Search Content

Search form

Everything Cigars Since 1898!
Cigar Culture

Difference Between Big and Small Cigars

Shane K. K's picture

Shane K.

The popularity of big ring gauge cigars has shown no signs of receding. Fifteen years ago, only a handful of cigar-makers produced cigars that were fatter than 54 or 56 ring gauges, and those were judged big at the time. Today, 60 ring gauge smokes are commonplace. Cigar-makers have introduced new classifications for bigger sizes like Gigante, Gordo, and Double Toro. The bonanza for big rings has ballooned to 70, 80, and even 90-plus ring sizes, leaving us to wonder, at what point does the novelty kick back in?

In 1991, Martin Scorsese’s remake of Cape Fear hit the silver screen and with it, Robert De Niro’s menacing portrayal of protagonist Max Cady as he puffed away on a 5-inch by 66-ring Casa Blanca Half Jeroboam Maduro throughout the film. Then considered an exaggerated shape, the Half Jeroboam was a more-than-fitting prop to accompany smoky billows of De Niro’s deranged laughter. Today, you’ve probably got a few smokes at least as big, if not bigger, in your own humidor.

A number of premium cigar-makers who once scoffed at these over-the-top, mammoth-sized cigars miss out on a huge segment of consumers if they choose to ignore the market for them. I remember the first time I laid eyes on a box of 60-ring gauge Perdomo Inmensos. On the packaging, bright yellow crime scene tape bordered a black-and-white photo of an old lady with a monstrous cigar in her mouth with the comical saying, “I allow my rollers to smoke one cigar a day… I think they’re taking advantage of me.” It was pure novelty, but you could still smoke them. The shockingly huge Inmenso sizes swelled to a 70 ring gauge and higher.

The early success of bigger ring gauge smokes like Ernesto Perez-Carrillo’s original La Gloria Cubana Serie R already had proven to resonate with consumers. But overly chunky cigars were still more of a trendy niche than a tangible share of the market. The caricature-like dimensions of the Puros Indios Chief at 18 inches long with a 66 ring gauge influenced a less serious reception of huge cigars. Big rings were becoming more available, but many were as much party favors as serious cigars. Outside of La Gloria Cubana, most great big formats remained a novelty.

That was in the early 2000s, when the perception of girth equals gaudy shifted to a more-is-merrier acceptance of exaggerated ring gauges. The demand for big, fat smokes fell in line with the trend of supersizing your order at the drive-thru and skyrocketing sales of Hummer SUVs. While dietary and environmental concerns have caused us to reconsider our dinner and vehicle choices, big cigars are still more popular than ever. But, are bigger cigars better?

It really boils down to your personal taste. I also think it’s important to consider physical comfort with a big ring cigar. If you don’t have a big mouth, a number of ultra-thick shapes can be extremely trying on the jaw – even if you don’t plan to chomp down without the aid of your hand. If you’ve already converted to a ginormous shape, that’s great. A ton of consumers equate bigger smokes with a better value and the idea that they’re getting more cigar for their money. If you’re curious about trying on some bigger sizes yourself, the good news is that there are a ton of premium brands to choose from now.

Keep in mind, with bigger ring gauges the dynamics of a cigar change. In general, a cigar’s size provides a meaningful difference in intensity. It has to do with the ratio between binder and filler tobaccos and the wrapper leaf. A cigar’s wrapper leaf can represent roughly 60-80% of the flavor and body you perceive in a cigar.

With thinner shapes like an Ashton Panetela at 6 inches by a 36 ring gauge or an Oliva Serie V Lancero at 7 inches by a 38 ring, you’re smoking a lot more wrapper leaf compared to the amount of binder and filler tobaccos on the inside. With bigger sizes, the intensity of the wrapper leaf is tempered (some say diluted) by the thickness of the centermost tobaccos in a cigar. To get a sense of the difference, smoke an Ashton Double Magnum (6 x 50) after the Panetela; or try an Oliva Serie V Double Toro (6 x 60) after the Serie V Lancero. Thicker cigars also burn cooler and slower and produce more smoke.

Cigar length is also an important part of the equation. A longer cigar obviously will burn for a longer period of time than a shorter one of the same ring gauge. A longer cigar is less intense when you first light up because the heat is further away from your palate. Longer cigar shapes like a 6.75-inch Churchill or a 7-inch Double Corona intensify at a more gradual pace. The overall intensity of a cigar reflects a meaningful balance between thickness and length.

For example, the short, ultra-fat shapes of Nub cigars are the opposite of long and slender Lanceros. Nub is available in a handful of wrapper varietals handmade in a collection of abbreviated but thick dimensions, like 4 x 60, 4 x 64, and 4 x 66. The philosophy behind Nub was to isolate the “sweet spot” of a cigar. It can be argued whether Nub achieves this, or if cigars really have a sweet spot, but consumers have embraced the brand. When Nub debuted, the cigars were viewed as a trendy concept, but roughly ten years later they continue to enjoy a loyal audience.

Perhaps the best case study for illustrating the way bigger ring gauges impact taste can be found in San Cristobal. Award-winning cigar-maker Jose ‘Pepin’ Garcia has been blending the brand’s portfolio for over a decade. At least one big ring gauge cigar is available in every San Cristobal blend, in addition to traditional Robusto, Churchill, and Corona shapes. San Cristobal Elegancia Grandioso (6 x 60) is the mildest big ring gauge from the brand with its creamy Ecuador Connecticut wrapper. San Cristobal Revelation is medium-bodied with a cocoa-hued Ecuador Sumatra wrapper and is available in two big ring sizes, Odyssey (5.75 x 60) and Leviathan (6.5 x 64). San Cristobal Quintessence Majestic (6 x 60) is medium to full-bodied with a Cuban-seed wrapper and a spicy amalgam of molasses and wood notes. And, the original San Cristobal blend is offered in three thick, full-bodied shapes, San Cristobal Papagayo XXL (6 x 60), San Cristobal Coloso (6.75 x 62), and San Cristobal Maestro (6 x 60), a decadent, tapering Figurado.

Pepin Garcia also blends the ultra-popular La Aroma de Cuba brand. The combination of value and prestige is reflected in the brand’s top-selling larger formats like the 93-rated La Aroma de Cuba El Jefe (7 x 58) and the Immensa (5.75 x 60). The 94-rated La Aroma de Cuba Mi Amor Reserva comes in the 6.5 x 60 Pomposo, and the original 95-rated, former ‘#2 Cigar of the Year,’ La Aroma de Cuba Mi Amor is handmade in the 6 x 60 Valentino.

Padron even offers its distinguished 1964 Anniversary blend in the No. 4, a 6.5 x 60 format available in a Natural and a Maduro wrapper. Cigar Aficionado awarded CAO Flathead a 95-point rating and the ‘#3 Cigar of the Year’ in 2015 for the blocky, 6 x 60 box-pressed V660 Carb. Its thick square shape approximates a cinder block in your mouth.

An equally outrageous size exists in Argyle A-Bomb, a 9 x 95 Figurado. Prepare for an extended 5 hours of pure, unadulterated smoke production with an A-Bomb. The gargantuan 6 x 80 dimensions of Rocky Patel Mulligans Snowman is guaranteed to stretch out your jaw and burn for almost as much time, too. Amazingly, each of these over-the-top shapes is handmade with premium aged tobaccos that are carefully blended and meant to be smoked as much as they are intended to create a spectacle.

Add any number of inflated cigars to your rotation and decide if bigger is better for you. You don’t necessarily have to smoke cigars that eclipse the circumference of a doughnut or a hubcap to make up your mind. You could start with a 56 or 58 ring gauge to test the waters. A contingent of purists may swear them off, but there are enough fat cigar aficionados who swear by bigger rings to merit giving them a try. If you fall in love with an eclectic or excessive shape, don’t forget to upgrade your accessories. Add a Xikar M8 70 Ring Cutter to your arsenal when you don’t feel like retrieving the ax from the garage.

Featured Products

Related Posts

Top Lists
Top Unique & Unusual Cigars

We’re exploring the appeal behind each of these impressive cigars and what sets them apart from the pack.

Cigar Culture
Guide to Cigar Wrappers & Colors

Not unlike the shiny paint and seductive curves on an exotic sports car, the first things we notice about a premium handmade cigar are its band and its wrapper leaf.

Cigar 101
Guide to Cigar Shapes and Sizes

Here’s an overview and a general cigar size guide to illuminate why certain shapes may taste the best to you.