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The Insider: Ring Gauge

One evening while digging through the humidor in search of an after-dinner smoke, the wide variety of cigar shapes and sizes inspired me to elaborate a bit on the topic. Today, there is everything from a slim and elegant Panatela to a massive 7.0”x70 Gordo available. If you really take things to the extremes, you can find vitolas with a ring gauge starting as small as 18/64ths all the way up to 80/64ths of an inch. If you are unfamiliar with how cigar ring gauges are calculated, the dimension for the diameter is equivalent to 1/64ths of an inch. Therefore, a standard robusto size is 5 inches in length with a ring gauge of 50/64ths of an inch.

For those who prefer their cigars to be around the popular 50 ring gauge, there are a number of standard options available, depending on how long you prefer to enjoy the cigar. The Rothschild, robusto, toro, belicoso, torpedo, Churchill, and double corona sizes are all typically within the 48 to 52 range. So if you’re looking for a shorter smoke, the Rothschild or robusto are viable options. Those who are looking for a long, leisurely cigar for a day out on the golf course should reach for a Churchill or double corona. The happy medium between the two would be a toro, a tapered capped torpedo, or a belicoso.

Up until the recent influx of large ring gauge cigars, as a response to the demand within the American market, a 7.0”x50 Churchill was considered a hefty smoke. Throughout the history of premium cigars, smaller sizes were the norm, and most ring gauges fell within the 34 to 48 range. Even Winston Churchill’s cigar of choice, although 7 inches in length, was just a 47 ring gauge. The corona, lancero, panatela, and lonsdale are popular sizes that feature varying lengths yet small ring gauges ranging from around 34 to 42. In terms of their performance as compared to other sizes, thinner cigars tend to burn hotter and faster and provide a more prominent flavor from the wrapper due to less filler tobaccos counterbalancing the wrapper’s characteristics. Therefore, the quality of the wrapper leaf is even more important when blending a corona or lancero. These are also more difficult to roll, which can add to the cost of production.

Reacting to the big ring gauge craze throughout the industry, countless manufacturers have introduced a size to their portfolio commonly referred to as a gordo, or double toro. These will generally fall into the realm of a 58 to 64 ring gauge, leaving ample room for filler tobaccos. In this case, the wrapper to filler ratio is in favor of the fillers and the burning tip is exposed to more air. This results in a slower, cooler combustion and makes the strength and flavor more dependent upon the makeup of the filler tobaccos. But don’t be fooled; larger ring gauges do not mean the cigar will be stronger or more full-flavored. Another popular large ring gauge vitola is the double perfecto size, which usually clocks in at around a 60 in the middle and tapers off to a point at both the head and foot. The allure here is that the gradual change in the diameter provides a unique complexity not offered in standard vitolas.

Cigars made during Cuba’s heyday using the same tobaccos were offered in various sizes to present different smoking experiences in terms of strength and flavor. Today’s manufacturers producing cigars for the American market will often tweak their filler tobacco ratio in accordance with the size being rolled in order to provide the most consistent flavor and strength profile for that line. Although each size will undoubtedly produce a slightly different experience, it is safe to conclude that the size and shape of a cigar should be chosen based upon personal preference and what the enthusiast deems is the most enjoyable and comfortable.