Cigar Knowledge – Size Matters? The Construction of a Cigar

Welcome to the first installation of our Cigar Knowledge blog. We’ll be dropping some nuggets of wisdom on you about all things cigars. From what goes into making a cigar, to the types of leaves that are used and everything in between. If there is a topic that you’d like to see covered, feel free to drop me a line and let me know. In the meantime, go ahead and share any of these posts by clicking one of those buttons on the top of the page.

Today we’ll be tackling some basics on how your favorite cigar is constructed and how that might impact your experience. The first thing you’ll need to know is the three basic parts of your cigar. Those parts are:

1) Filler – The filler is the largest volume of tobacco in the cigar and is generally several types of leaves folded together in one bunch by hand. A bunchero (roller) must be careful when putting the filler together as it allows for air to move through the leaves and create a good draw. Too much tobacco in the filler, or tobacco that has been bunched too tightly can result in a tight draw. Too little can result in a loose draw. The blend of tobacco can come from different regions or countries and differing amounts of each leaf will impact the end result. The filler is responsible for some of the flavor and character that you get out of the cigar, but it is also very important to the combustibility of the stick. A bunchero will put the blend together at their rolling station and place them into what is called the binder.
2) Binder – A binder leaf is, most often, used simply as a construction piece. The binder’s primary purpose is to hold the filler tobacco together. Normally a thicker leaf that doesn’t have much impact on the flavor of the cigar, the binder doesn’t have to be pretty. Some blenders have started utilizing the binder to compliment flavor, but more often than not, the binder just holds things together so that a wrapper can be placed over it.
3) Wrapper – The wrapper on a cigar is the outermost leaf. It is what you see when you walk through the humidor and decide what cigar looks the best to you. To the cigar manufacturer, it is the most expensive part of the cigar. It is also the most delicate. The wrapper has to be the most aesthetically pleasing of all of the leaves as it is responsible for giving your cigar its smooth appearance. Wrapper leaves tend to be far more thinly veined than filler or binder leaves. The wrapper’s true worth is found in the flavor and aroma of your cigar, however. Some experts will tell you that the wrapper is responsible for 60% or more of the flavor of a cigar. This is why so many cigar smokers look first for the type of wrapper that has been used on their cigar.

While the type of leaves used for each of these parts will certainly impact your experience, we are going to stick with construction today. We’ll tackle the types of leaves and their respective impact in a later post.

When considering the importance of the wrapper to the flavor of your cigar, you then realize how much of an impact the size and/or shape of your cigar can have. A big 6×60 Double Toro will have a large amount of filler tobacco. The wrapper is a much smaller percentage of the tobacco in that stick than, say, a 7×40 Lancero. Most manufacturers will adjust their blend for each size of cigar that is being made, but you will often hear people explain their love of a cigar in a particular size. If the majority of the cost in a cigar comes from the wrapper, wouldn’t it make sense to select a size that allows you to highlight that wrapper? That’s where your preference comes into play. The beauty of sitting down and smoking a cigar is that it’s all about what you want. There is no right or wrong. Don’t be afraid to try something new, though. You might really like a particular cigar as a Robusto. You might really LOVE it in a Petite Corona… or a Lonsdale.

Now you have some knowledge on what’s going on in that cigar you’re smoking (and knowing is half of the battle). Use that knowledge the next time you’re walking through a humidor figuring out what you are about to smoke next.

Until next time… cheers and long ashes!