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Cigar Aficionado's Glossary
of Cigar Terms

When side-by-side, an A-size cigar, left, dwarfs a robusto-sized smoke.
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A (size):

The largest standard cigar size is an "A" which is also known as a gran corona (see photo). The standard for an "A" is 9 1/4 inches long by 47 ring gauge, but some non-Cuban "As" have slightly different dimensions. The most famous example is the Montecristo "A" from Cuba. All "As" take a very long time to smoke, perhaps as much as two hours.

Accordion Method:

A method of cigar rolling where each leaf is folded in a wavy pattern, in a shape reminiscent of an accordion. Slower than booking, but faster than entubar or entubado, the accordion method tends to create cigars with dependable draws.

Active Humidification System:

A mechanical device that blows humidified air and recirculates dry air to maintain humidity in a humidor. These devices are typically used in larger humidors, such as cabinets, or in walk-in humidors that you find in cigar shops or well-appointed homes.

Aging:

Aging takes many forms in the premium cigar industry. Cigarmakers age fermented tobacco in bales, typically for two to several years. Aging cigar tobacco gives it more nuance, softens rough edges, and generally improves the product. This is particularly important with stronger varieties of tobacco, such as ligero. Many manufacturers also further age their cigars after rolling. This process can be as short as a month or so or more than one year. Not only does this help the component tobaccos (filler, binder(s) and wrapper) marry, but it can make the cigars more pleasant to smoke. Connoisseurs who purchase cigars often take this step even further by aging their smokes in their cigar boxes inside of a humidor, sometimes for decades. This is known as box aging.

Fine cigars, like fine wines, can improve with age. While not every cigar will get better over time, ones that are full flavored, rich and robust in youth are likely candidates for long-term aging. With almost every cigar there is a point of diminishing returns. Many consider five to ten years to be optimal, but we have smoked—and enjoyed—cigars that were decades old. Cigars that are at least five years old, but often much older, are reviewed in the Connoisseur’s Corner section of Cigar Aficionado magazine, and many receive exceptionally high scores.

Aging Room:

A room in a cigar factory of varying size, typically lined with Spanish cedar, where rolled cigars are stored to allow the tobaccos to harmonize and for the cigars to mellow. Some cigars are aged for a year before being put in the box, but there is no standard on this in the industry—a small number of fine cigar factories do not age their cigars at all.

Amarillo (am-ah-REE-yo):

A term for a yellow leaf of cigar wrapper.

Amatista (ahm-ah-TEEST-ah) Jar:

A heavy glass jar containing 25 or 50 cigars. This method of packaging is seldom seen today, but was very popular in the 1950s and 1960s. H. Upmann cigars from Cuba originated the practice in the early 1900s. The jars were lined with Spanish cedar and sealed tight and promoted as being "factory fresh."

American Market Selection:

A seldom-used term today, American Market Seletion (abbreviated as AMS) was created by the major importer of Cuban cigars in the 1950s to designate green or candela colored wrappers, also known as double claro wrappers. Green cigars are latter-day oddities, but they once were the preferred smokes of Americans. From about 1958 to the early 1970s, Americans smoked billions of cigars, and nearly all of them were candelas.

Ammonia:

Ammonia is present in freshly picked cigar tobacco. One of the main goals of curing and fermentation is to rid cigars of ammonia. Improperly cured and fermented cigars can have ammonia flavors, which results in a harsh, unpleasant smoke.

Anilla:

Also referred to as Vitola in Spain, this is the Cuban term for cigar band or ring.

Arapiraca (ahr-rah-pih-RAH-kah):

A type of cigar tobacco grown in Brazil’s northeastern coast. It produces a very dark, oily leaf. One of the best known examples is the wrapper leaf on the C.A.O. Brazilia cigar. The seed variety is also being grown now in Ecuador.

Aroma:

Aroma, or bouquet, is the smell from a burning cigar. Great cigars typically have enticing aromas that perfume the room. Sometimes it’s difficult to appreciate the aroma of a cigar you are smoking; it often helps to leave the room for a moment and come back, or to cup your hand and direct some smoke toward your nostrils. One can also admire the bouquet of a box of cigars, or the unlit cigar.

The white ash of a Dominican cigar and the gray ash of a Cuban.
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Ash :

The burning end of a cigar. A bright, white ash indicates tobacco that has received ample magnesium in the soil. Cameroon tobacco typically burns with a bright white ash. A flaky white ash may have had too much magnesium. Cuban tobacco tends to burn with a grayish ash (see photo). A black ash may indicate the tobacco inside was grown in soil lacking proper nutrients.

Fine, handmade cigars are made with long-filler leaves, and the ash on such cigars retains strength even after burning. Some fat cigars can be made to stand upright on their ashes, and can hold ashes of considerable length. (Cigars made with short-filler tobacco tend to have very flaky ashes with little strength.) Resist the urge to tap your ash; it’s better to let it fall when it’s ready, after you see a seam develop, typically around the one-inch-long mark.

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