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Cigar 101

What is a Full-Bodied Cigar?

Shane K. K's picture

Shane K.

We describe a cigar’s profile according to its taste (flavor), balance, body, strength, aroma, and finish. Cigars are mild, medium, or full in body – and strength. Full-bodied cigars are rich, complex, and resonant. Often they are strong, but they don’t have to be. Let’s find out what makes a cigar full-bodied.

Cigar Strength vs. Body

Body and strength are often interchanged and confused when it comes to cigars. While many full-bodied cigars are strong, there is a distinction between strength and body. Strength is a reflection of a cigar’s nicotine content – cigars with more nicotine are stronger. A cigar’s body refers to the density of its smoke and how it resonates on the palate.

Leaves harvested from different sections of a tobacco plant contain different amounts of nicotine. Ligero leaves near the top of the plant are richer in nicotine than leaves from the lower Viso, Seco, or Volado sections. Strong cigars are often blended with a good amount of Ligero.

A cigar’s body is perceived in how its flavor impacts your palate and your senses. A good analogy comes from wine. A big, heavy cabernet sauvignon will linger on your taste buds longer and with more vibrancy than a delicate pinot noir. Another good comparison is beer. Crisp icy lagers like Bud Light go down swift while a malty glass of ale from Chimay or Dogfish Head Worldwide Stout possesses thicker, darker density that takes longer to process.

When it comes to cigars, Macanudo Cafe is on the mild end of the spectrum with its mellow profile of cedar and nuts, while San Cristobal Ovation is full-bodied and intense. A bold profile of hickory, spices, and leather dwells on the palate from beginning to end thanks to an oily San Andrés Oscuro wrapper leaf and a robust blend of premium aged Nicaraguan long-fillers in San Cristobal. When you smoke a full-bodied cigar, follow a few easy tips to avoid getting overwhelmed.  

Why Balance is Critical

The best full-bodied cigars are balanced. Nicotine-dense blends that overwhelm the senses with sheer force and no finesse assault your palate. They can be bitter or harsh. It’s unlikely you’ll smoke an offensive blend a second time. A cigar can be rich and vivacious but also very smooth.

Full-bodied cigars perk you up as soon as they hit your lips, but they should deliver enticing, enjoyable taste. A cigar is balanced when the different tasting regions on our tongue are equally stimulated. Cigars that are too bitter or spicy are unpleasant to smoke because they overpower certain parts of the palate.   

A New Era: Fuente Fuente Opus X, Ashton VSG, & Padron 1964 Anniversary

Full-bodied cigars have increased dramatically in popularity over the past twenty-five years. If we go back to the beginning of the Cigar Boom of the 1990s, a plethora of mild and mellow cigars inundated cigar shops. There wasn’t a big market for strong, full-bodied cigars. That changed in the mid to late-90s thanks in large part to three cigars which are prominent classics today: Fuente Fuente Opus X, Ashton VSG, and Padron 1964 Anniversary. The immediate interest these cigars commanded when they debuted continues to this day.

Carlito Fuente unveiled Fuente Fuente Opus X in 1995 following years of development and chorus of detractors who proclaimed it was impossible to grow quality wrapper in the Dominican Republic. Opus X proved them wrong. The all-Dominican blend delivers a potent profile of leather, coffee beans, figs, wood, and spices before a resounding finish kicks in. Today, demand for the ultra-rare cigar eclipses nearly all others, including Cubans.

Just a few years later, in 1999, Ashton VSG (Virgin Sun Grown) premiered. Also blended by Carlito Fuente, VSG was initially allocated to select Ashton accounts as there wasn’t enough to go around. All of the tobaccos in VSG are aged extensively, including its shimmering Ecuador Sumatra wrapper leaf. A succulent profile of leather, cedar, espresso beans, and black pepper mesmerizes the palate in several classic shapes. The 94-rated blend has cracked Cigar Aficionado’s annual ‘Top 10’ on several occasions.

The first Padron 1964 Anniversary cigars were released in 1994 to commemorate the brand’s thirtieth anniversary. The limited production blend was very hard to find at first, but today it’s a pillar in the Padron portfolio which is known for its full-bodied Nicaraguan blends. Padron has three ‘#1 Cigar of the Year’ titles to its credit today and it all began with the 1964 Anniversary blend. Critics from Cigar Aficionado continue to heap sky-high ratings and rankings on full-bodied cigars from Padron, Ashton, and Fuente.

A Full-Bodied Frenzy

Demand for full-bodied cigars flourishes from a number of other celebrated cigar-makers as well. Jose ‘Pepin’ Garcia blends many of the hottest full-bodied Nicaraguan cigars you can buy today, including My Father Le Bijou 1922, La Aroma de Cuba Mi Amor Reserva, and San Cristobal. Oliva Serie V and La Flor Dominicana Double Ligero represent extremely popular full-bodied cigars you can find in nearly every premium retailer. There are plenty of renowned cigars to consider when you want to add a full-bodied blend to your collection. 

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