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Choosing & Smoking Cigars
Cigars are made in a large variety of sizes, shapes and colors, making it difficult for a beginning cigar smoker to understand how these factors affect the taste. It is even more complicated trying to understand the cigar business jargon. The problem with trying to be definitive about cigars is that everything is subjective. If you ask ten cigar aficionados the same question, you probably get ten opinions. We have therefore written this article based on our personal experiences and the shared experiences of several veteran cigar smokers. We have attempted to be as factual as possible, kindly understand that there is a lot of subjectivity involved.

Here are a few terms you should know:


Cigars are measured by their combination of length and "ring gage" (diameter). The length is always measured in inches (a peculiar method) and the ring gage is always measured in 64ths of an inch. E.g. when a cigar is listed in a catalog as 6-3/4x42, the translation is "6 and 3/4 inches long and 42/64ths (about 2/3) of an inch in diameter."

Names of Specific Sizes:

Based on length and ring combinations, cigar sizes have fairly well defined names. The 6-3/4x42 example used above is called a Lonsdale. If the size were 7x47 it would usually be called a Churchill. Note that the naming convention of specific sizes is applicable only to "traditionally" cigars - those with cylindrical shape and a round "head" (as pictured below).

Cigar size table:

The table below gives you some of the most common sizes and their shape name.


SHORT (under 5 1/2")

MEDIUM (5 1/2" to 6 3/4)

LONG (over 6 3/4")

SKINNY (under 40)

Short Panatela


Long Panatela

MEDIUM (40 to 48)



Giant Corona

FAT (over 48)


Grand Corona / Toro


Other Shapes:

Since the vast majority of cigars are made in the traditional "round" shape, as shown above, those with any other shape are known as Figurados, or "Cigars with an unusual shape." Unlike the round cigars, which have a name associated with a size (remembering that a Churchill is around 7x47), the names associated with Figurados tell you little about their size, only the shape. Within the Figurado family, there are the following five shapes:

Torpedo (tapered head)
Bellicoso (angled head)
Pyramid (wedge shape)
Perfecto (tapered head and foot)
Culebras (3 braided cigars)

Of these, the Torpedos and Pyramids are usually big cigars, the Bellicosos are usually medium sized, and the Culebras are 3 small cigars that are twisted together. Perfectos can be any size.


Cigars range in color from pale green (uncommon these days) and rare example is the Arturo Fuente Green, to tan to reddish-brown to chocolate-brown based on the following factors:

  • How the plant was grown (in the sun [darker]or in the shade [lighter])
  • The part of the plant the leaf came from (top [darker], middle or bottom [lighter])
  • The number and duration of fermentation cycles the tobacco went through [more=darker]

Colorodo Claro
Colorodo Maduro


TTobacconists will generally describe a cigar's taste as ranging from "mild" to "full-bodied." One might conclude that taste and strength are the same. Not so. Taste is the flavor, strength is factor of the amount of nicotine and natural sugars in the leaf. The best analogy is single malt whiskeys. A 45.8% malt is stronger than a 40% but the flavor can easily be lighter in a 45.8% Talisker than in a 40% Lowland malt. The latter being more "full-bodied" than the former. Similar story with cigars.

Smoking Your Cigar.
Once you have chosen your cigar you have to cut the closed end.
Once you have selected your cigar, you will need to cut the closed end. All Cuban Cigars have a double cap over the head end - this end goes in your mouth. If you attempt to smoke a cigar the other way around, you will find that half way through it will unravel and be unsmokable. There are a number of ways of cutting the cap, ranging from the use of a thumb-nail, to portable guillotine cutters (both single and double bladed), from cheap to expensive, to exotic cigar scissors and table-top cutters. The cut should be clean and level, or there will be difficulties with the draw and a risk of damaging the wrapper. Cut the cigar so that an eighth of an inch of the cap is left around the cigar wrapper. It is not recommended that you pierce the cap with a pin, as this will interfere with the passage of smoke, make the cigar overheat and lead to unpleasant flavours from tars condensing at the point the cap was pierced. Cap hole-punching devices work as long as the diameter of the punch is at least a 1/4". Wedge-shaped cutters are also not recommended, as these have a tendency to cut through all of the band on either side and the cigar wrapper can then unravel. Knives are not recommended as regular ones are not sharp enough and will tear the cigar. Whatever you use, make sure it is sharp, and that you expose enough of the filler leaves under the cap to allow the smoke uninterrupted passage.
Lighting Your Cigar. 
When you light a cigar, use either a butane lighter (not one filled with gasoline) or a match. If a match, (don't use paper matches), let the sulphur burn off first otherwise you will get the unpleasant taste of sulphur. Do not use a candle, etc. It will tend to taint the flavor of the cigar, and will ultimately impede the passage of smoke through the cigar with particles from the flame. Avoid matches with high sulphur. Take time and care to light the cigar, slowly.

Hold the cigar horizontally in direct contact with the flame, and slowly revolve it until the end is charred evenly over its entire surface.

Next put the cigar between your lips, hold the flame about half an inch away from the end, and draw slowly while rotating the cigar. Its end should now ignite. Ensure an even burn has taken hold. If not relight being carefully not to burn the outside of the wrapper.

Gently blow on the burning end to make sure the cigar is fully lit.

Unlike cigarettes, cigars will naturally go out if left unattended. If your cigar goes out, remove any ash clinging to the previously lit end by tapping the cigar. Blow through the cigar to clear away any stale smoke. Re-light as described above. As long as the cigar has not been out for too long, the flavors will not be unduly affected. If you let it go out and leave it for a few hours, the cigar will cool, and the condensation of the smoke remaining in the cigar will give it an unpleasant taste.

Hand rolled Cuban Cigars are made from long filler tobacco leaves (different from cigarettes and machine made cigars). This means that the ash on a good cigar will not fall off the moment it appears. There is no benefit to keeping a long ash on a cigar, but nor is there any need to continually tap it to remove any excess ash. A good indication of the quality of construction of your cigar is a long solid cylinder of ash.

Do not warm the length of the cigar before smoking it. This was done in the 19C to burn off the unpleasant tasting gum used on some Spanish cigars. Today's this is not necessary. Hand rolled Cuban cigars use a small drop of flavorless, odorless vegetable gum at the cap end of the wrapper leaf.

Cigar Etiquette.

It is considered crude to smoke a cigar while it is clenched in your teeth. Also, holding it in your mouth will cause the end to become overly wet, from saliva, and then disintegrate. To enjoy your cigar to the fullest. Hold it in you hand and bring it to you mouth to puff. The only exception is when you are driving. Some smokers like to use a cigar holder to prevent the end getting wet.

Please feel free to send corrections, suggestions or additions to us via email.





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Genuine Cuban Cigars available from CubanCigars4U. We ship all Cuban cigars with bands and in the original wrappers. If by the box then factory sealed. Your guarantee of freshness and authenticity.
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