All About Cigars

Cigar Glossary

Aging:  Freshly made, green cigars are aged by stacking them naked in temperature and humidity regulated storage rooms.  This mellows the tobacco, as well as encouraging the bouquet to blend both within and between the cigars.  Not to be confused with curing (see Curing).  Cigars continue to age after shipment, until smoked.

Aroma:  The smell of a cigar when burning.

Band:  The paper ring encircling a cigar to provide brand name recognition, a decorative touch and to stimulate the most often asked question:  Should I leave the band on or remove it before smoking?

Barrel:  The body, or shank, or a cigar.

Binder:  The strip of quinta grade tobacco leaf, cut about 3 inches wide, that the craftsman spirally wraps around the rolled up leaves of the core.  An outer tobacco leaf wrapper is then wrapped around this binder.  The binders thickness gives it its fuse like ability to carry the coal the length of the cigar.

Blend:  The particular mixture of tobacco leaves from different strains of tobacco, different regions or different countries, that give each type of cigar its unique character.  The cigar producers greatest challenge is to make corrections in the blend, so the cigar tastes the same, even though the tobacco itself varies from crop to crop, farm to farm, plant to plant.

Bloom:  Also called Plume.  A harmless, uniformly white, powdery coating on the wrapper, caused by exuded oils, which collect tiny particulate matter. Removable with a soft brush.  If it has a bluish cast, it is not bloom, it is mold. Mold requires disposal of cigars and direct sunning of humidor interior before restocking.

Bouquet:  The smell of the unlit cigar, including the wrapper and the open foot.

Bulk:  The four to six foot stack of moistened leaves, covered with palm fronds, that ferments or cures at high temperature to remove nicotine and tars.

Bullseye Cutter:  A cigar head opener that operates by rotating it against the end of the head, and which cuts a round plug out of it.  Also, called a Bullet Cutter.

Bunch:  The rolled up, binder wrapped leaves that form the cigars inner core, or filler.

Buncher:  Also called a bunchbreaker.  The worker who combines the leaves precisely to get the desired blend, then forms them into the bunch to be binder wrapped and pressed in the mold to the desired size and shape.

Bundle:  A number of cigars (usually 25) of the same type, packaged together and wrapped in plastic.  In more glorious days, they were tied with a silk ribbon.  This is an economical alternative to boxing cigars.

Cap:  The flag of wrapper leaf that the roller lays down and seals to the head and which closes it off.

Capa:  Spanish word for wrapper.

Carbureting:  The technique of relaxing the closure of the lips around a cigar when puffing on it, to draw air in with the smoke, thereby diluting its strength. Usually done toward the end of a smoke, as the cigar gets stronger from built up tars.

Cedar:  Cigars are safe from the onslaught of bugs when stored in a cedar enclosure.  Only Spanish and Honduran cedar have the right aromatic properties for this purpose.  Cubans call plain, unfinished cedar boite nature, which they prize for boxes.

Curing:  Also called fermenting or sweating.  This is the process by which stacks of newly harvested and dried tobacco leaves, influenced by organic compounds sprinkled on them, self generate heat at their core, and thereby are chemically and physically altered.  It removes much of the nicotine, sugars, starches and other compounds and is the critical step in creating smokable tobacco from raw leaves.

Figurado:  Any cigar of unusual or fanciful shape or size, usually with pointed head.  Also applied to cigars with barrels that are not straight sided, but are curved or flared.

Filler:  The rolled up inner core of leaves in a cigar, held in its cylindrical shape by the binder.

Finish:  The lingering aftertaste each time you take a puff on a cigar, after you have blown the smoke out of your mouth and the initial burst of flavor from it has subsided.  A wine tasting term that has newly migrated into the cigar arena, it puzzled several of us before the light dawned.

Firing:  A blight that attacks tobacco plants, causing yellowing and toughening of the leaves, with subsequent appearance of hard brown spots and holes in them, ruining them for cigar use.

Foot:  The end of the cigar you light.  Also called the tuck within the American tobacco industry.  It can either be cut off square (open) or tapered to a totally or partially closed point.

Guillotine Cutter:  A device that cuts a circular opening in the head end of a cigar by a guillotine action:

Habano:  A Cuban cigar.  Usually of highest quality, robust and full bodied. There are sub categories of Habanos:  1)  Clear Habanos were made in this country before the 1961 embargo of 100{3394111634281d603c8118f7e663678990f79b51ef2a7046ad4250f9db518d05} Cuban tobacco; 2) Genuine Habanos (still available outside the U.S.), handmade in Cuba, using 100{3394111634281d603c8118f7e663678990f79b51ef2a7046ad4250f9db518d05} Cuban tobacco.

Also, the Cuban governments ministry dedicated to all marketing affairs of the Cuban cigar industry (formerly called Cubatabaco).  Its important to Castro is evidenced by its Havana address:  Reina (Avenue) #1, Palacio Aldama (Aldama Palace).  This palace in Central Havana was once occupied by the Aldama family, Spanish rulers of the island.

Handmade:  A cigar that is bunched, bound and wrapped entirely by hand.  No machines are used whatsoever in the fabrication (excluding the mold).

Hand-rolled:  A cigar in which a machine has been used to form the bunch, but on which the wrapper has been hand wound.

Head:  The end of the cigar you put in your mouth.  It can be rounded or tapered to a sharp or blunt point.  The wrapper leaf in the fuma cigar does not lie down flat on the head.  Instead, it is twisted closed, leaving a little flagsticking up from the end of the cigar.

Homogenized Material:  Denotes wrapper, binder, and or filler made out of shredded tobacco products like leaf scraps, veins and even stems instead of only leaf.  These scraps are soaked and rolled out into a sheet, which is then chopped up and added to the filler or used as binder or wrapper.  Cigars using this material are abysmal.

Humidor:  A furniture grade, usually wood box with airtight, hinged lid and internal humidifying provisions for cigar storage.

Hygrometer:  An instrument that measures relative humidity, in our case, in a humidor.  The proper work is hygrometer, not hydrometer.  It’s pronounced like thermometer.

Lance:  A small, awl type tool with which you pierce the head of a cigar for smoke to pass through.

Ligero:  Pronounced lee hay roh, this is the name given the tobacco leaves in the center of the plant, from top to bottom.  These are the most flavorful, but also the most powerful, leaves.

Long filler:  Tobacco leaf that is long enough to run the entire length of the cigar.  Premium cigars generally include only long leaf filler, fumas are the exception.

Marrying:  The process that occurs when naked cigars age in a closed container for some time.  The aromatics permeate all the cigars, which share in the melding of individual bouquets.

Midrib:  The stiff, central vein that runs the length of the leaf and is its backbone.  It is stripped out of the leaf prior to curing and is a constituent in the fermentation sauce.

Naked:  A cigar without a cellophane sleeve, or glass or aluminum tube, encasing it.

Notch cutter:  A cutter for opening the head of a cigar, which uses a vee shaped blade to cut a wedge shaped cats eye across the end of the head.

Oleoresins:  The volatile oils and resins in the leaf, which give tobacco its distinctive smoking qualities.

Outgassing:  The evaporation of the oleoresins that give tobacco its bouquet, taste and aroma.  Once these oils outgas, the quality of the cigar can deteriorate irreversibly.

Plug:  A tight spot in a cigar caused by too tight rolling, or a piece of leaf too close to the stem, which causes difficult drawing and a hot tongue.

Plume:  See Bloom.

Puro:  Pronounced poo roh, Spanish word for pure.  A premium cigar that consists of tobaccos solely from one country or region.

Ring gauge:  The diameter of a cigars barrel, expressed in 64ths of an inch.  A 32-ring gauge cigar is 32/64 inches (1/2 inch) diameter, for example.

Roller:  The craftsman who hand-rolls the outer wrapper strip spirally onto the bound filler.  He or she may also bunch the cigar prior to rolling.

Scissors cutter:  A cigar cutter that looks and operates like a pair of scissors, with either a guillotine type window or curved blades like pruning shears.

Shade leaf:  Tobacco that is grown under a cheesecloth canopy to reduce the suns intensity upon it.  Lighter colored leaf, used for claret or claro claro wrapper, is often grown this way, as is most Connecticut grown naturale wrapper leaf.

Shoulder:  The area at the head of a cigar where it meets the walls of the cigar in a sharp curve.

Spent:  Tobacco that has fermented at too high a temperature or for too long, and which has lost its flavor.

Stogie:  Also stogey.  A cheap, smelly cigar.  The word came from Lancaster, Pennsylvania in the early 1800s, where wagon masters rolled and sold cigars to pioneers heading West.  The word compared the cigars to the huge spoke of the Conestoga wagons.

Sweat:  Another name for the process of fermenting or curing.

Tabaco:  Spanish generic name for cigar, does not necessarily denote premium quality, which puro does.

Tabacalero:  The Spanish term for a person who manufactures tabacos.

Tobacco Beetle:  or Tobacco Weevil, a bug whose larva eats finished cigars. Holes in the wrappers of your cigars means you have got them.  If you are lucky and catch them before they get going, you can freeze your stock for a few days.  They cannot live below 75 degrees F!  Storage in Spanish cedar is lethal to them.

Tobacco Worm:  A caterpillar that eats growing tobacco plants.  Also known as the horn worm, it changes into the Tobacco Hawk Moth.

Tooth:  The almost microscopic array of sandy bumps on the surface of some cigar wrapper leaves (e.g. Cameroon); a natural occurrence.

Torch:  The name Columbus and early explorers gave to those strange bundles of leaves that the native Caribbean residents were carrying, burning and eating smoak from.

Wrapper:  The outer leaf that is wound onto a cigar.  The highest quality leaf on any given cigar.