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Cigar 101

Belicoso vs. Torpedo vs. Pyramid Cigars

J. Bennett Alexander Alexander's picture

J. Bennett Alexander

Tradition. It’s a big part of the cigar industry and its history. And still, tradition is often ignored or reinvented. This is clearly the case when it comes to the classification of different cigar shapes and sizes. Perhaps the classic example is the Cuban Romeo y Julieta Churchill. This cigar, 7 x 47, was originally named the “Julieta No. 2.” It was renamed “Churchill” after Sir Winston visited the Romeo y Julieta factory in the 1940s. Or maybe it wasn’t until the 1950s that the change occurred. In any case, it’s the same cigar and cigar aficionados are well-acquainted with the now classic vitola.   


What’s in a Name?

A similar dynamic has occurred with cigars traditionally known as Figurados, or shaped cigars. The most common and popular among these cigars are the Belicoso (bellicose) and the Torpedo. Another founding member of the Figurados party is the Pirámide, or Pyramid. Today, there is considerable overlap among these shapes, but traditionally, the distinctions are pretty well defined. The one characteristic the three share is they are all tapered at the head.  


The Belicoso is, traditionally, the shortest of the three vitolas. Usually, the Belicoso has a head that is shorter with a more rounded taper than those found on Torpedos or Pyramids. Also, the length of the Belicoso is generally between 5 and 5.5 inches with a ring gauge of about 50. But over time, Belicosos have become both larger and smaller.

Many Coronas and Corona Gordas have heads that are short and rounded, like traditional Belicosos. Recently, Mini-Belicosos have appeared. They purportedly have smaller ring gauges, but often only the name has been modified because the same maker makes a larger Belicoso. This is the case with the Cuban Trinidad Mini Belicoso, which is 5 x 52. Trinidad also makes the 6 x 52 Santiago Belicoso. Perhaps the Bolivar Belicoso Fino, at 5.5 x 52, is today’s Cuban standard in this vitola.  

So, figure that the term Belicoso on a cigar today is more likely to refer to the shape of the head than specifically to the size – length and ring gauge – and you’ll be able to choose more wisely. 


One size up in the Figurado family is the Torpedo. Traditionally, the Torpedo was a cigar that had a closed foot, a pointy head, and a bulge in the middle. That bulge requires a truly skilled torcedor (cigar roller). A true Torpedo is a rare find these days. In truth, many of them are really slightly smaller Pyramids, but more on that shortly. Maybe the only traditional Torpedo, with the classic bulge, around these days is the Cuban Cuaba Millenniumand that one is close to being a Perfecto (tapered at both ends). Most Torpedo cigars today don’t have a closed foot. 

Traditionally, the Torpedo begins to taper at the head, but not the length of the cigar. The length and ring gauges of the Torpedo have always varied, but usually are around 6.125 x 52, the dimensions of the Montecristo No. 2, which does not have a bulge or a closed foot and so is really a... Pyramid.


The Pyramid has traditionally been the larger of these three vitolas, with a sharply tapered head and a length from six to seven inches. The ring gauge would classically start at about 40 at the head and widen to between 52 and 54 at the foot. Think Montecristo No. 2., 6.125 x 52. Today, however, the designations “Torpedo” and “Pyramid” have become widely interchangeable and the full-length taper is not guaranteed. Go Figurado, eh?  

What to Smoke 

If you don’t want to spend upwards of at least $20 and possibly violate U.S. laws, there are plenty of excellent Belicosos and Torpedo/Pyramids to be enjoyed among the cigars made outside of Cuba. There are a lot of different brands to choose from. I recommend the following from among my favorites, from what are nominally a Belicoso, a Torpedo, and a Pyramid. 

I don’t think you can do much better in the Belicoso department than the full-power Padron 1964 Anniversary Belicoso, 5 x 52, about $15, in a Natural or Maduro wrapper. This Nicaraguan cigar offers a medley of solid earthy flavors that develop with a lot of creaminess as you smoke. There are notes of leather throughout. The Natural has a little more cedar and cream, with the Maduro bringing more sweet chocolate. As always, the construction and consistency are top flight. 

Torpedo, shmorpedo. The medium-full Rocky Patel 15th Anniversary Torpedo, 6.125 x 52, about $12, is a Nicaraguan cigar with an Ecuador Habano wrapper around 100 percent Nicaraguan filler. It’s quite peppery with succulent notes of wood, leather, mocha, and espresso. With all that flavor, this is a very smooth-smoking cigar with a significantly rich finish. No bulge, no closed foot, but if Rocky calls it a Torpedo, I’m not arguing the point. 

My favorite among not only Figurados, but all cigars, is the Ashton Estate Sun Grown (ESG) 22-Year Salute, 6 x 52, at about $22. This is a medium-full Pyramid made in the Dominican Republic by the Fuente family. The Dominican filler blend is enveloped in a Dominican Sun Grown wrapper cultivated in the same fields as the Fuente Fuente Opus X wrapper. There is considerable variety in the profile with notes of spice, earth, and cedar as well as nuts and leather. This is one of the most complex flavor profiles you’re likely to find. The finish is smooth and creamy. 

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