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Cigar Aficionado's Glossary
of Cigar Terms

Cabinet Selection:

A form of cigar packaging in wooden boxes (typically made of Spanish cedar) with sliding tops, designed to hold 25 or 50 cigars, often wrapped with a ribbon. This type of packaging is also known as a slide-lid box. These boxes are often made of Spanish cedar. Cabinets are often much taller than dress or semi-dress boxes, and the cigars are often packed with greater amounts of air between each cigar. Some connoisseurs who age their smokes prefer cigars packed in cabinet style, believing the increased amount of air allows for better aging.

Calfrisa (cowl-FREE-suh):

An advanced, sealed tobacco curing barn with a system of ductwork that creates steady, predictable temperatures and humidity. The system allows for better curing of tobacco than using vents and traditional heating methods. The practice was pioneered in Cuba, and is now used in Central America and the Dominican Republic. Due to the expense of buying, installing and maintaining such a system, it is far from widespread.

Cameroon:

A country in West Africa known for growing toothy, dark wrapper tobacco. Tobacco grown in the neighboring Central African Republic is also sold under the name Cameroon. In the early to mid-1990s, Cameroon leaf became endangered in the wake of the departure of the French, but the dedicated efforts of the Meerapfel family revitalized supplies of the leaf.

Cigars encased with candela wrapper.
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Candela:

A green shade of wrapper tobacco (see photo), achieved by a heat-curing process that fixes the chlorophyll content of the wrapper while it's still in the barn. Also referred to as double claro. From about 1958 to the early 1970s, Americans smoked billions of cigars, and nearly all of them were candelas. They were so popular in the United States that the term American Market Seletion (abbreviated as AMS) was created by the major importer of Cuban cigars at the time to designate green or candela colored wrappers.

To make candela, a tobacco barn (or casa de tabacco) has to be properly prepped. The walls of the wooden barn are wallpapered with cardboard or paper to seal the cracks. The barn is loaded with freshly harvested tobacco, and the vents at the bottom of the barn are opened, encouraging air to flow out of the roof vent (known as a doghouse), which is always open. The propane heaters or charcoal fires are lit, and the heat slowly rises, taking the moisture out of the leaves. "The objective is to get air flowing through the tobacco, up and out of the doghouse," says Gustavo Cura, the operations administrator for Oliva Tobacco Co. in Tampa, which grows candela in Ecuador and Honduras. "The heat has to start slowly." Within two hours, the heat will be at about 90 degrees, and by hour No. 3, it will rise to 100. After 40 to 48 hours, the tobacco has wilted. The leaf is dry at this point, save for the stem, which takes much more coercing to dry out than the rest of the plant. The farmers shut the bottom vents in the barn and crank the heat to 165 degrees to remove the remaining moisture from the stem. This final step lasts for about one day, and bakes the tobacco as dry as a potato chip. After 60 to 72 hours total in the barn, the chlorophyll has been locked in the leaf and the tobacco is done heating, but needs to be rehumidified so it can be safely removed from the barn. Workers open the barn's vent doors and windows (unless it's windy), allowing the nighttime dew to make the crispy leaves moist again; if the climate is too dry, they bring in a steamer. Then, the leaves are taken down, sorted and graded, and put into boxes, ready for storage or for rolling. The fire curing eliminates the need for fermentation and aging, cutting months and even years off the typical process.

Sunlight will make candela leaf lighter, while heat will darken the color. Candela wrapper can't be stored in normal tobacco warehouses; instead it's kept refrigerated. Water can stain it, so a roller has to know what he's doing in order to make a candela cigar by hand. Because it's the process that makes candela, rather than the seed or country of origin, candela wrappers are grown in a host of countries.

Candle:

Something you should never use to light your cigar, as the wax particles can foul your smoke. It’s perfectly acceptable to use a candle to light a cedar spill, then to light your cigar with the spill.

Canoeing:

A flaw in a cigar’s burn, in which a narrow strip burns quicker than the rest of the cigar, making a burnout canoe effect.

Cañonazo:

A fat cigar size from Cuba, the cañonazo is known as a cannon shot. The size measures 5 7/8 inches by 52 ring, and was first used to describe the Cohiba Siglo VI.

Cantero:

A term for a seedbed, the part of a farm where tobacco seedlings are grown. These are also known as canteros. Traditionally seedbeds were planted directly in the ground, and they still are in some areas of the world, but now many tobacco seeds are planted in trays and/or on raised beds, or within greenhouses. This provides protection from the elements. Tobacco farmers often grow far more seedlings than they need, and the extra seedlings can be used in case portions of a farm need to be replanted due to extreme weather or other unforeseen setbacks in growing.

Cap :

A piece of wrapper leaf placed at the head, or top, of the cigar to secure the wrapper. Caps come in a variety of forms. Cuban-style caps are mounted, or flat, and have three seams. They are known as mounted heads, three-seam caps or triple caps. This method is being found in a variety of other countries now, including the United States, some factories in Nicaragua and Honduras, and in very rare instances the Dominican Republic. The more common type of head is made with a small circle of wrapper leaf, and has a somewhat round shape. Other varieties include those with pig tails or flag caps, which have a thin strip of tobacco protruding from the head, which can be anywhere from a quarter inch to an inch or more long. The cap has to be cut, pierced or removed to draw smoke through the cigar.

Capa:

The cigar’s wrapper, or outer leaf.

Capote (kah-POH-tay):

Capote is a term for binder, the portion of a tobacco leaf used to hold together the blend of filler leaves called the bunch. It’s also known as the banda. With the wrapper and filler (known as capote and tripa in Spanish) the binder is one of three main components in a handmade cigar. A torcedore uses it to hold together the collection of filler leaves inside of a handmade cigar. Many binders were grown with the intent of being wrappers, but defects in the leaf caused them to be graded as binders, which are considerably less expensive than wrappers. Some factories use two binders, to add complexity to a cigar blend.

Carbon (car-BONE):

The Spanish word for charcoal, and the names given the pits dug into some curing barns to put small piles of charcoal that are burned during cool days to raise the temperature in the barn. At times this has been done with iron pots filled with charcoal. More sophisticated barns have propane gas powered burners.

Carotene:

A naturally occurring compound found in aged cigars.

Casa de Tabaco:

A curing barn, or curing shed. Casa de tabacos (see photo) are constructed in or very near tobacco fields and are essential to the harvest. After cigar tobacco is taken from the fields, it is brought into the casa de tabaco and hung to dry. The leaves are typically hung on wooden poles known as lathes or cujes, but occasionally are simply draped on strings, also called sartas.

The tobacco remains in a casa de tabaco for around 45 days while it turns from green to brown, but the length of time depends upon the temperature and humidity, and can vary from season to season. During the time it spends in the barn cigar tobacco cures, changing from green to yellow to brown, in a process known as curing. Water moves in and out of the plant during this time, gradually drying the leaf. After curing, the tobacco is taken from the barns for fermentation in pilones or bales.

Certain advanced barns, known as calfrisas, speed the process. In the candela curing process, very high temperatures are used to lock the green color in the leaf. While cigar tobacco is technically air cured, small charcoal or propane gas fires are occasionally used to fight cool temperatures or to lower humidity.

Photo by David Savona

Case:

In the cigar production process, workers case, or slightly moisten, aged tobacco so that it will become supple and ready for manipulation. Some factories use a technique in which the leaves are bathed in a fine mist of water, others use huge rooms with extremely high humidity and others dip the stems of tobacco directly in water. The leaves are usually prepared a day in advance. Casing is also a term used for flavoring added to many varieties of pipe tobacco.

A Classic Rotary Cigar Cutter from Boston Cigar Cutter Co.
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Cat's Eye Cutter:

Also known as a v cutter or wedge cutter, a cat’s eye cutter (see photo) has a v-shaped blade that gauges an opening in the head of a cigar that is shaped somewhat like a cat’s pupil. These cigar cutters were far more popular in the early 1900s, and many antique models are designed for the smaller cigars of that era.

Cedar:

1. The name often given for the type of wood that is used to make most cigar boxes and humidors. Spanish cedar is used—not red or aromatic cedar—and the word is a marketing name for cedrela, a tree that belongs to the mahogany family. It grows throughout the tropics and is not a true cedar. It’s quite different from red or aromatic cedar, which should never be used in humidors or cigar boxes.

2. A type of flavor commonly associated with cigars. Cigars are aged in Spanish cedar lined aging rooms, or in Spanish cedar boxes, and sometimes come wrapped with a thin strip of Spanish cedar. The associated aromas and flavors are described as cedary.

Cedar Spill:

A strip of Spanish cedar used for lighting a cigar in a very fashionable, formal way. A cedar spill is lit, using a candle, match, lighter or other flame, and then used to slowly toast the foot of a cigar. Spills burn slowly, and in some cigar bars a member of the waitstaff might use one that is more than a foot long to light a cigar. Spills can create very long, thin, messy ashes, so care must be taken when using this method.

Cellophane:

A clear, protective material that is put around many premium cigars. Cellophane was created in 1912. True cellophane is a natural substance made of cellulose, the main component in the cell wall of a plant. A machine makes tubes of cellophane, and workers in a cigar factory slip individual cigars within the tubes. The cellophane provides extra protection and slows the drying process of a cigar. Cellophane is increasingly popular in modern-day cigar sales, as many more cigars are sold individually, rather than in boxes, and having cigars in cellophane prevents damage to the cigars from excessive handling in cigar shops.

One of the most common questions asked of Cigar Aficionado editors is about removing cellophane from a box of cigars. Once you’ve bought the cigar and are placing it in your humidor, we recommend you remove the cellophane. Cellophane will prevent humidity from reaching the cigar, and you'll find the cigars will respond to humidification better if the overwrap has been removed. The same holds true for cigar tubes, whether glass or aluminum; these tubes will completely close off a cigar to humidification if left on. However, if you intend to transport your cigars (such as in a coat pocket), it may be a good idea to keep a few tubes or cellophane overwraps handy to protect the cigars during transport. We typically advise people to remove the cellophane if they intend to age the cigars, and to perhaps keep a few in the cellophane to provide for ease of transport.

Chaveta (chah-VET-uh):

A crescent-shaped piece of steel used by a cigar roller in a cigar factory to cut a wrapper leaf to size. A cigar roller also uses such a device to help shape the head of a cigar. A custom in cigar factories is to slap the flat of the chaveta against the wooden rolling board, akin to applause.

Cheesecloth:

The traditional material used to cover a field of shade-grown wrapper leaf. Today it is made of nylon or another synthetic material. The Spanish term for the covering is tapado. It takes some 5,000 yards of shade to cover an acre of tobacco.

Cheroot (shur-ROOT):

A term for a rustic cigar, typically one with an open head as well as a foot.

Chinchalle (chin-CHALL-ay):

A slang term for a very small cigar factory, such as those found in Union City, New Jersey, or in Little Havana, Miami.

Chop:

A slang term for short-filler tobacco, or picadura.

Churchill:

A large corona-format cigar, traditionally 7 inches by a 47 ring gauge. The most famous Churchill is the Romeo y Julieta Churchill. The grand size takes its name from legendary cigar aficionado Sir Winston Churchill, who was famous for almost never being seen without a cigar.

Cibao Valley (see-BOW):

The valley in the Dominican Republic where much of the country’s premium cigar tobacco is grown.

Cigar Association of America (CAA):

The national trade organization of cigar manufacturers, importers and distributors headquartered in Washington, D.C.

Cigar Bar:

A bar and/or lounge where cigar aficionados can enjoy a cigar and libation. For a listing of such places to smoke, visit Cigar Aficionado’s Where to Smoke.

Cigar Boom:

The stellar rise in premium, handmade cigar sales that began in late 1992 and peaked in 1997. The start of the boom began with the launch of Cigar Aficionado magazine in Autumn 1992. Premium cigar imports soared from about 100 million units to more than 400 million by 1997. While the rise changed the industry forever and revitalized the cgiar business, there were also negatives involved.

Cigar Box Tool:

A multifunction tool used in cigar shops to open flat-top cigar boxes. The rounded knife blade is used to break the seal and crack open the box, the slit in the rounded blade can be used to pry out a nail and the hammer portion can be used to pound the nail back into the box, resealing it.

Bugatti's two- and three-stick cigar cases.
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Cigar Case:

A portable storage device for a small number of cigars. The most common size allows for storage of three cigars (see photo), but some models accommodate two, four, or even a single cigar. Such models are built for the breast pocket of a suit, while larger models are designed for the briefcase or other piece of luggage. Most cigar cases are made of leather, and most do not have humidification devices.

Cigar Lounge:

A sanctuary where smoking cigars is welcome. More and more cigar stores are opening lounges to provide a place for their customers to light up. To view an example of a cigar lounge, see this Cigar Aficionado video.

Cigar Rights of America (CRA):

A consumer organization headquartered in Fairfax, Virginia, aimed at protecting the rights of cigar smokers.

Cigarillos:

Favored by some aficionados and scorned by others, these thin, short cigars, popular in Europe, are generally machine-made, and many brands use homogenized wrappers or binders.

Cigarmaker:

The owner of a factory who creates new cigars; also a term used for the workers who make cigars.

Claro:

A pale-green to light-brown wrapper, usually shade-grown.

Classic:

A cigar that receives a score of 95 points or higher on Cigar Aficionado Magazine’s 100-point scale. It’s fairly rare.

Clear Havana:

A cigar made in the United States prior to the embargo with Cuban tobacco.

Coffin:

A slide-lid cigar box that accommodates only one cigar. Montecristo As and Fuente Fuente OpusX As are two cigars that come in individual coffins.

Cold Taste:

The act of clipping a cigar and sucking air through the cigar prior to lighting (also called a dry draw). This can tell you if a cigar will draw, and it will also give you a first impression of how the cigar may taste after lighting.

Collars:

Four pieces of cedar protruding from the four inner edges of some cigar boxes, particularly boite nature boxes. They are fully covered when the lid is closed.

Color Sorting:

One of the final steps in the cigar production process, color sorting is done by specialized workers operating in brightly lit areas of a cigar factory. They spread out cigars on a stark black or bright white table and examine color, arranging boxes of cigars with cigars of very similar color. The process requires a keen eye for color, as there may be as many as 20 slight color variations. A sorter may also reject cigars if they have any visible flaws, such as cracks or blemishes.

Colorado:

A medium-brown to brownish-red shade of wrapper tobacco.

Complexity:

A beneficial characteristic in the flavor of cigar smoke. Top scoring cigars in Cigar Aficioando magazine typically are complex, having several flavors that pair well together.

Condega (con-DAY-guh):

One of the three main tobacco growing areas of Nicaragua. Condega, located north of Estelí, is a quiet town near the Cantagallo Mountains. Tobacco from Condega tends to be more medium bodied than the tobacco grown in Estelí and stronger than the tobacco grown in Jalapa. The land is known for its orchids and it’s not uncommon to see small cacti growing near the region’s tobacco fields.

Connecticut Broadleaf:

A type of tobacco grown in the open sunlight (see photo), principally in the Connecticut River Valley. Connecticut broadleaf grows as a squat, bushy plant. The leaves are very wide, hence the name, and after curing they get very dark. Broadleaf is among the prized wrapper leaves used to make many maduro cigars. The plants are stalk cut, the entire plant harvested at one time.

For more, see Slideshow: Harvesting Connecticut Wrapper

Photo by Sarina Finkelstein

Connecticut River Valley:

A tobacco growing region that stretches north from Hartford, Connecticut, across the border into Massachusetts. Native Americans grew tobacco in Connecticut before the arrival of Europeans, and historians say locals have grown cigar tobacco there since the 1600s. The valley was the birthplace of shade tobacco circa 1900.

The soil around the valley is silty, with clay, sand and loam, the product of glaciers that scraped the northeastern part of America as they crept down from the Arctic. The first Connecticut tobacco was grown in the open sunlight, which makes a leaf thick and dark, with veins like ropes. The first variety grown was Connecticut broadleaf. In the late 1800s, Connecticut farmers were losing marketshare to a thin, beautiful leaf grown in Sumatra (part of modern-day Indonesia), so people tried to duplicate the product by planting Sumatra seeds in the Connecticut River Valley. The results were poor due to the bright sunny weather typical of a Connecticut summer, quite different from the overcast growing season in Sumatra. Farmers erected cheesecloth tents to cover the fields and shield the tobacco from the direct rays of the sun. "The first tents went up on River Road in the Poquonock section of Windsor in 1900," says Nielsen. The result was extraordinary: the leaves grew thin and supple, with barely noticeable veins. When cured and aged, the leaf turned golden brown and oily. Most experts say that was the origin of shade tobacco, which today is also grown in Cuba, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.

Connecticut Shade:

The term for Connecticut-seed tobacco (a derivative of Sumatra seed) grown in the  Connecticut River Valley, under shade. The cover diffuses the rays of the sun, resulting in a thin, supple leaf with very thin veins. The leaf is prized for wrapper tobacco, and is known for its golden-brown color and mild taste profile. Connecticut seed tobacco is grown in a host of other countries, but true Connecticut shade comes from the Connecticut River Valley.

For more, see Slideshow: Harvesting Connecticut Wrapper

Connoisseur's Corner:

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. Unlike every other review conducted by Cigar Aficionado, these reviews are done by one taster, due to the rarity of the cigars being smoked, and the the rater knows the identity of what he is smoking, so it’s not a blind tasting. These aged cigars,  particularly aged Cuban cigars, have received some of the highest ratings in our magazine’s history, including several perfect 100-point scores.

Click here to peruse past Connoissieur's Corner tastings.

Corojo:

The most famous variety of Cuban-seed tobacco. Corojo seed was first developed in the 1930s at the El Corojo plantation outside San Juan y Martinez, Cuba. The leaf was used to wrap Cuba’s finest cigars. Descendents of the seed are now grown in Central America and the Caribbean, but Cuba no longer grows Corojo.

For more, The Death of El Corojo

Corona:

One of the most familiar sizes and shapes for premium cigars. Coronas are parejos, straight-sided cigars, with an open foot and a closed, rounded head. The Cuban standard for the size is 5 5/8 inches long with a 42 ring gauge. For Cigar Aficionado ratings on corona-sized cigars, click here.

Corona Gorda:

An increasingly popular cigar size, corona gordas (which literally translates to fat coronas) are fatter than coronas and sometimes also longer. The typical Cuban standard size is 5 5/8 by 46, but today it’s not uncommon to see many with ring gauges well over 50. The toro size is a synonym for corona gorda. For Cigar Aficionado ratings on corona gordas, click here.

Costero:

The lateral sides of a cigar box, which normally bear the brand name and other decorative elements.

Cover Leaf:

A casual way of referring to a wrapper leaf, the outer leaf on a premium, handmade cigar.

Cuban Sandwich:

A handmade cigar made with a mixture of long-filler and short-filler tobacco. These cigars are sometimes referred to as mixed-fill cigars.

Cuban Seed:

Usually refers to plants grown in non-Cuban countries with seeds that originated in Cuba. Cuban-seed tobaccos tend to be full in flavor. Tobacco changes when planted in different soils, so a seed from Cuba planted in, say, the Dominican Republic, will not taste identical to the one planted in Cuba.

Cubatabaco:

Formerly the worldwide distribution company for Cuban cigars (now done by Habanos S.A.), Cubatabaco is the state-owned entity that owns all of Cuba’s cigar brands.

Cubierta:

The top surface or outer lid of a cigar box.

Cuje (COO-hay):

A wooden pole, also known as a lathe, used to hang freshly harvested tobacco leaves in a curing barn, or casa de tabacco. There are two varieties. Cuje cortos measure about six feet long, cuje largos (considered superior) are about 12 feet long. Some less advanced versions use wooden strings, known as sartas. The tobacco is held to the sarta, cuje or lathe using string that is sewn through each leaf. Most countries sew the leaves by hand, but in Connecticut the process is done via a special sewing machine.

Culebra:

Spanish for "snake." Culebras are cigars made of three panetelas braided and banded together; usually 5 to 6 inches in length, most often with a 38 ring gauge. Legend has it that the culebra was invented as a way for factory owners to ensure their rollers were not exceeding their three cigars per day allotment. They would be given one braided culebra; a worker smoking (or taking) a straight cigar could be recognized as stealing. Whatever the legend, culebras are eye-grabbing smokes. To watch Cigar Aficionado editors smoking and discussing the culebra, watch this video.

Curing:

The very important step in preparing cigar tobacco immediately following the harvest. Freshly harvested tobacco leaves (which have been either primed or stalk-cut) are hung in tobacco curing barns, also known as casas de tabacos. There the leaves turn from green to brown in a process known as curing. Moisture is slowly removed from the plant over a period of around 45 days, depending on the weather. Vents are opened and closed in these barns to make adjustments, and sometimes propane gas powered burners or small charcoal (or carbone) fires are lit to increase temperature, and on occasion humidity is added. The tobacco leaves turn from green, to yellow, then finally to brown. The veins and the very thick stem are the last to turn. This curing process prepares the leaves for fermentation, but the tobacco would be too raw and harsh to enjoyably smoke in this form.

Curing Barns:

Curing barns, sometimes called curing sheds or casas de tabaco, are constructed in or very near tobacco fields and are essential to the harvest. After cigar tobacco is taken from the fields, it is brought into the curing barn and hung to dry. The leaves are typically hung on wooden poles known as lathes or cujes, but occasionally are simply draped on strings, also called sartas. The tobacco remains in a casa de tabaco for around 45 days while it turns from green to brown, but the length of time depends upon the temperature and humidity, and can vary from season to season. During the time it spends in the barn cigar tobacco cures, changing from green to yellow to brown, in a process known as curing. Water moves in and out of the plant during this time, gradually drying the leaf. After curing, the tobacco is taken from the barns for fermentation in pilones or bales.

Certain advanced barns, known as calfrisas, speed the process. In the candela curing process, very high temperatures are used to lock the green color in the leaf. While cigar tobacco is technically air cured, small charcoal or propane gas fires are occasionally used to fight cool temperatures or to lower humidity.

Cutter:

A device for preparing a handmade cigar for smoking by piercing or removing its cap, or head. To watch the editors of Cigar Aficionado show you the proper way to cut a cigar, watch this video.

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