Cigar classification can initially seem overwhelming and complicated. There are so many names and shapes and descriptions and cigar colors and cigar sizes, that it can be hard knowing where to start. So let’s break it down.
Cigars are described by both shape and size. Their length is measured in inches and their diameter, or thickness, is measured in ring gauge. Their color is determined by the type of tobacco used and the length of curing time.
Something interesting to note is that a cigar’s strength isn’t determined by its size, so don’t fall into the trap of thinking the larger cigars are the strongest. It’s all based on the tobacco used for that particular cigar.
To make it simple, remember that cigars come in two shapes: the Parejo and the Figurado. These shapes are then broken down further into various sizes. I’ll list them for you here, followed by the different colors.
The first cigar shape is the Parejo. These are cigars with straight sides and an open foot which means they need to be cut prior to being lit.
Sizes of Parejos
This is the size that all other cigars are measured against. It’s typically 5 ½”-6” with a ring gauge between 42 and 44. The Fuente Fuente Opus X is a perfect example of a Parejo.
The Petit Corona is basically a Corona in miniature, tipping the scales at only 4 ½” long and with a ring gauge of 40 to 42. The Montecristo No.5 is a classic Petit Corona.
A Churchill is a big Corona. It’s 7” long with a large ring gauge of 47. A famous Churchill is the Romeo y Julieta Churchill.
The Robusto is short, fat cigar that’s extremely popular size in America. This cigar is 4 ¾”-5 ½” long with a ring gauge of 48 to 52. A well-known Robusto is the Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure No. 2.
The Corona Gorda, also known as a Toro, is beginning to become more popular. Corona Gordas’ sizes really vary; they can be anywhere from 5 3/8” long with a 46 ring gauge, to 6” long with a 50 ring gauge. The Punch Punch is Corona Gorda.
The Double Corona is really long. It can be anywhere from 7 ½” to 8 ½” long and have a ring gauge of 49-52. A great example of a Double Corona is the Hoyo de Monterrey Double Corona.
The Panetela is a classy looking cigar known for being long and thin. Interestingly, these cigars have become less popular, though I’m not sure why. Their length varies greatly, coming in at anywhere between 5” and 7” long and a small ring gauge of 34-38. A Panetela can also be 7 ½” long but then it’s called a Gran Panetela”. The Cohiba Lancero is a Panetela.
The last Parejo is a Lonsdale. At 6 ½” by 42 ring gauge, these cigars are thicker than a Panetela and longer than a Corona. An example of a Lonsdale is the Trinidad Fundadores.
The Figurado is the second shape classification for cigars. Simply put, these are any cigars that don’t have flat-pressed sides. Figurados come in a variety of creative shapes
Sizes of Figurados
The Pyramid is similar to the Parejo in that they have open feet that need to be cut prior to smoking. However the head tapers while the foot widens. Their tapered heads allow for more flavor complexity in your mouth while smoking. Pyramids are from 6”-7” long with a ring gauge of 52-54. The Montecristo No.2 is a well-known Pyramid.
These are short pyramids with rounded heads. Belicosos come in at 5”-5 ½” long with a ring gauge of 50. A great way to remember the Belicoso is to remind yourself that it’s basically a Corona or Corona Grande with a tapered head. There’s also the Mini Belicoso, which is just a shorter Belicoso with a smaller ring gauge. The most classic Belicoso is the Bolivar Belicoso Fino.
A torpedo has a head that tapers to a point, a decent sized bulge in the middle, and a closed foot. These are actually quite rare though, and many companies mistakenly call pyramids torpedos. The sizes vary greatly on torpedos. The Cuaba Millenium is a true torpedo.
This cigar is similar to a torpedo in that it has a closed foot and a bulging middle. However, the head is rounded, unlike the torpedo, and instead like a Parejo. There’s a huge size range in the Perfecto, coming in anywhere from 4 ½”-9” by a ring gauge of 38-48. The Partagas Presidente exemplifies the Perfecto.
Culebras are among the most strangely shaped cigars out there. They’re actually three individual cigars that have been braided together and then when it’s time to smoke them, you unbraid the cigars and smoke each one separately. These exotic cigars used to be more popular than they are today. Each smaller cigar that makes up the whole Culebra is 5”-6” long with a ring gauge. The Partagas Culabra is the classic Culebra.
The Diadema features a tapered head and a much wider foot. The foot can be either open like a Parejo or closed like a Perfecto. These are generally really big cigars, coming in at 8 ½” or longer, by a head ring gauge of 40 and a foot of 52 or bigger. The Hoyo de Monterrey Diadema is the quintessential Diadema.
Needless to say, cigars come in a big variety of colors, but for the sake of this blog, I’ll go over the seven main colors. Within those colors, the shades vary immensely, but the basic colors will remain the same. These colors range from pale green to almost black.
The tobacco leaves used to make the wrappers vary in color for a few reasons. The most common ones are that there are different methods used to process the tobaccos; there are different tobacco types used; and the amount of sunlight that the tobacco is exposed to while still on the plant, and also while being cured. A tobacco leaf grown in lots of sunlight will be a darker color than a shade-grown one; this is true even for tobaccos of the same seed strain.
I’ll list the seven colors of tobacco below, in order from lightest to darkest.
The Double Claro color is also called Candela. It’s a light green tobacco leaf that used to be extremely popular in the United States. This leaf is dried quickly in high heat, in a process that essentially causes the tobacco to lock in its green chlorophyll, giving the finished product that light green color.
The tobacco for a Claro is grown in the shade under tents made of cheesecloth. This results in a light tan wrapper leaf. The tobacco leaves are picked early and then air dried. An interesting fact with the Claro is that the tobacco used for the wrapper doesn’t have much of a taste; this allows for the flavor of the tobacco that’s used as a filler to really stand out.
The Colorado Claro wrapper is made from a leaf that’s grown in direct sunlight, and is also not picked until quite mature. This gives the finished wrapper a light reddish-brown color.
The tobacco leaf of the Colorado is a light/medium brown, to brownish-red, which is the result of a leaf that’s shade-grown. It’s the center of the tobacco wrapper leaf color scale, and is a full-flavored tobacco leaf. Though full-flavored, its aroma is fairly subtle and not overpowering, which means that the filler tobacco is allowed to stand out.
The Colorado Maduro is self-explanatory: it’s lighter than a Maduro and darker than a Colorado.
The word “maduro” means “mature”, and the reason for this namesake is that wrappers of this color take much longer than average to cure. The Maduro wrapper is made from leaves that either get toasted at extremely high heat in a pressurized chamber, or are fermented in very high heat. This process results in a wrapper leaf that’s a dark reddish-brown or almost black. This leaf is quite flavorful, robust, and almost sweet, which means it’s a significant player in the overall flavor of the cigar. The aroma, however, is very mild.
The Oscuro wrapper is black. These are also referred to as “black”, “negro”, or “double maduro”. The leaves used to make this wrapper come from the very top of the tobacco plant, and are left on the plant as long as possible, meaning they’re mature. Once picked, they’re fermented for quite awhile, lending a rough texture to the wrapper. Oscuros are usually Mexican or Brazilian cigar wrappers.