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Cigar Tip: Why (Cigar) Size Matters

14 Jun 2012

No, the title of this article isn’t a reference to some Freudian concept. After all, Freud also said that “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.” Instead, I want to explore the way ring gauge size (in other words, a cigar’s thickness) impacts a cigar’s flavors.

The size of a cigar affects many things for sure, and not just the time it takes a cigar to burn. There are two main reasons why, as a general rule of thumb, smaller sized cigars (of the same blend) are more flavorful than their larger counterparts, even though many people seem to believe that a larger cigar will produce more and stronger flavors.

Wrapper/Filler Ratio

The most obvious difference between a smaller ring gauge cigar and a larger one is the amount of filler. Even though the smaller cigar will also use slightly less wrapper, as a little math shows, when the cigar gets fatter, the amount of filler gets (literally) exponentially larger.

Take a 60 ring gauge cigar versus a 40 ring gauge smoke. Using some basic middle school geometry, you can see that while about 50% more wrapper is required to go around the 60 ring gauge cigar, it will also use roughly 125% more filler. (I’ve posted the full table of wrapper and filler for common ring gauges in the comments of this article.)

Because wrapper tobacco is generally the most flavorful (and always the most expensive) component, the smaller cigar will impart more wrapper flavor.

Higher Burn Temperature

The second, possibly more important, and certainly more often overlooked reason that smaller ring gauge cigars are fuller flavored is that they tend to burn hotter and more quickly. If you think about a cigar as a straw through which air is pulled, this makes plenty of sense.

Cigar smokers generally take similarly sized draws no matter the thickness of the cigar. This means that air is drawn through the foot of a smaller cigar at a faster rate than through a larger cigar, creating more air flow, more oxygen, and a higher combustion temperature.

Drew Estate President, and encyclopedia of cigar knowledge, Steve Saka estimates the difference in temperature can be 10 degrees or possibly more between a smaller (40 or 42 ring gauge) cigar and a larger one. That’s a significant difference that effects the flavor and creates a stronger and fuller smoke.

-Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Drew Estate