If you’ve never really enjoyed a cigar, maybe it’s not you, it’s the smokes themselves: Maybe you just haven’t found the right cigar for your personal pleasure. The aroma and flavor of a cigar are of course primarily derived from the tobacco used to make it, both the filling and the wrapper. But cigar type, meaning shape and size, also has a significant impact on how a stogie tastes and smells, not to mention how its profile changes during the smoking process.
Those huge cigars passed out at bachelor parties may start smooth but end up heavy and harsh as they burn down. Likewise, a slender cigarillo may burn hot and harsh from the start: Size and shape don’t play a direct role in how the cigar will taste or how mellow or potent it will be, but they do dictate smoke time and, depending on the tobacco used, how the cigar will change while burning down.
All you need to know going in is that cigar size is technically called “vitola.” Vitola refers to both the length and thickness of a cigar, with length measured in inches and thickness in ring gauge, which equates to 64ths of an inch. So a 64 ring gauge cigar? That’s an inch thick. (Which is ridiculously thick, FYI! Even a mighty Churchill is rarely larger than a 50 ring gauge.)
Even if you rarely smoke cigars — or even if you never smoke but simply want to be in the know, whether for gifting or general knowledge — you should know about these five types of cigars. We’ve also compiled humidor recommendations that you may want to check out.
The robust is the most popular size of cigar in America today, and for good reason: these cigars are small enough to be enjoyed in a half hour to 45 minutes, yet large enough for a complex flavor profile that develops during the smoking. A typical robust measures between 4.75 to 5.5 inches, and with a ring gauge usually around 50. The Romeo y Julieta Robusto is a fantastic entry point cigar with a medium body and profile notes ranging from toasted nuts to spiced coffee to seasoned leather. They are also a great price.
When you picture a cigar, it probably looks like a corona. Popular all around the world, these typically 5.5-inch cigars have a 42 ring gauge and are an excellent balance of robust size yet without requiring a two-hour commitment and without an overly harsh build-up of tar, yet with plenty of flavor intensity due to the relatively narrow diameter. Highclere Castle Edwardian coronas are rich yet mellow, with creamy caramel notes and a gentle finish.
Also sometimes called a corona gorda, the toro is fast becoming a popular size of cigar. At 6 inches long and with a stout 50-plus sized ring gauge, these are cigars meant to be savored slowly. The flavor profile changes as you smoke one, and in the case of the Montecristo White Toro, that flavor involves a medium body and a perfect draw that delivers a gently toasted profile.
The terms “lancero” and “panatela” both refer to the same cigar, an elegant shape and size that is usually at least 6 inches long — often 7 — and has a narrow ring gauge of between 34 and 38. They can be delightfully mellow or quite robust depending on the tobacco chosen, which in the case of the Joya de Nicaragua Antano Lancero is pure Nicaraguan tobacco that produces a rich, bold, peppery profile.
Like the persona of the famed British Prime Minister for whom they are named, Churchill cigars are big. Like usually 7 inches long and with a 50 ring gauge. This is your hour-plus cigar where you can count on big flavor that changes big time during the long smoking session. These mighty Cohibas have notes of leather, coffee, spice, and the cedar derived from proper storage.
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