Even if you’re not a cigar aficionado, you should know enough to know what you like. That way, the next time you stumble into a shop, you can make a more informed decision about which cigar fits you best. To help get you up to speed on the major varietals, we put together this quick reference guide to the most common types of cigars — Robusto, Belicoso, Corona, Lonsdale, Panetela, and Churchill — plus the best brand for each kind.
Robustos are one of the more prevalent cigars and are typically known as the shortest members of the cigar family. Your average Robusto measures about 5 inches long and has a fairly high ring gauge, generally between 40 to 50. (Those numbers vary by producer and country of origin.) This means they take roughly 45 minutes to an hour to smoke. Ring gauge, by the way, is a measurement that refers to the diameter of a cigar; each gauge equals 1/64 of an inch. For example, a cigar with a ring gauge of 32 would be a half-inch in diameter.
- Our pick: Romeo Y Julieta Vintage III
Belicosos (Spanish for “warlike”) are the beefiest of the bunch, with a sharply tapered head. They boast a ring gauge somewhere between 48 to 54 and are usually 5-6.5 inches long. With their conical shape, Bellicosos are the quintessential mobster cigar as they smoke with a high concentration, but a cool draw. For this reason, they’re not recommended for novice smokers, and you’ll want to commit about an hour to smoke one.
- Our pick: Arturo Fuente Chateau Series
Coronas are popular because of the wide range of flavors they come in — they’re the golden standard of cigars. They typically measure about 5.5-6 inches long and have a 42 ring gauge. In addition to their great flavor, Coronas tend to have a very light smoke, making them preferable for anyone who finds other cigars too harsh.
- Our pick: Montecristo No. 3
Similar to Coronas, Lonsdale cigars are known for having a light, flavorful smoke. Depending on the brand you buy, they’re roughly the same diameter as Coronas, but sometimes a bit longer (around 6.5 inches). These cigars were created for those who would like a longer, more flavor-forward smoke. They’ll take about an hour to enjoy in one sitting.
- Our pick: Acid by Drew Estate
These cigars are known for being longer, but also much slimmer (34-38 ring gauge) than other varietals. Due to their length, Panetelas generally take longer to smoke (sometimes as long as two hours) and are said to have different “phases” of smoke, meaning the flavor, texture, and aroma may fluctuate as you burn it down. Many of these cigars over 7 inches are known as “Gran Panetela”.
- Our pick: Baccarat
Named after the famous British prime minister, Churchills are serious cigars for serious smokers. They’re generally around 7 inches long, have a ring gauge of 47, and give off a thick, heavy smoke.
- Our pick: La Gloria Cubana Serie R No. 7
Article originally published February 5, 2014.