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Cigar 101

The Difference Between Thin vs. Thick Cigars

Shane K. K's picture

Shane K.

Size matters. And in a big way. When it comes to cigar sizes, how come some folks only smoke gargantuan ring gauges, and others can’t handle a cigar that’s bigger than their pinky finger? For most cigar lovers, it’s personal preference. It’s a matter of what feels comfortable in their mouth and in their hand. How much time you have to smoke makes a difference too. Even ego and economics play a role. There are curmudgeons who equate bigger cigar sizes with the best value for their buck. Others simply feel insecure if they’re not smoking a cigar that approximates the size of a tail pipe. It’s not correct to assume the best big cigars taste better than the best small cigars or vice versa. Let’s explore why.

It’s Physics

Cigar dimensions are measured in inches for length and 64ths of an inch for thickness or ring gauge (just like if your finger is getting fitted for a wedding band). For example, a 50 ring gauge cigar is 50/64ths of an inch. What really constitutes the difference between a thick cigar and a thin cigar, though? Newer cigar connoisseurs often wonder why so many different shapes exist. It boils down to physics. The thickness of a cigar will not change its strength, but it may affect its intensity or the concentration of flavor. Thinner cigars burn hotter and faster than thicker ones. Fatter cigars deliver a cooler, bigger draw with more smoke production.

Generally speaking, the wrapper leaf on a cigar accounts for 60 to 80% of the flavor you perceive. In a thinner cigar, you’re smoking a higher ratio of wrapper leaf compared to the binder and filler tobaccos underneath it. In a thicker cigar, you smoke less wrapper and more binder and filler by comparison. With a thicker cigar, the taste or intensity of the wrapper leaf is diluted. One thickness is not necessarily better than another, but the current trend of plus-sized 60 ring gauge cigars is less traditional than your classic 5.5 x 44 Corona or 7 x 49 Churchill. Historic shapes like the slender 6 x 36 Panatela (or Panetela) enjoyed a resurgence roughly 10 years ago which has since faded out. Many cigar-makers prefer conventional ring sizes (42 to 52) over the exaggerated 58-plus dimensions that are common today.

Vertical Cigar Samplers

One of best ways to illustrate the influence different ring gauges and shapes have on a cigar is to smoke a vertical cigar sampler. A vertical sampler consists of a single blend presented in a handful of different sizes. Smoking the same cigar in a variety of shapes reveals the distinct ways a cigar’s thickness and length impact its flavor profile. The bestselling Ashton VSG Assortment shows off an iconic Dominican cigar blended by Carlito Fuente in 5 unique shapes, from a classic 7 x 49 Churchill in the Sorcerer to the chunkier 6 x 56 Wizard. Ring gauges in the spicy, full-bodied Oliva Serie V 5-Cigar Sampler also range from a 49-ring-gauge Diadema to a fatter 56-ring Torpedo. The nuances of thickness are more subtle in the Padron 1964 Anniversary Sampler (available in Natural or Maduro).

Go Big or Go Home

Extreme ring gauges are a thing now, too. Super-fat cigars are less novel than they were once upon a time. Ginormous shapes like the 9 x 95 Argyle A-Bomb or the 6 x 80 Rocky Patel Mulligans Snowman have become popular for the taste they offer as much as the shock they provoke from onlookers who watch as you fire one up. Set aside four or five hours to smoke and kill your curiosity over fat cigars once and for all. You might have to use two hands.

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