The Complete Guide to Cigar Sizes and Shapes
The enjoyment of a cigar depends on quite a few factors, not the least of which are cigar size and cigar shape. Taken in combination these two combined are known as the vitola.
The different cigar sizes are measured by diameter and length. The diameter of the cigar also called its ring gauge, is measured and labeled in degrees of sixty-fourths of an inch. The length of the cigar is also measured in inches.
The subject of cigar shapes is a bit more complex. We’ll go over many of the different cigar shapes and how they affect the smoking experience.
Essentially, cigar shapes are divided into two major categories: parejo (straight) and figurado (irregular shaped).
The Parejo Cigar Shape
The most common cigar shape is the parejo, or “straight” cigar.
The parejo was probably the original cigar shape created by the Mayan Indians. It’s a simple cylinder, the same shape as a cigarette. There are over a dozen different types of parejo cigars. Some parejos, such as the Churchill, Rothschild, and Lonsdale, were named after famous people whose public smoking helped to popularize cigars.
Parejos have a cylindrical body with straight, smooth sides. One end is open. The other end has a tobacco leaf cap that must be sliced off with a special cutter or punched through with a sharp pointed object before smoking. This shape is what most of the Western world thinks of when they imagine the look of a cigar.
Some popular parejo cigar sizes are:
Known as the ideal tasting size for cigar reviewers, the Robusto is usually 5 to 5 1/2 inches long and has a 50 ring gauge.
A bit longer than the Robusto is the Toro. Its measurements are traditionally around 6 inches long with a 50 ring gauge.
Churchill cigars are named for Prime Minister of England, Winston Churchill. Early in his own military career, Churchill spent time in Cuba, where he fell in love with Havana-made cigars. He was rarely photographed without his trademark stogie thereafter.
A traditional Churchill measures in at 7 inches long with a 48 ring gauge.
The classic Corona is considered by many, especially older aficionados, to be the standard parejo. Typical dimensions for the Corona are 5 1/2 to 6 inches with a ring gauge of 42 to 44.
One of the smaller parejos is the Petit Corona. It’s usually only 4 1/2 inches long, with a ring gauge of 40 to 42.
Closer to a Churchill than a standard Corona, the Double Corona is a generous 7 1/2 to 8 inches long with a 49 to 52 ring gauge.
The Panetela, which looks like a long and slinky Corona, was very popular in the 1990s. Size varies from 5 to 7 1/2 inches in length with a diameter from 34 to 38 ring gauge.
The Lonsdale was named after the famous cigar smoker Hugh Cecil Lowther, 5th Earl of Lonsdale. It is thicker than a Panetela and longer than a Corona – usually 6 3/4 inches long with a ring gauge of 42 to 44.
Figurado Cigar Shapes
A figurado is any shape other than the original parejo. Over the years, manufacturers, showing off new and exotic shapes, have further subdivided figurados into more specialized names. Figurados cigar shapes include Pyramid, Belicoso, Torpedo, Perfecto, Culebra, and Diadema.
Some popular figurado cigar shapes are:
Pyramid is the name given to a cigar that is thickest at the foot and gradually and uniformly tapers toward the head.
The Belicoso is a figurado shaped cigar that tapers sharply at the head. It is different from the Pyramid in that it doesn’t start to taper until very close to the head, while the Pyramid starts tapering right at the foot of the cigar.
The Belicoso used to be a genuine short Pyramid, 5 or 5 1/2 inches long with a slightly more rounded head and a ring gauge of 50 or less. However, recently many have become more like a Corona or Corona Gorda with a tapered head.
A Torpedo has a gradually tapered head that comes to a sharp point. The differences between a Belicoso and a Torpedo are very subtle. Generally, it’s agreed that the Torpedo tapers much more gradually than the Belicoso, causing it to look sharper. However, in both of these shapes the tapered end concentrates the flavors of the cigar into the small opening, thereby creating a more robust smoke. The tapered head also allows the smoker to choose how big he or she wants the opening to be, creating a somewhat customizable experience.
A cigar that is tapered on both ends with a slight bulge in the middle is called a Perfecto. Some types of Perfectos have a nipple-like foot, while others may have a uniform and gently tapering foot. Some are tapered toward the foot and then abruptly trimmed straight.
With a Perfecto, the draw will start out firm at the beginning, and as the tapered foot burns, it will gradually open up.
Diadema and Salomones
Diademas and Salomones are larger versions of the Perfecto. As such, they are a tapered cigar. These can be up to 8 inches+ in length, with a closed head (ring gauge around 40) and a foot that’s sometimes open, sometimes closed (a hefty 52 ring gauge, or more).
Novelty Cigar Shapes
Cigars also come in a variety of novelty shapes. Here are a few examples:
The Natural Egg by Drew Estate, is essentially a greatly exaggerated perfecto with a huge, egg-shaped bulge in the middle.
Somewhat rare these days, the Culebra is one of the more interesting figurados. It’s actually three Panetelas braided together and presented as one cigar. But it’s not smoked as one; you unbraid it first (perfect for sharing with your two closest cigar-smoking friends). Culebras are usually 5 to 6 inches long with a 38 ring gauge.
More of just a unique shape than a novelty really, Nub cigars are short and stubby vitolas that attempts to capture the “sweet spot” of a normal sized cigar. Many smokers love these tasty little treasures, while others consider this concept to be more of a marketing gimmick.
Fuente Factory Special Cigars
One of the best-known creators of novelty cigars is the Fuente factory which produces cigars shaped like footballs or baseball bats. They even have some with puffy heads that look like the plumes of rare birds. These cigars are real pieces of art and usually reserved for charity auctions.
While the size and shape of a cigar affect its flavor, the type of tobacco used to make the cigar is what determines its strength. A large cigar made with mild tobaccos will be mild. Even the smallest cigar, if made with powerful tobaccos, will be strong and full-bodied.
Your best bet is to try different sizes, shapes, brands, and types of tobacco to discover which you like the best. Most importantly, have fun and always trust your own taste.