Our cigar information guide provides cigar information on topics such as cigar care and cigar storage so that you can keep your cigars fresh for the entire life of your cigars.
Learning how to cut and light a cigar will determine how well your cigar will smoke. Learn about cigar anatomy, cigar etiquette, types of cigars available, their history, and other informative cigar facts.
The Cigar Primer
Learn how to start your cigar journey right here! All of the basics are covered in this short course, courtesy of CigarCyclopedia.com.
Don't forget to download and print our handy cigar size chart for your own reference.
About the ingredients
What goes into cigars? The answer to this question is the key to assessing the quality of a specific cigar. All but the thinnest cigars include three elements: (1) the filler tobacco at the center, (2) a binder leaf which holds the filler together and (3) the outer wrapper, which is rolled around the binder.
Cigars which are made by hand use "long filler" tobacco: leaves which run the length of a cigar. In a handmade, the filler, binder and wrapper are combined manually to create a cigar.
Machine-made cigars utilize high-speed machinery to combine "short filler" tobacco - usually scraps or pieces of tobacco - with a binder and wrapper. Because of the tension placed on the tobacco by the machines, the binders and wrappers are often made of a homogenized tobacco product which is stronger than natural leaves and can be produced in a variety of flavors, strengths and textures.
A few brands combine machine-bunching (using long-filler tobacco) with hand-rolled wrappers; this practice has been very properly dubbed "hand-rolled" as opposed to handmade by cigar expert Rick Hacker in The Ultimate Cigar Book. And some larger cigars use "mixed" or "combination" filler of long-filler and short-filler tobaccos.
The quality of the tobaccos and more importantly, how they are blended, determines the quality of the smoking experience. In the filler, "ligero" leaves which provide power are blended with "seco" leaves with a milder flavor and "volado" which helps to ensure an even burn. These are combined with a binder and wrapper to provide a balanced flavor.
The most obvious characteristic of most cigars is the color of the exterior wrapper. While not the only factor in the taste of a cigar, it is an important element and a key in many people's purchase of specific cigars. Although manufacturers have identified more than 100 different wrapper shades, they can be grouped into seven major color classifications, as noted below:
Also known as "American Market Selection" [AMS] or "Candela," this is a green wrapper. Once popular, it is rarely found today.
This is a very light tan color, almost beige in shade; often grown in Connecticut or from Connecticut seeds in Ecuador.
A medium brown found on many cigars, this category covers many descriptions. The most popular are "Natural" or "English Market Selection" [EMS]. Tobaccos in this shade are grown in many countries.
This shade is instantly recognizable by the obvious reddish tint.
Darker than Colorado Claro in shade, this color is often associated with African tobacco, such as wrappers from Cameroon, or with Havana Seed tobacco grown in Honduras or Nicaragua.
Very dark brown to almost black. Tobacco for Maduro wrappers is primarily grown in Connecticut, Mexico, Nicaragua and Brazil.
This is black . . . really black. This shade of wrapper reappeared with more frequency in 2001 after being almost off the market in the 1990s.
There are cigars of every shape and every size for every occasion. From tiny, cigarette-like cigarillos to giant monsters resembling pool cues, there is a wide variety to choose from.
Certain sizes and shapes which have gained popularity over the years and have become widely recognized, even by non-smokers. Cigar shape names such as "corona" or "panatela" have specific meanings to the cigar industry, although there is no formally agreed-to standard for any given size.
The following table lists 20 well-known shapes, and is adapted from Paul Garmirian's explanation of sizes in The Gourmet Guide to Cigars. The "classical" measurements for which this shape is known are given, along with a size and girth range for each size for classification purposes:
|Shape||Classical Length x Ring||Length range||Ring range|
|Giant||9 x 52||8 & up||50 & up|
|Double Corona||7 3/4 x 49||6 3/4 x 7 3/4||49-54|
|Churchill||7 x 47||6 1/2-7||46-48|
|Pyramid||7 x 36->54||all||flared|
|Torpedo||6 1/2 x 52||all||tapered|
|Toro||6 x 50||5 5/8-6 5/8||48-54|
|Robusto||5 x 50||4 1/2-5 1/2||48-54|
|Grand Corona||6 1/2 x 46||5 5/8-6 5/8||<45-47|
|Corona Extra||5 1/2 x 46||4 1/2-5 1/2||45-47|
|Giant Corona||7 1/2 x 44||7 1/2 & up||42-45|
|Lonsdale||6 1/2 x 42||6 1/2-7 1/4||40-44|
|Long Corona||6 x 42||5 7/8-6 3/8||40-44|
|Corona||5 1/2 x 42||5 1/4-5 3/4||40-44|
|Petit Corona||5 x 42||4-5||40-44|
|Long Panatela||7 1/2 x 38||7 & up||35-39|
|Panatela||6 x 38||5 1/2-6 7/8||35-39|
|Short Panatela||5 x 38||4-5 3/8||35-39|
|Slim Panatela||6 x 34||5 & up||30-34|
|Small Panatela||5 x 33||4-5||30-34|
|Cigarillos||4 x 26||6 & less||29 & less|
With the great increase in shaped cigars, here are our classification criteria for figurados:
Culebras, which is made up of three small cigars twisted together. This shape has returned to the U.S. market and a few manufacturers have this unique shape available.
Perfecto, which has two tapered ends. Until recently, there were just a few cigars which offered Perfecto "tips" on the foot, but true Perfectos have made their comeback. For the bold, take a look at the Puros Indios Gran Victoria (10 inches long by 60 ring) to see a true "pot-bellied" cigar.
Torpedo, which was traditionally a fat cigar with two fully closed, pointed ends, but has now come to mean a cigar with an open foot and a straight body which tapers to a closed, pointed head. This "new" torpedo was popularized by the Montecristo (Havana) No. 2, which debuted in 1935. The Torpedo differs from "Pyramid"-shaped cigars, which flare continuously from the head to the foot, essentially forming a triangle.
Like the Torpedo, whose meaning has changed over time, the Royal Corona or Rothschild title is seen less and less on cigars now known as "Robustos." This change has been rapid over the past 4-5 years, but some manufacturers still label their shorter, thicker cigars as Rothschilds or even as a "Rothchild" (an incorrect spelling of the famous German banking family name). A few manufacturers use both and label their 5-5 1/2-inch, 50-ring models as "Robustos" and reserve the "Rothschild" name for shorter, but still 50-ring, cigars of 4-4 3/4 inches!
Many other shape names are used by manufacturers; some cigars even have multiple names. For the sake of convenience, the many types of small, very thin cigars are grouped under the "Cigarillo" title rather than distributed over a long list of names such as "Belvederes," "Demi-Tasse" and others.
Cutting & Lightining
In order to enjoy cigars, the cap must be cut off to allow air to flow through. Cutting is a personal choice, but the preferred method today is the guillotine cut which removes the cap across the entire top of the cigar. This allows more air to flow and provides the full range of flavor to the smoker. Some smokers, however, use other methods such as a cigar "punch" (also quite popular today), a piercer (less popular) or "V"-cutter, so named for the shape of hole it leaves in the top of the cigar. A few folks, though, still bite off the top of their cigars. Good luck.
Be careful in your choice of cutters, however. Like any knife, sharper is better (and safer). All cutters are not alike, so pick yours carefully; subscribers can check the CigarWire ratings for our picks.
Once cut, you can light up!
Purists will insist on not having the flame actually touch the cigar, whether from a match or a lighter. Some require the more romantic step of using a lit cedar strip (called a "spill") to light their cigars, but this is more prevalent in Europe than in the U.S.
Enthusiasts agree that using paper matches is a bad idea, since they won't stay lit long enough to completely light your cigar. Try wooden matches and let the sulphur burn off of the tip of the match before lighting. If you're using a lighter, butane is the best (odorless and tasteless) and apply it gently just below the end of the cigar. Although elegant lighters from legendary makers as Alfred Dunhill, Davidoff and S.T. Dupont are much prized, the newest development is the so-called "torch" which offers a very hot, windproof flame. Some torch lighters even provide two or three flames, ensuring a quick light and a quick need to re-fill the lighter.
A fast light is not always a good light, however. It is essential to ensure that the entire end of the cigar is lit. This is most effectively done by turning the cigar as you light it, exposing all of the end to the flame. Remember, "Turn and Burn."
Check your light by turning the lit end toward you, blowing gently and checking to see that the entire end is hot. Then enjoy!
Cigars are like any other plant product and deteriorate over time if not cared for. That's where a humidor comes in. To store your cigars for use over time, a humidor is essential.
As a product of the Caribbean, cigars do best in a tropical climate similar to the conditions under which they were created. The consensus is that storage is best achieved at a temperature of 70 degrees (F) and at 70 percent relative humidity.
The risks of having conditions which vary wildly from this norm can be substantial. At extremely cold temperatures or with too little humidity, cigars will dry out and be unsmokable (a.k.a. DEAD). At high temperatures - above 80 degrees F - or at high humidity levels, the dreaded tobacco beetle can hatch and begin boring its way through the cigar. The microscopic larvae are embedded in the leaf and high temps or humidity allow them to hatch and destroy any cigar they are in. Whole boxes of cigars have been turned to dust by these vermin. The only defense is to ensure that your cigars are kept at correct temperatures and at humidity levels of less than 80 percent.
(If you get beetle infestations, you'll see the holes and every cigar which has these problems must be discarded. Check all other cigars in the same box or pack carefully and make sure they are stored in a new or different container before returning them to your humidor. This is why many enthusiasts keep their cigars in their cellophane wrappers to protect against the spread of beetles, even though this slows the aging process.)
So what kind of humidor works best?
Any container which has a good seal and can incorporate a sponge or other humidification device can be used, even Tupperware. During the Cigar Boom of the mid-1990s, there was even a plastic box marketed as the "TupperDor"! But beyond that, you're buying a piece of furniture.
All humidors should close tightly and if lined with wood, must use Spanish Cedar. Other woods such as plywood or American Cedar can have strong smells which can interfere with the taste of your cigars. Take your pick of exterior decorations to match your home or office decor. One suggestion: keep your humidor away from direct sunlight to keep temperatures down.
Not all humidors come with humidifiers, so you need to check before buying. If you need to buy a humidifier separately, there are plenty to choose from, but check to see which require a special propylene glycol solution and which use simple distilled water. Subscribers can check the CigarWire for our recommendations on humidors.
Just going out for a few hours and need to take your cigars along? Opt for a quality cigar case, made from odorless leather in endless styles and price points. You can choose from ultra-protective hard cases with individual slots or softer cases which have open interiors to allow you to carry different sizes as desired. Don't worry too much about humidification when carrying your cigars for a few hours on the road, unless you're going to the desert.
When Were Cigars Invented?
Whether it’s the famous Arnold Schwarzenegger, Demi Moore, or your neighbor puffing away on a cigar on their back porch, that nonchalant attitude while smoking a cigar is an inevitable common dominator. Cigars play a vital role in cultures, including prohibition attempts in Britain, lounging for hours after dinner with a glass of port in the 70s, and unwinding on tropical vacations today.
Daily and occasional cigar smokers both wonder: how did cigars come about? Who were cigars invented by? Where, and for what purpose? Let’s dig a little deeper into the complex art of manufacturing a cigar, which leads to the simplicity of taking the time to relax with a cigar in hand.
When Were Cigars Invented?
Cigars, tobacco rolled in flavorful plant papers (typically plantain or tobacco leaves), have been around so long that it is uncertain how they first came about. The first noted recognition of cigars dates back to when Christopher Columbus sailed to America in 1492 when Mayan-Indians introduced smoking tobacco to the sailors.
Then, Columbus and his crew brought back the phenomena of smoking cigars to Europe, believing that they discovered a valuable commodity. They were right. Starting in Spain and then soon trickling over to Portugal, France, Italy and Britain, smoking tobacco flourished among Europeans. Tobacco was often smoked in pipes, and it wasn’t until later that the hand-rolled Cuban cigar was perfected.
However, the Mayan-Indian imprint on cigars will forever remain, because the word ‘cigar’ originally came from Mayan-Indian word for smoking – ‘sikar’, which later became ‘cigarro’ in Spanish.
Why Is Cuba Famous For Cigars?
Contrast to common belief, Cuba is not where cigars were invented. It is uncertain who the very first people who smoked cigars were, but it was most likely the Mayans in Mexico and Central America who inspired Christopher Columbus and crew to bring the cigars back home to Europe.
Cuba is famous for is its tobacco. With an ideal climate for tobacco plants, the original Cuban cigar was made in Spain using tobacco shipped from Cuba. Spaniards tried to grow tobacco closer to where the cigars were rolled to skip the importation process, but the disappointing results led them to simply import tobacco from where it grew naturally – Cuba.
Why Were Cigars Invented In The First Place?
Before cigars became notorious for an excuse to simply relax, the Indians used cigars for medicinal purposes, believing that smoking tobacco was good for their health. Cigars were also a part of Mayan-Indian tradition during ceremonies and celebrations.
Later, in Europe, cigars became a way to pass the time, and soon the flavorful combination of exquisite tastes of diverse papers with smoke became a sought after luxury.
How Cigars Developed Over Time?
Cigars are quite different today than they were at first discovery in the ‘New World’. Thanks to ancient Mayan pictures portraying men enjoying a smoke, we know cigars have been around for over one thousand years.
Back in the day, cigars were only hand rolled, but now there are manufacturers who use machines to roll cigars. However, the finest cigars are still those that are hand-rolled.
Throughout generations and centuries, an art of curing and fermenting the tobacco for a smooth taste was perfected; people have played with many different flavors to successfully discover what we know as a cigar today.
Enjoying A Smoke
Overall, cigars make a perfect excuse to sit and ponder about life, since we so often rush around and fidget with nothing to do. There are a few different ways to smoke a cigar, and a variety of options of how people prefer to smoke one: on the beach, after dinner, the back porch, with a friend, alone, etc., and it is exceptionally special to know a bit about how the cigar emerged as you enjoy a smoke.
How To Pair Cigars And Drinks
Whether it’s cigar and scotch pairing, cigar and beer pairing or any cigar and liquor pairing, even the most seasoned cigar smokers and spirit connoisseurs can sometimes find themselves at a loss when pairing drinks with cigars. In fact, the very ability to pair cigars and spirits strikes many as a mystery. But like most mysteries, it can be solved, for there is a clue, and it is literally right on the tip of your tongue. It is simply a matter of learning how to taste.
You already use your natural tasting abilities when you select the dressing to put on a salad, or decide which wine to drink with dinner. Your palate tells you what is right for you. And the more you use your sense of taste, the more refined it becomes. That’s how professional cigar makers and whiskey distillers develop their expertise.
For example, a cigar master can pick out a single tobacco leaf, and by smelling it and smoking it, can identify the type of tobacco, tell you where it was grown, and how far along it is in the fermentation or aging process. Likewise, a master distiller can “nose” a sample of whiskey taken from a barrel and separate the aromas into a multitude of flavors. He can even tell you its proof! Cigar masters and master distillers are called “masters” for a reason; they spend years developing their skills - and tasting is definitely a skill. Luckily, like most skills, such as learning how to smoke a cigar like a pro, it can be learned.
Few things are more satisfying, from a palate pleasing point of view, than pairing your favorite cigar with a suitable libation. Some classic pairings with cigars are cognac, single malt whisky, bourbon, rum, rye, and port. With the exception of tequila, most white spirits – such as vodka and gin - do not work as well because the cigar will overpower the drink.
Of course, there are always exceptions. Some red wines and certain beers can also make a great match with cigars. The main criteria is not to let the drink dominate the cigar, or vice versa.
I like to tell people who are pairing drinks with cigars to simply match the body of the beverage to the body of the cigar. For example, a light-bodied cigar will go well with some white wines, young reds or blended scotches. Medium-bodied smokes are great with Speyside and some Lowland whiskies, most Irish whiskeys, rums, bourbons, ryes and ports. Full-bodied smokes are a perfect match with peaty Islay and heavier Highland single malts.
Pairing cigars with wines and spirits is just one part of the equation. Craft beer and even some cocktails can make for great pairings, too. But in the end, your taste is the final judge as to what will work and what won't when it comes to pairing cigars and spirits. Have fun testing out different smoke and drink combinations and develop your own perfect pairings.