Cigar FAQs

Cigar Basics

How are cigars made?

Cigars are made either by hand or by a machine. A handmade cigar is where the tobacco leaves were picked, sorted, and bundled by an individual, not a machine. The cigar itself was fashioned by a skilled cigar roller using a few simple tools. A machine made cigar is where most or all of the cigar was made from a machine, and many of the processing stages such as picking the leaves, grinding up the filler tobacco, and rolling the cigar were completed by machine.

What is a premium cigar?

A premium or super-premium cigar is a cigar made by hand and should be consistent from one cigar to the next. Premium cigars are constructed from three parts – the filler, the binder, and the wrapper. The filler is the interior of the cigar. When the term “long filler” is used, it means that the filler was constructed from full leaves. These leaves are picked, stored, and aged intact, and are obviously handled with great care. Rolling long filler cigars takes great skill to insure that it burns evenly and smoothly. The second type of filler is short filler. Short filler consists of loose clippings of leaves that are leftover from the long filler production. The next part of the cigar in the binder that consists of several layers of leaves that encircle the spirals of filler. As the name implies, it forms the filler into a circular shape, so that the next, and final component, the wrapper, can be applied.

Drugstore cigars vs. premium cigars?

Most packaged “drug store” cigars are machine made and include non-tobacco ingredients such as paper, saltpeter (for burning) and PG of Glycerin (to prevent them from drying out). Premium cigars are hand made and contain only tobacco. Please see filler in the glossary to learn more about the tobacco within cigars.

What is the anatomy of a cigar?
The Anatomy of a Cigar:

Flag – C – Head
G – Body
R – Tuck or Foot

Cap, Head or Flag – A loose piece of tobacco applied with natural glue as the finishing touch to the cigar. Offers a nice appearance and, if applied properly, feels good in your mouth and prevents the wrapper from unraveling.

Body – main portion of cigar consists of Filler, Binder, and Wrapper.

Filler – long leaves of tobacco (Long filler) or cut up pieces of tobacco (Short filler) that compromise the bulk of the cigar and deliver most of the flavor.

Long filler – filled with long leaves of tobacco deftly gathered together by a roller. A long-filler cigar is almost always handmade, and all premium handmade cigars are long-filler cigars.

Short Filler – the middle of a short-filler cigar is filled with leaves, stems, and other scraps of tobacco chopped up by a machine, in a machine made cigar.

Binder – tough, coarse tobacco that holds the whole thing together in hand made cigars or ground up tobacco bits that are held together by natural glue in machine made cigars.

Wrapper – A silky leaf of tobacco that makes your cigar look and feel attractive and delivers most of the flavor.

Tuck or Foot – The business end of the cigar – the end that you light.

Can I purchase Cuban cigars legally in the US?

In short, no. There are many companies that claim to have genuine Cuban cigars available for purchase. However, they are doing so in violation of United States Office of Foreign Asset Controls regulations –


What’s the best cigar book?

The best reference guide is Perelman’s Pocket Cyclopedia of Cigars, updated every year.  The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Cigars by Tad Gage is a great book for beginners.

Are there common names for the cigar shapes?

There are some basic shapes that share common names. These shapes are given names, so that there is some degree of universality in the industry. These descriptive dimensions are approximate, but here are some guidelines: Short is less than 5.5 inches. Long is greater than 6.5 inches. Thin is less than 42 ring size. Thick is greater than 47 ring. Manufacturers also add common adjectives to the shape name. Gorda, grande, gran, larga, extra, doble, or double means they are adding on to the size. Petite, slim, finos, or demi means some sort of reduction to the size.

Common Shapes of Cigars

  • Ascot, Demitasse – about 3 to 5 inches long with a ring gauge between 30 and 36 (~1/2 inch). Smoking time 15-20 minutes.
  • Petite Corona – about 4 1/2 to 5 inches long and a ring gauge between 40 and 42 (~6/10 inch). Smoking time 25 minutes.
  • Robusto or Rothschild – about 4 1/2 inches in length and a ring gauge of about 48 (~3/4 inch). Smoking time 25-40 minutes.
  • Corona – about 5 1/2 inches long and a ring gauge of 42 (~7/10 inch). Smoking time 30-45 minutes.
  • Corona Extra or Corona Royale – about 5 3/4 inches long and a ring gauge between 44 and 46 (~7/10 inch). Smoking time 40 minutes.
  • Panatela – about 6 to 6 1/2 inches long with a ring gauge between 34 and 39 (~1/2 inch). Smoking time 35-45 minutes.
  • Lonsdale – about 6 inches long and a ring gauge of about 43 (~7/10 inch). Smoking time 45-50 minutes.
  • Corona Grandes – about 6 to 6 ½ inches long and a ring gauge between 44 and 46 (~7/10 inch). Smoking time 45 minutes.
  • Churchill – about 7 inches long with a ring gauge of 47 to 48 (~3/4 inch). Smoking time 45-60 minutes.
  • Double Corona, Long Panatela – about 7 1/2 to 8 inches long and a ring gauge of 49 to 52 (~8/10 inch). Smoking time 45-60 minutes.
  • Gigante, Presidente – about 8 1/2 inches long and a ring gauge of 52 (~8/10 inch). Smoking time 60-90 minutes.

Uncommon Cigar Shapes

  • Belicoso – about 6 inches long and a ring gauge of 48 (~3/4 inch) with a pointed cone shaped head.
  • Petite Belicoso – about 5 inches long and a ring gauge of 40 (~6/10 inch) with a pointed cone shaped head.
  • Pyramid – about 6 to 7 inches long and tapers down from a ring gauge of 52 (~8/10 inch) at the foot and 42 (~7/10 inch) at the head with a pointed, cone shaped head. Smoking time 45-60 minutes.
  • Torpedo – varies in length and ring gauge. Has a pointed cone shaped head, bulge in the body, and a relatively flat foot.
  • Culebra – Three cigars each 5 to 6 inches long with a ring gauge of 34 (~1/2 inch) that are intertwined. The cigars have to be unwound to be smoked. In order to avoid breakage, cigars must be very well humidified.

Shape Chart

Petit Corona
Corona Gorda


How do I understand cigar shapes?

A cigar is measured by length and ring gauge (diameter). The length is measured in inches. The ring gauge is measured in units of 1/64th of an inch. A 64-ring cigar would be one inch in diameter. Most cigars are between 32 and 52-ring size. For example, a cigar that is called “8 x 48” is 8 inches long and 48/64ths of an inch in diameter. The girth determines how much of the cigar’s burning tip is exposed to air. The fatter the cigar, the slower and cooler a cigar smokes because more of the filler is exposed to air. The shape is the length balanced with a particular ring gauge.

How do I know what size is right for me?

You should pick a cigar for the amount of time you have available to smoke. If you are at a sporting event or on a golf course, choose a large cigar that will last for a long time. If you are in a cigar friendly restaurant and you want to have a nice after dinner smoke, choose one that will last about 30-40 minutes. As you experiment with different sizes you will find one that you are most comfortable with.

By Wrapper

How many wrapper colors are there? There are about a dozen or so, all variations of these basic ones, listed from lightest to darkest: Candela, Double Claro, Claro, Colorado, Colorado Maduro, Colorado Rosado, Maduro, and Oscuro.

By Country

How do you know where a cigar is from? A cigar’s country of origin is classified by where it was rolled, regardless of where the wrapper, binder, or filler is from. Typically, the filler tobacco is usually grown in the same country as where the cigar is made. This is not an absolute rule, as cigars rolled in the US, (typically, Miami or Tampa regions) must import all of their filler. Another exception is Honduran and Nicaraguan cigars, as their native grown fillers are often too harsh to be used exclusively, and are typically blended with Dominican filler in order to produce an acceptable smoke.

Dominican Republic
In the last 20 years, the quality and variety of cigar tobacco from the Dominican Republic has greatly improved. Near the city of Santiago, live the majority of Dominican cigar makers. This area is the primary agricultural region in the northern half of the country. Since most Dominican tobacco is derived from Cuban seed varieties, it is quite full flavored and lends itself to the creation of unusually complex blends.

Ecuador produces high quality Connecticut and Sumatra seed varieties of tobacco. They produce both shade and sun grown tobacco leaves for both filler and wrappers. The tobacco is milder and less robust in strength and flavor that the original. The wrapper’s silky texture has a color similar to Connecticut and Cameroon.

A 10-year civil war and blue mold infestations have slowed the production of the high quality Cuban and Connecticut varieties of tobacco grown in these two counties. Both countries produce a full-bodied tobacco with strong spicy flavors.

Mexican leaves are widely used as binders and filler in cigars. A variant of the Sumatra seed tobacco, Mexican tobacco is often used as a maduro wrapper because it can stand up to the cooking and sweating process that creates the darker leaf colors. Mexico is well known for its sun grown tobacco especially tobacco grown in the San Andres Valley. Mexican cigars are usually made with 100% local tobacco.

United States
The Connecticut River Valley produces some of the finest wrapper leaf tobacco in the world. This leaf called, the Connecticut Shade, is grown just north of Hartford. It has a fine brown to brownish yellow and very elastic leaf that creates a mild to medium bodied smoke. It is widely used on premium cigars. Connecticut Broadleaf, a dark almost black leaf that is used on maduro cigars, is another type of tobacco produced in the region.

Cameroon/Central African Republic
This area of West Africa is known for a high quality wrapper leaf, which is famous for its completely neutral flavor. This makes it an ideal tobacco for cigars with full flavored fillers. Cameroon wrappers are greenish brown to dark brown, with a distinct grain called “tooth”. Unfortunately, production has suffered from management changes and bad weather in recent years.

Tobaccos from the islands of Indonesia are known as Java or Sumatra. Sumatra wrapper leaves are often dark brown and have neutral flavors; these leaves are usually used in the manufacturing of small cigars.


What’s a Cigar Cutter?

A cigar cutters is a tool used to open the cigar just enough to create a thick and satisfying puff, or draw, but also to leave the cigar intact as much as possible. There are a few different tools to accomplish this task, but they all have the same basic function – to puncture or remove a portion of the cap.

Creates a top-to-bottom slice that creates a v-shaped wedge through the head of the cigar. Pros: Allows you to keep the cap of the cigar intact. Creates a large enough hole to draw easily. Cons: Difficult to use properly. Needs extremely sharp blades. Blades hard to replace

Cigar Drill
Used to drill a tiny hole about a half an inch into the head of the cigar. Pros: Allows you to keep the cap of the cigar intact. Cons: Creates a hole which is sometimes inadequate for drawing smoke through difficult to use properly.

Plug Cutter
Removes a plug approximately ¼ inch across from the cigar’s head. Pros: Relatively easy to use. Creates a large enough hole to draw easily. Allows you to keep the cap of cigar intact. Cons: Can cause improperly humidified cigars to split. Doesn’t work on cigars with pointed ends.

Single Bladed Guillotine
A blade slides up and down in a track through a hole in which you insert the head of the cigar removing the tip of the cap. Pros: Creates a large enough hole to draw easily. Easy to use. Cons: May make a rough cut across cap. Needs extremely sharp blades. Blades hard to replace.

Double Bladed Guillotine
Two blades sliding in opposite directions up and down in their tracks through a hole in which you insert the head of the cigar removing the tip of the cap. Pros: Creates a large enough hole to draw easily. Easy to use. Cons: Inexpensive dual blades can be out of line with each other. Needs extremely sharp blades. Blades hard to replace. May make a rough cut across cap.

Scissors Cutter
Look like normal scissors except they have rounded edge blades especially made for cutting off the tip of the cigar. Pros: Can cut any size and shape cigar. Cons: Hard to judge amount being cut off. Needs extremely sharp blades.

What should I look for in a lighter?

There are two features to pay attention to – the fuel and the flame. The fuel must be a clean burning fuel such as butane. Most other lighter fuels give off a chemical or kerosene-like odor that will alter the taste of your cigar. The lighter must also provide a large enough flame to light the whole cigar. The flame from a disposable lighter is typically too small. The “blowtorch” style lighters are great because they burn at an extremely high temperature and stay lit even in strong winds.

How do you determine the correct humidity of my humidor?

The standard for cigar storage is 70% relative humidity (“RH”) but only at 70 degree F. At temperatures below 70 degree, Relative Humidity (RH) readings must be greater than 70% to give the same humidification as 70 to 70 degrees. At temperatures above 70 degree, RH readings must be less than 70% for proper results. To find the correct RH:

80 49%
79 52%
78 53%
77 55%
76 57%
75 59%
74 61%
73 63%
72 65%
71 68%
70 70%
69 72%
68 75%
67 78%
66 80%
65 83%
64 86%
63 89%
62 92%
61 96%
60 impossible

Should I take the cellophane off my cigars?

When cigars are stored in a humidor they start “marrying”. If your humidor is filled with the same or very similar types of smokes, the tobaccos will blend and absorb each other’s oils, flavors and aromas. This is a good thing and you do not need cellophane. However, if you mix cigars of very different strengths or blends, you will create one blend amongst all of your cigars. This is usually not so good and you should use cellophane to separate the different brands as much as possible.

What should I do if I find a tobacco beetle?

If you find cigars with holes in them, you have tobacco beetles. Throw away the affected cigars. Put the rest of your cigars in a sealed plastic bag and freeze them for three days. That will kill any beetles or larvae that might be alive. After the three days in the freezer, move the cigars to your fridge for at least two days to defrost. Make sure you wipe down your humidor with distilled water and a soft cloth before returning your cigars.

Must I use distilled water in my humidification element?

Yes. Tap water and bottled spring water contain minerals that will clog the humidification device and the interior of the humidor. Additionally, some tap waters often have a slight odor that will taint the aroma of the cigars when compounded over months or years.

Can you save a cigar that has dried out?

A cigar that has dried out will never be the same as one that has remained properly kept, but it can be re-humidified slowly and will most likely regain most of its taste and body.