A few Ins and Outs of picking the right cigar for you.
Size and Shape: While not an exact science, there are general names of the size and shape of a cigar. Below are some examples.
The most popular types typically are the Toro, Churchill, Robusto, and Torpedo.
Length: Simple put, how long the Cigar is in inches.
Ring Size: This is the diameter of the cigar. Ring size isn't a set standard from company to company. So while many cigar size names are considered to have a standard ring, ie. a Toro is 50 ring, you may find that each manufacture has a different idea of what a 50 ring is. Kind of like using the phrase; "as thick of your thumb", its going to vary.
Shape: Like the ring size this one can be all over the place with names and different companies referring to shapes differently. However, the simplest difference one can notice right away is if the cigar has a round top, or a cone shaped one. Most commonly called a Parejos, the rounded capped cigars are the most prevalent styles rolled. The coned topped cigars are torpedos, belicosos, pyramids, and a number of various names, where the head of the cigar comes to a point.
Wrappers: The bulk of a cigar's flavor comes from he wrapper leaf, the outer most leaf on the cigar, (ie. the one you can see). These come in 4 basic styles. Natural or Shade Grown, Sun Grown, Maduro, and Candela. This can get way more complicated with species, region, county... ext., but we going to keep it simple.
Shade Grown: Also some times called Natural or Connecticut, these cigars are lighter in color and often milder style smokes. The tobacco plants are grown under a style of shear cloth essentially shading them from the direct sunlight. This produces a softer supple leaf. Often characterized by light creams and a milder profiles.
Sun Grown: As the name implies, this style of tobacco is grown in direct sun light. The result is a hardier leaf which is thicker and has more pronounced flavors. Often these cigars are medium to full bodied smokes.
Maduro: The process of producing a Maduro has less to do with the growing, but is related to the aging process. After harvesting and drying, the leaves are bundled and left to ferment for an extended period of time. Some times many years. This darkens the leaf and brings out more unique flavors. Often Maduro's are stronger bodied cigars, with darker notes of coco and spices.
Candela: A less common style of wrapper by todays standards, these Green cigars were once the most produced style of wrapper. The Green color comes from a rapid heat drying process that preserves the natural chlorophyll of the plants. These are the lightest profile smoke, and can be compared to the difference between black tea and green tea, Candela's being the literal "green" version.
Binder: Serving more for function than anything else in the cigar, the binder holds the filler leaf's in place, and is wrapped around the cigar, resting under the outer most leaf.
Filler: The leaves that make up the inner part of the cigar. There are different ways of arranging the leaf in the filler, but the basic difference is referred to as Long Filler or Short Fill. For Long Filler, think a hand full of straws. The leaves run the length of the cigar and are laid parallel to each other making for an easy smooth draw. Short Filler is more random and consist of smaller pieces. Neither style of filler is considered worst then the other... but long fill is considered better.
More Cigar Terms:
Head: The end of the cigar that is put in the mouth.
Cap: The layer of tobacco that closes the head of the cigar.
Body: The shaft of the cigar.
Foot: The end of the cigar which is lit.
Plume: A white dusting out specs or powder on the outside of the cigar. A sign of proper aging, plume is the result of the oils in the tobacco condensing on the cigar. It is not mold and is brushed out with ease.
Storing Cigars: Cigars like wine or fine liquors, can be aged and keep for a long time under the proper conditions. Ideally a cigar will be at its best when it is kept at roughly 70 degrees Fahrenheit, and 70% humidity. Achieving this can be tricky, but its not 100% must, just a baseline for where to be close to. There are various products and methods for storing cigars, from super high end automatic humidors with climate control, to simply using a plastic zipper bag. Find the method that fits your lifestyle and budget, and your good to go. There aren't many rules to storage, but the best advise is to keep the cigars in more climate stable area, away from direct sunlight or heat sources, and in a relatively air tight container. Places like the freezer or dash board of your car, are not the best places for a cigar. These extremes in temperature can fluctuate the relative humanity in the cigar and can lead to a greater risk of cracking and drying out, especially in the freezer. Try to avoid temperatures below 64ish degrees or above 75ish degrees for extended periods of time while being stored.
More to Come