Glossary of Cigar Terms
Amarillo-- A yellow wrapper leaf grown under shade.
American Market Selection-- Abbreviated AMS, a seldom-used term created by the major importer of Cuban cigars in the 1950s to designate claro-colored wrappers. (Also see English Market Selection.)
Amatista-- A glass jar containing 50 cigars (occasionally 25), sealed to be sold "factory fresh."
Band-- A ring of paper wrapped around the closed head of most cigars. Legend says that cigar bands were invented by Catherine the Great or by Spanish nobles to keep their gloves from being stained. Others credit this invention to a Dutch advertising and promotion genius named Gustave Bock, who stated that the band helped keep the cigar wrapper together. Cigar bands are often printed with the name of the brand, country of origin, and/or indication that the cigar is hand-rolled. They also often have colorful graphics, which have made them popular collectors' items. In many folk tales, a cigar band served as a wedding band in impromptu ceremonies. For the record, it is equally appropriate to leave the band on while smoking a cigar or to remove it, as long as the cigar's wrapper leaf is not torn when the band is removed.
Belicoso-- Traditionally a short, pyramid-shaped cigar, 5 or 5 1/2 inches in length with a shorter, more rounded taper at the head and a ring gauge generally of 50 or less. Today, belicoso is frequently used to describe coronas or corona gordas with a tapered head.
Binder-- The portion of a tobacco leaf used to hold together the blend of filler leaves called the bunch; with the wrapper and filler, it is one of three main components in a cigar.
Blend-- The mixture of different types of tobacco in a cigar, including up to five types of filler leaves, a binder leaf and an outer wrapper.
Bloom (also called Plume)-- A naturally occurring phenomenon in the cigar aging process, also called plume, caused by the oils that exude from the tobacco. It appears as a fine white powder and can be brushed off. Not to be confused with mold, which is bluish and stains the wrapper.
Blue Mold-- Peronospara tabacina is a fast moving, airborne fungus that can ruin a tobacco field in just a few days. It flourishes in cool, cloudy weather with light rain and riddles tobacco leaves with small round blemishes.
Boite Nature-- The cedar box in which many cigars are sold.
Book Style (also, Booking)-- A rolling method by which the cigarmaker lays the filler leaves atop one another, then rolls them up like a scroll. Book style, or booking, is common in Honduras. The alternate style is based on the old Cuban method called entubar (see entry).
Bouquet-- The smell, or "nose," of a fine cigar. Badly stored cigars lose their bouquet.
Box-- The container used to package cigars. There are several traditional styles:
-- cabinet selection refers to wood boxes with a sliding top, designed to hold 25 or 50 cigars.
-- 8-9-8 refers to a round-sided box specifically designed to accommodate three rows of cigars-- eight on top, nine in the middle, eight on the bottom.
-- flat top, or 13-topper, is the flat rectangular box most popular today, with 13 cigars on top and 12 on the bottom. divided by a spacer.
Box-pressed-- The slightly squarish appearance taken on by cigars packed tightly in a box.
Bull's-Eye Piercer-- A device for opening the closed head of a cigar before smoking. It creates a circular opening like a target's bull's eye.
Bulk-- A large pile of tobacco leaves in which fermentation occurs.
Bunch-- Up to four different types of filler tobacco that are blended to create the body of the cigar. The bunch is held together by the binder.
Bundle-- A packaging method, designed with economy in mind, that uses a cellophane overwrap. It usually contains 25 or 50 cigars, traditionally without bands. Bundles, oftentimes seconds of premium brands, are usually less expensive than boxed cigars.
Burros-- The piles, or bulks, in which cigar tobacco is fermented. They can be as tall as a person and are carefully monitored. If the heat level inside them gets too high (over 110°F), the burro is taken apart to slow the fermentation.
Cabinet Selection-- Cigars packed in a wooden box rather than the standard cardboard or paper-covered cigar boxes. These are preferable when buying cigars for aging.
Candela-- A bright green shade of wrapper, achieved by a heat-curing process that fixes the chlorophyll content of the wrapper while it's still in the barn. Also referred to as double claro.
Cap-- A circular piece of wrapper leaf placed at the head of the cigar to secure the wrapper.
Capa-- The cigar's wrapper.
Carotene-- A naturally occurring compound found in aged cigars.
Case-- In the cigar production process, workers "case," or slightly moisten, aged tobacco so that it will be easy for hand rollers to work with.
Castillitos - A variety of cigar made by Tabacos J. Castillo in
Cedar-- The kind of wood that is used to make most cigar boxes and humidors.
Chaveta (roller's knife)-- The knife used in a cigar factory for cutting the wrapper leaf.
Churchill-- 1. A large corona-format cigar, traditionally 7 inches by a 47 ring gauge but often a 48 ring gauge today. 2. Sir Winston Churchill, who was famous for almost never being seen without a cigar.
Cigarillos-- Favored by some aficionados and scorned by others, these thin, three-inch cigars, popular in Europe, are generally machine-made, and many brands use homogenized wrappers or binders.
Claro-- A pale-green to light-brown wrapper, usually shade-grown.
Clear Havana-- A cigar made in the United States prior to the embargo with Cuban tobacco.
Colorado-- A medium-brown to brownish-red shade of wrapper tobacco.
Corojos-- Plants that are chosen to provide wrapper leaves and are grown under a gauze sunscreen.
Corona-- The most familiar size and shape for premium cigars: generally straight-sided with an open foot and a closed, rounded head.
Cuban Seed-- Usually refers to plants grown in non-Cuban countries with seeds from Cuba.
Cubatabaco-- Formerly the worldwide distribution company for Cuban cigars; now called Habanos S.A.
Culebra-- Spanish for "snake." Culebras are cigars made of three panetelas braided and banded together; usually 5 to 6 inches in length, most often with a 38 ring gauge.
Diademas-- A big cigar with a closed and tapered head. Generally about 8 inches long; the foot may be open, or closed like a perfecto.
Double Claro-- (See Candela.)
Double Corona, also called prominente-- A big cigar, generally 7 1/2 to 8 inches by a 49 to 52 ring gauge.
Draw-- The amount of air that gets pulled through a lit cigar. It can be too easy (hot) or too tight (plugged).
English Market Selection-- Abbreviated EMS, a term used to designate a natural color wrapper, not claro or lighter shades, nor maduro or darker shades. In the United Kingdom, an EMS sticker found on boxes of Cuban cigars refers to inventory that has been vetted by Hunters & Frankau, cigar distributors. (Also see American Market Selection.)
Entubar-- A rolling method that originated in Cuba. Rather than booking (see entry above) the filler leaves, the roller folds each individual filler leaf back on itself, then bunches the leaves together. Proponents of this method say it creates superior air flow through the cigar, which results in an even draw and burn.
Escaparates-- Cooling cabinets in which cigars are kept at the factory for a few weeks after they have been rolled.
Fermentation-- After harvest, workers gather the tobacco leaves in large bulks (or piles), moistening the leaves and allowing them to ferment. Temperatures may reach 140°F before the bulk is broken down and restacked until fermentation stops naturally. This process, called working the bulk, releases ammonia from the tobacco.
Figurado-- A Spanish term that refers to cigars with shapes sizes, such as belicosos, torpedos, pyramids, perfectos and culebras.
Filler Leaves-- The individual tobacco leaves used in the body of the cigar. A fine cigar usually contains between two and five different types of filler tobacco.
Finish-- A tasting term. It refers to the taste that lingers on your palate after a puff. Mild cigars do not have much finish, either in terms of length or complexity. But stronger, more full-bodied cigars have distinctive flavors that linger for a while.
Flag Leaves-- An extension of the wrapper leaf shaped to finish the head of a cigar; used instead of a cap. Flags are sometimes tied off in a pigtail or a curly head.
Foot-- The end of the cigar you light. Most often it is pre-cut, except in the case of torpedos and perfectos.
Gorda-- Spanish for "fat," as in the corona gorda shape, a "fat" corona. The traditional size is 5 5/8 inches with a 46 ring gauge.
Gran Corona-- A very big cigar; generally 9 1/4 inches by 47 ring gauge.
Gum-- A vegetable adhesive used to secure the head of the wrapper leaf around the finished bunch.
Habana-- (See Havana.)
Habano-- A designation which, when inscribed on a cigar band, indicates that a cigar is Cuban. (Note: not all Cuban cigars are marked with "Habano" or "Havana.")
Half-wheel (media ruedas)-- A bundle of 50 cigars. Cigar rollers usually use ribbon to tie the cigars they produce into half-wheels.
Hand-- Individual leaves of tobacco that are hung together after harvest and tied at the top. These hands are piled together to make a bulk for fermentation.
Handmade-- A cigar made entirely by hand with high-quality wrapper and long filler. All premium cigars are handmade. Hand-rollers can generally use more delicate wrapper leaves than machines.
Hand-rolled-- A cigar made entirely by hand with high-quality wrapper and long filler.
Havana-- Capital of Cuba. The traditional center of manufacturing of Cuban cigars for export, and a term widely used to designate Cuban cigars. Also refers to the tobacco types grown from Cuban seed in the Dominican Republic, Honduras and Nicaragua. Also known as Habana.
Head-- The closed end of the cigar; the end you smoke.
Holder-- Cigar holders are an interesting affectation and collectible, but true aficionados let nothing come between their lips and the head of a cigar they're smoking.
Homogenized Binder-- Binder made of chopped tobacco leaf and cellulose. Scorned by purists, it facilitates machine production and can facilitate the burn of certain products.
Hot-- Describes a cigar that is underfilled and has a quick, loose draw. Can cause harsh flavors.
Humidor-- A room, or a box, of varying sizes, designed to preserve or promote the proper storage and aging of cigars by maintaining a relative humidity level of 70 percent and a temperature of approximately 65°F to 70°F.
Hygrometer-- A device that indicates the humidity, or percentage of moisture in the air; used to monitor humidor conditions.
Inhale-- What you don't do with cigar smoke.
Lance-- A cutter used to pierce a small hole in the closed end of a cigar. Also called a piercer.
Lector-- Traditionally, the person who reads to the cigar rollers while they work.
Ligero-- One of the three basic types of filler tobacco. The name means light in Spanish, but this aromatic tobacco lends body to a blend.
Long Filler-- Filler tobacco that runs the length of the body of the cigar, rather than chopped pieces found in machine-made cigars.
Lonsdale-- A long cigar; generally 6 to 6 3/4 inches by a 42 to 44 ring gauge, but there are many variations.
Machine-made-- Cigars made entirely by machine, using heavier-weight wrappers and binders and, frequently, cut filler in place of long filler.
Maduro-- A wrapper shade from a very dark reddish-brown to almost black. The word means ripe in Spanish. The color can be achieved by sun exposure, a cooking process or a prolonged fermentation.
Media Ruedas-- See Half-wheels
Mini Cigarillo-- Another term for cigarillo.
Mold-- 1. The wooden form used in cigar making to give shape to a finished bunch. It has two parts, which, when assembled, are placed in a press. 2. A potentially damaging fungus that forms on a cigar when it is stored at too high a temperature.
Oil-- The mark of a well-humidified cigar. Even well-aged cigars secrete oil at 70 to 72 percent relative humidity, the level at which they should be stored.
Olor-- A variety of Dominican cigar tobacco known for its big leaves; it is used as filler tobacco and especially as binder tobacco.
Oscuro-- A black shade of wrapper, darker than maduro, most often Brazilian or Mexican in origin.
Panetela-- A long, thin cigar shape.
Parejos-- Straight-sided cigars, such as coronas, panetelas and lonsdales.
Partido-- A prime tobacco growing area in Cuba.
Perfecto-- A distinctive cigar shape that is closed at both ends, with a rounded head; usually with a bulge in the middle.
Piercer-- A cutter used to pierce a small hole in the closed end of a cigar. Also called a lance.
Piloto Cubano-- A popular variety of Cuban-seed tobacco grown in the Dominican Republic.
Planchas-- Boards on which tobacco leaves are spread before fermentation.
Plug-- A blockage that sometimes occurs in the tobacco that can prevent a cigar from drawing properly. A plug can sometimes be alleviated by gently massaging the cigar.
Plume (also called Bloom)-- A naturally occurring phenomenon in the cigar aging process, also called plume, caused by the oils that exude from the tobacco. It appears as a fine white powder and can be brushed off. Not to be confused with mold, which is bluish and stains the wrapper.
Pre-Castro Cigar-- A Cuban cigar made before Fidel Castro's rise to power in January 1959.
Pre-embargo Cigar-- A Cuban cigar made before President Kennedy enacted the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba in 1962.
Primings-- The rows of leaves on a tobacco plant. The number of primings varies, but six is average. The first priming is closest to the ground, the sixth is near the top. The higher the, priming the stronger the tobacco.
Puro-- A Spanish term used to distinguish a cigar from a cigarette. Modern usage refers to a cigar blended with tobaccos from a single country. (All Cuban cigars use 100 percent Cuban tobacco, so all Cuban cigars, according to modern usage, are puros.)
Pyramid-- A sharply tapered cigar with a wide, open foot and a closed head.
Ring Gauge-- A measurement for the diameter of a cigar, based on 64ths of an inch. A 40 ring gauge cigar is 40/64ths of an inch thick.
Robusto-- A substantial, but short cigar; traditionally 5 to 5 1/2 inches by a 50 ring gauge.
Rosado-- A Spanish term that means "rose-colored." It is used to describe the reddish tint of some Cuban-seed wrapper.
Seco-- The Spanish word for dry, seco is a type of filler tobacco. It often contributes aroma and is usually medium-bodied.
Shade-grown-- Wrapper leaves that have been grown under a cheesecloth tent, called a tapado. The filtered sunlight creates a thinner, more elastic leaf.
Smoking Time-- A 5-inch cigar with a 50 ring gauge, such as a robusto, should provide anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes of smoking pleasure. A double corona, a 7 1/2-inch cigar with a 50 ring gauge, may give over an hour's worth of smoking time. A thinner cigar, such as a lonsdale, smokes in less time than a cigar with a 50 ring gauge.
Shoulder-- The area of a cigar where the cap meets the body. If you cut into the shoulder, the cigar will begin to unravel.
Short Filler-- Used mainly in machine-made cigars, it consists of chopped scraps of leaf. Short filler burns quicker and hotter than long filler.
Special Solution-- A solution of 50 percent water, 50 percent propylene glycol. Added to your humidification device every three to six months, its presence will keep water from evaporating beyond 70 percent relative humidity.
Spill-- A strip of cedar used to light a cigar when using a candle or a fluid lighter, both of which can alter the taste of the cigar.
Sugar-- Sugars occur naturally in tobacco. Darker wrappers, such as maduros, contain more sugar, making them sweeter.
Sun-grown-- Tobacco grown in direct sunlight, which creates a thicker leaf with thicker veins.
Tabacos J. Castillo - A blend of cigarrs produced in Veracruz Mexico in the tuxtlas valley
Tapado-- A cheesecloth tent under which shade-grown wrapper leaf is cultivated.
Tercios-- The large, palm bark-wrapped bales in which fermented tobacco is shipped to cigar factories.
Tooth-- The grain pattern characteristic of less smooth wrapper leaf, such as leaf from Cameroon.
Torcedores-- Cigar rollers.
Torpedo-- A cigar shape that features a closed foot, a pointed head and a bulge in the middle.
Totalamente a Mano-- Made totally by hand; a description found on cigar boxes. Much better than "Hecho a Mano" (made by hand, which can mean it is filled with machine-bunched filler), or "Envuelto a Mano" (packed by hand).
Tubos-- Cigars packed in individual wood, metal or glass tubes to keep them fresh.
Tunneling-- The unwelcome phenomenon of having your cigar burn unevenly. To prevent it, rotate your cigar now and then.
Vega-- A tobacco plantation.
Vein-- A structural part of a leaf; prominent veins can be a defect in wrappers.
Vintage-- When a vintage is used for a cigar, it usually refers to the year the tobacco was harvested, not the year the cigar was made.
Viso-- A glossy wrapper leaf grown under cover.
Vitola-- A factory term for a cigar shape. Robusto and corona are two examples of vitolas.
Vuelta Abajo-- The valley in Cuba that many believe produces the best cigar tobacco in the world.
Volado-- A type of filler tobacco chosen for its burning qualities.
Wrapper-- A high-quality tobacco leaf wrapped around the finished bunch and binder. It is very elastic and, at its best, unblemished.
Wedge Cut-- A V-shaped cut made in the closed end of a cigar