Choosing and lighting a cigar is a ritual. The selection by scent, the feel, the cut, the fire, and then that first taste. A key factor to consider in this vaulted selection process is size.
How are cigar sizes measured?
Cigar sizes are measured by both length and cigar ring size. Size does matter.
Would you like 5 by 50 or maybe you like a nice 6 by 32? An 8 by 58? Or the unforgettable 7-47. Cigar sizing can be a slight puzzle to new smokers. The first number (5,6,7) refers to the length of the cigar in inches. The 2nd number is typically between 32 and 64 called the ‘ring gauge’ and refers to how thick around the cigar is.
Which is the perfect cigar size?
There is no true ideal when it comes to cigar size. Your personal preference is the largest factor. How the cigar feels in your hand and mouth. And of course how long you have to work with it.
Cigars can also be about the look as much as the feel. A petite smoker may not want to be seen holding an oversized log of tobacco. By the same measure a large hand may fully obscure or even be burned by a cigar too short for a hand meant to palm basketballs.
Each size has a different advantage when you are put in different scenarios. Size impacts not only the draw but also the length of time needed to truly enjoy yourself.
Does size affect taste?
Yes and no. Length and thickness affect the burn, the draw, and the heat of the smoke. While the flavor of the leaf may not be changed the heat is a big factor in taste. Compare it to the difference between a steaming hot plate of mac and cheese and a cold leftover breakfast of mac and cheese. Both satisfying but very different taste experiences.
Let's focus on the two main factors in size. Cigar ring size or ring gauge and length. That 5 by 50 number. Different shapes of cigar will be addressed in another blog, dedicated to the topic.
Cigar ring size or ring gauge
When you first grab for a cigar, the key thing to look for is the ring gauge, this is the thickness or girth of the cigar. This is a good first point to focus on as it has the largest effect on the coolness of the smoke. Cooler smoke has less of a pallet burn, there is less heat in your mouth.
There may be a time when you want a hotter cigar, a cold night for example, for the feel and contrast. On a hot summer day, though, you might want a cooler smoke while you play a few holes in the sun. Like with all things related to this decadent habit, personal choice and even mood should play into the choice. A cigar is an experience to be savored.
The diameter of a cigar is measured in increments of 1/64th inch. A 32 ring gauge is a half-inch which will have a hotter smoke but may be less satisfying for your mouth feel. A 64 ring gauge is by contrast a whole inch in diameter. A much cooler customer. This massive size can be quite a mouthful. The majority of cigars fall between a 32 and 52 cigar ring size though you can find pictures of the largest sizes, smallest sizes, and oddest shapes published in cigar magazines. The popular Churchill is usually a 47 ring gauge. The famous 747. Examine this Cigar Size Chart
Cool smoke in large sizes is caused by the larger gauges having more air flow. This allows for an easy burn and an easy draw.. There may be some tightly rolled cigars but as a rule the larger the cigar the cooler and easier the air flow. There is space for air to move through the layers of tobacco leaf, allowing fresh air to lighten and cool the smoke.
On the other hand, lighting up a smaller ring gauge can be a thrilling challenge. The draw is slow and strong like trying to drink a thick milkshake through a straw. The small ones pull harder and the resulting smoke can be harsher. This shouldnt discourage you from trying a smaller ringed stick. Some people prefer the huffing and puffing. Harder work but with a satisfying reward. It can be a more involved experience. With all things cigar, the experience should be personal, catered, and enjoyable in the moment.
Do you want to feel the burn, or are you a cooler customer?
When choosing the right thickness, personal comfort should also be a consideration. Holding a fat cigar between your teeth can make you salivate. Your drool will over saturate the tobacco. An overdamp leaf will ruin the taste. A chewed cigar is a ruined cigar.
So the brunt of the weight needs to be supported by your lips. A small mouth and small lips may not be up to the weight of a fat 64 ringer.
Other smokers may experience jaw fatigue or jaw ache when overburdened by a generously thick cigar. A smaller cigar ring size may be more fitting to a petite smoker. But this isn't a hard and fast rule. Many a smoker enjoys feeling dwarfed by a large cigar, perhaps they find the cooler smoke worth a little jaw ache. You should test how much weight you can comfortably hold.
The length of your stick is the key factor in how long it will take to finish. You should choose your length based on how long you have to enjoy the experience. It is a shame to waste the experience.
While putting out a cigar and re-kindling at a later time can be done. Everyone agrees that a fresh smoke can’t be beaten. The old burn will affect the taste of the tobacco, in what most find to be an unpleasant manner. It is often an ashy start to a second round of burning.
It is essential to plan ahead. Always think before you fire your cigar. On a cold winter day, short and quick is probably best lest you freeze on your porch wanting to enjoy your cigar just a little bit longer. If you are in a rush it is best to choose short and quick. By the same logic a nice long cigar may be ideal for summer idle. It can also be more comfortable for social situations when you are taking your time and sharing the experience with others.
What's a cigars burn life?
A cigar's burn life is usually between thirty minutes and two hours. An average being around ninety minutes for the typical lengths. Smoking a cigar is a leisurely activity, with a puff every thirty to forty-five seconds, the pace should be unhurried. Controlling the heat and burn of the cherry of a cigar is a learned skill, slow and smooth. Pace yourself, a rhythmic pace provides the best smoking experience.
So, which cigar size is right for you?
May this wisdom guide you to the perfect choice for any occasion. Remember the key rules of choosing the perfect cigar size: length and thickness. Choose not only by sight, but by feel, by what your mouth can handle and by your level of time commitment. Nothing beats the ritual of first flame to a good cigar and the sweet taste of your first draw. Enjoy alone or in good company. Never forget your cigar holder, don't get caught close, but no cigar.