.

Double Claro - A cigar, greenish brown, from an unmatured leaf that was dried fast. These cigars are mild or bland with little oil. (See Candela)

Double Corona (also called prominente) - A big cigar, generally 7 1/2 to 8 inches by a 49 to 52 ring gauge.

Draw - The flow of smoke from a cigar.
English Market Selection - a color designation for wrapper leaves that are somewhat lighter in color than Maduro, especially selected for taste and bouquet. Also referred to as Naturals.

Entubar - A rolling method that originated in Cuba. Rather than booking the filler leaves, the roller folds each individual filler leaf back on itself, then bunches the leaves together. Proponents of this method say it creates superior air flow through the cigar, which results in a more even draw and burn.

Escaparates - Cooling cabinets in which cigars are kept at the factory for a few weeks after they have been rolled.

Fermentation - After harvest, the tobacco leaves are gathered in large bulks (or piles), then moistenedand allowed to ferment. Temperatures may reach 140°F before the bulk is broken down and restacked until fermentation stops naturally. This process, called working the bulk, releases ammonia from the tobacco.

Figurado - A Spanish term that refers to cigars with shapes sizes, such as Belicosos, Torpedos, Pyramids, Perfectos and Culebras.

Filler - The individual tobacco used in the body of the cigar. A fine cigar usually contains between two to five different types of filler. Handmade cigars have long fillers where machine made cigars usually contain smaller-cut leaf.

Finish - A tasting term which refers to the taste that lingers on your palate after a puff. Mild cigars do not have much finish, either in terms of length or complexity, but stronger, more full-bodied cigars have distinctive flavors that linger.

Flag - An extension of the wrapper leaf shaped to finish the head of a cigar; used instead of a cap. Flags are sometimes tied off in a pigtail or a curly head.

Foot - The end of the cigar one lights. Most often it is pre-cut, except in the case of Torpedos and Perfectos.

Gran Corona - A very large cigar; generally 9 1/4 inches by 47 ring gauge.

Gum - A vegetable adhesive used to secure the head of the wrapper leaf around the finished bunch.

Habana - A designation which, when inscribed on a cigar band, indicates that a cigar is Cuban. (Note: not all Cuban cigars are marked with "Habana" or "Havana.")

Half-wheel (media ruedas) - A bundle of 50 cigars. Cigar rollers usually use ribbon to tie the cigars they produce into half-wheels.

Hand - Individual tobacco leaves hung together after harvest and tied at the top. These hands are piled together to make a bulk for fermentation.

Handmade - A cigar made entirely by hand with high-quality wrapper and long filler. All premium cigars are handmade. Hand-rollers can generally use more delicate wrapper leaves than machines.

Hand-rolled - A cigar made entirely by hand with high-quality wrapper and long filler.

Head - The closed end of the cigar opposite from the end one lights.

Homogenized Binder - Binder made of chopped tobacco leaf and cellulose; used most often in machine production and to facilitate the burn of certain products.

Hot - Describes a cigar that is underfilled and has a quick, loose draw. Can cause harsh flavors.

Humidor - A room or a box, of varying sizes, designed to preserve or promote the proper storage and aging of cigars by maintaining a relative humidity level of 70 percent and a temperature of approximately 65° to 70° F.

Hygrometer - A device that indicates the humidity (percentage of moisture in the air; used to monitor humidor conditions.
Lance - A cutter used to pierce a small hole in the closed end of a cigar. Also called a piercer.

Lector - Traditionally, the person who reads to the cigar rollers while they work.

Ligero - One of the three basic types of filler tobacco. The name means light in Spanish, but this aromatic tobacco lends body to a blend.

Long Filler - Filler tobacco that runs the length of the body of the cigar, rather than chopped pieces found in machine-made cigars.

Lonsdale - A long cigar; generally 6 to 6 3/4 inches by a 42 to 44 ring gauge, but there are many variations.

Machine-made - Cigars made entirely by machine, using heavier-weight wrappers and binders and, frequently, cut filler in place of long filler.

Maduro - A cigar, very dark brown in color (like black coffee). These are usually selected by experienced smokers. Thought of as the traditional Cuban color.

Oil - The mark of a well-humidified cigar. Even well-aged cigars secrete oil at 70 to 72 percent relative humidity, the level at which they should be stored.

Oscuro - A cigar, black, very strong with little bouquet and are not produced in large quantities.

Panetela - A long, thin cigar shape.

Parejos - Straight-sided cigars, such as coronas, panetelas and lonsdales.

Perfecto - A distinctive cigar shape that is closed at both ends, with a rounded head; usually with a bulge in the middle.

Piercer - A cutter used to pierce a small hole in the closed end of a cigar. Also called a lance.

Planchas - Boards on which tobacco leaves are spread before fermentation.

Plug - A blockage that sometimes occurs in the tobacco that can prevent a cigar from drawing properly. A plug can sometimes be alleviated by gently massaging the cigar.

Primings - The rows of leaves on a tobacco plant. The number of primings varies, but six is average. The first priming is closest to the ground, the sixth is near the top. The higher the, priming the stronger the tobacco.

Puro - A Spanish term used to distinguish a cigar from a cigarette. Modern usage refers to a cigar blended with tobaccos from a single country. (All Cuban cigars use 100 percent Cuban tobacco, so all Cuban cigars, according to modern usage, are puros.)

Pyramid - A sharply tapered cigar with a wide, open foot and a closed head.

Ring Gauge - The circumference of cigars. A measurement for the diameter of a cigar, based on 64ths of an inch. A 40 ring gauge cigar is 40/64ths of an inch thick. >click here to view sizes<

Robusto - A substantial, but short cigar; traditionally 5 to 5 1/2 inches by a 50 ring gauge.

Rosado - A Spanish term that means "rose-colored." It is used to describe the reddish tint of some Cuban-seed wrapper.

Seco - The Spanish word for dry, seco is a type of filler tobacco. It often contributes aroma and is usually medium-bodied.

Shade-grown - Wrapper leaves that have been grown under a cheesecloth tent, called a tapado. The filtered sunlight creates a thinner, more elastic leaf.

Short Filler - Used mainly in machine-made cigars, it consists of chopped scraps of leaf. Short filler burns quicker and hotter than long filler.

Smoking Time - A 5-inch cigar with a 50 ring gauge, such as a robusto, should provide anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes of smoking pleasure. A double corona, a 7 1/2-inch cigar with a 50 ring gauge, may give over an hour's worth of smoking time. A thinner cigar, such as a lonsdale, smokes in less time than a cigar with a 50 ring gauge.

Shoulder - The area of a cigar where the cap meets the body. If you cut into the shoulder, the cigar will begin to unravel.

Spanish Cedar - The kind of wood that is used to make most cigar boxes and humidors.

Spill - A strip of cedar used to light a cigar when using a candle or a fluid lighter, both of which can alter the taste of the cigar.

Sugar - Sugars occur naturally in tobacco. Darker wrappers, such as maduros, contain more sugar, making them sweeter.

Sun-grown - Tobacco grown in direct sunlight, which creates a thicker leaf with thicker veins.
Tapado - A cheesecloth tent under which shade-grown wrapper leaf is cultivated.

Torcedores - A person who rolls cigars.

Torpedo - A cigar shape that features a closed foot, a pointed head and a bulge in the middle.

Totalamente a Mano - Made totally by hand; a description found on cigar boxes. Much better than "Hecho a Mano" (made by hand, which can mean it is filled with machine-bunched filler), or "Envuelto a Mano" (packed by hand).

Tubos - Cigars packed in individual wood, metal or glass tubes to keep them fresh.

Tunneling - The unwelcome phenomenon of having your cigar burn unevenly. To prevent it, rotate your cigar now and then.

Vega - A tobacco plantation.

Vein - The rib of the tobacco leaf. A quality cigar should not be too veined.

Vintage - When a vintage is used for a cigar, it usually refers to the year the tobacco was harvested, not the year the cigar was made.

Viso - A glossy wrapper leaf grown under cover.

Volado - A type of filler tobacco chosen for its burning qualities.

Wedge Cut - A V-shaped cut made in the closed end of a cigar

Wrapper (capa) - Leaves with elasticity are used to restrain the filler within the cigar. Good wrappers usually have no visable veins. Colors vary due to the maturing process.

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