Glossary of Cigar Terms
A long, thin cigar shape (see photo). Extra long panatelas are known as gran panatelas. Many have pigtail caps.
Stickers or seals affixed to the box’s outer hinge or side. Part of the papeleta is usually found stuck to the top of the box while the rest of it wraps down over to the rear larguero section of the box or down the sides. It must be sliced with a tool in order to open the box.
A straight-sided cigar, such as coronas, panetelas and lonsdales. Cigars that are not straight sided are called figurados.
A prime tobacco growing area in Cuba.
Passive Humidification System
A system of humidification that does not need a battery pack or electrical outlet to function.
The process of coating tiny tobacco seeds in an inert material, such as clay, to make them easier to handle. Not all tobacco seeds are pelletized.
This colorfully named tobacco (translated from the Spanish, it means “hair of gold”) is not terribly common in the cigar industry. The Cuban seed is from old-time Cuba, and while it’s prized for flavor it is not hardy in the face of disease, so it can be difficult to grow. Some modern-day cigarmakers grow it in Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica.
A distinctive cigar shape that is closed at both ends, with a rounded head; usually with a bulge in the middle.
A small cigar, known as a mareva in a Cuban cigar factory. Petit coronas vary in size, but the Cuban standard is 5 1/8 inches long by 42 ring gauge. The Montecristo No. 4, one of the world’s most popular cigars, is a petit corona.
Used mainly in machine-made cigars, picadura, or short-filler tobacco (sometimes called chop) consists of chopped scraps of leaf. Short filler burns quicker and hotter than long filler. A small number of cigars are made by hand with a blend of short and long-filler tobaccos. These are known as mixed-fill cigars or Cuban sandwiches.
A cutter with a pointed, sharp end used to pierce a small hole in the closed end of a cigar. Also called a lance. Lances and piercers are relatively uncommon today.
The term for a large pile of tobacco, arranged for fermentation. Pilónes can be enormous, weighing 3,500 or even 4,000 pounds or more. After curing in a curing barn, or casa de tabaco, the tobacco is brought into a warehouse and assembled in bunches of leaves called hands, and made into a pilón. The process of assembly is called empilónando.
The leaves sit flat in a pilón, one on top of the other, with boards, cardboard or old tobacco stems beneath. The weight of the tobacco and the moisture in the leaf (as well as moisture that is added by workers before assembling the pilón) creates heat, which causes fermentation to begin, changing the chemical structure of the tobacco, removing impurities such as ammonia and rendering the tobacco smokeable. When the desired temperature is reached, workers break down the pilón and rebuild it. This process is repeated again and again, and can last for months or longer.
This term is used widely in Cuba, and by Cubans in other countries, but there are many terms to describe the same thing. Others call the piles burros (pronounced BURR-ohs), bulks, or trojes (TROH-heys). Another variation is to call a pile of tobacco that has been removed of its stems a burro.
A popular variety of Cuban-seed tobacco grown in the Dominican Republic.
Pinar del Río
The area of Western Cuba where Cuba’s finest cigar tobacco is grown.
A blockage that sometimes occurs in the tobacco that can prevent a cigar from drawing properly. A plug can sometimes be alleviated by gently massaging the cigar.
Plume, which is also called bloom, is a naturally occurring phenomenon in the cigar aging process. Oils that exude from the tobacco in a finished cigar will appear as a fine white powder and can be brushed off without leaving a mark. Plume is not to be confused with mold, which has color to it and stains the wrapper.
A Cuban cigar made before Fidel Castro's rise to power in January 1959. Like pre-Castro cigars, these cigars are considerably valuable. Many are rated in Connoisseur’s Corner, a special tasting section about aged cigars.
A Cuban cigar made before President Kennedy enacted the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba in 1962. Like pre-Castro cigars, these cigars are considerably valuable. Many are rated in Connoisseur’s Corner, a special tasting section about aged cigars.
Various presses are used in a cigar factory and/or a tobacco warehouse. Hand powered presses are used to help give the shape to cigars that go into wooden or plastic molds. These presses are either vertical or horizontal. The horizontal ones are arranged between roller and buncher, so workers don’t need to get up from their stations to get cigars. This practice was developed in the Dominican Republic. Some larger factories use a pneumatic system to power the press instead of a hand crank. Hand presses are also used to make trunk pressed cigars, which are squared off on the edges. (These cigars are commonly, and erroneously, called box-pressed cigars.) Larger, hydraulic presses are employed in the tobacco packing area to create tobacco bales.
The rows of leaves on a tobacco plant. The number of primings varies, but six is average. The first priming is closest to the ground, the sixth is near the top. The higher the priming, the stronger the tobacco. Most fine cigar tobacco is harvested by priming. Workers always harvest from the bottom of the plant up, taking two to three leaves at a time. The lowest level of priming, known as sand leaf, or libre de pie, is often discarded. A few days go by between priming harvests, allowing the plant to further mature.
A group of cigarmakers in the Dominican Republic that throw an annual festival.
The Cuban cigar factory term for a double corona, a big cigar that generally measures 7 1/2 to 8 inches by a 49 to 52 ring gauge. The most famous one is the Hoyo de Monterrey Double Corona from Cuba, which once scored 99 points in a Cigar Aficionado taste test.
A liquid used to help maintain humidity in a traditional humidification device such as a Credo and other devices that operate using foam. When mixed 50/50 with distilled water, it is called Special Solution.
A category of cigar cutter (see photo) that creates a hole in the closed head of a cigar. Gently twisting and pressing with just the right amount of pressure removes a small amount of cap, typically in the form of a circle. This method is especially appealing to those who don’t wish to have the sensation of the cut cigar in their mouth, as it maintains much of the cap while allowing smoke to reach the smoker. Care must be taken not to press too hard, which can damage the cigar. Examples include bullet cutters, bull’s eye cutters. These cutters work best on parejos, or straight sided cigars. Creative uses have been employed on figurados, particularly on the La Flor Dominicana Chisel, where smokers have made circular cuts in the wedge-shaped head, creating an interesting way of smoking the cigar.
The act of blowing smoke from the head of the cigar and out the foot. Some say it’s a way to prevent the build up of unwanted flavors, others think it does not help the smoke.
Puro (PURR-oh, or POO-roh)
A Spanish term for a cigar. Modern usage refers to a cigar blended with tobaccos from a single country. All Cuban cigars use 100 percent Cuban tobacco, so all Cuban cigars, according to modern usage, are puros.
A sharply tapered cigar with a wide, open foot and a closed head.
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