Glossary of Cigar Terms
A member of the diadema group of cigars, these very large figurados have pointed, tapered heads and bulbous feet with a nipple tip (see photo). The Cuaba Salomone measures 7 1/4 inches by 57 ring gauge. Due to their curves and the size, they are very hard cigars to roll, demanding a lot of skill and time. A top roller can make only about 50 or 60 in a day. The modern Salomone was the brainchild of Christopher Wolters, an energetic cigar merchant from Dusseldörf, Germany. The Partagas factory discreetly made a limited production of the cigars in the mid-1990s. Only 5,000 of the large figurados were produced. They were sold in individually numbered, specially designed wooden humidors (all different in style), each with two bundles of 25 cigars each. They retailed for about $10,000 in the beginning and continue to sell for about the same price in auctions and from private individuals. Wolters said at the time that "the idea was to keep the Cubans making such wonderfully shaped cigars" and that he wanted "to keep the tradition going" for figurados.
San Andres Negro
A stalk-cut variety of tobacco grown in Mexico’s San Andres Valley. It makes superb maduro leaf and is used around the cigarmaking world.
A tobacco hybrd grown in the Dominican Republic. San Vicente plants yield more leaves than Piloto Cubano (Cuban seed) plants, but purists say San Vicente lacks the flavor of Piloto.
The tiny leaves that grow at the lowest level of tobacco on a plant. Sand leaf is often not used, and discarded. It also goes by the name libre de pie.
The heart of Dominican cigar production.
A string used to hold tobacco in place in less sophisticated tobacco curing barns.
The $32.8 billion expansion of the State Children’s Health Care Initiative, which was funded by an increase in the federal excise tax on cigars, the tax paid to the U.S. government on cigars as they are brought into the United States. Signed into law in 2009, the SCHIP expansion went into effect in April 2009, and boosted the federal excise tax on large cigars from less than five cents per cigar to 40.26 cents per cigar. Some cigar companies didn’t increase prices, but most did.
An elegant tool for cutting cigars (see photo). A pair of fine cigar scissors lacks portability, and can be hard to master at first, but when used properly it delivers a precision cut with style. They are typically made of stainless steel, with long arms ending in small, curved blades with blunt ends. These are quite specific tools: a normal pair of scissors is not an acceptable substitute and can destroy your cigar.
Seco is the mildest grade of filler tobacco. It is also the thinnest. Viso is stronger and thicker, and ligero is the strongest, thickest grade of tobacco.
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.
Tobacco seeds are planted to create seedlings. In about 60 days, a seed will turn into a seedling a few inches tall that's ready to plant. The crudest form of seedling plot is planted directly in the ground. When it's time to move to the field proper, the tiny plant is dug up and then replanted, a traumatic process that results in great mortality of seedlings. Raised beds provide better results, and planting in trays makes it better still, for the root balls slip fairly effortlessly from the trays and are ready to go into the ground. At that stage, cigar tobacco grows at a furious pace. It takes about two months for a seedling to grow into a mature plant, depending on the type of plant. Once harvested, it spends another 40 to 60 or so days in a curing barn. After that, it's time to ferment, and then to age.
Semi Boite Nature
A plain cedar cigar box that has two rear hinges and a brooch style clasp.
The Cuban term for tobacco seed.
Wrapper leaves that have been grown under a tent, also known as tapado (see photo). The filtered sunlight creates a thinner, more elastic leaf. The practice of growing under shade originated in the Connecticut River Valley in 1900. The original tents were made of cheesecloth, but today nylon is the preferred material.
For more, see Slideshow: Harvesting Connecticut Wrapper
Photo by Sarina Finkelstein
Used mainly in machine-made cigars, short-filler tobacco (also known as picadura, or 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.
The slightly curved or rounded area of a cigar where the cap meets the body. If you cut into or below the shoulder, the cigar will begin to unravel.
An individual cigar. Buying cigars as singles, rather than by the box, has become increasingly common since the early 1990s.
Slide Lid Box
Slide lid boxes, also known as cabinet selection boxes, are wooden boxes with sliding tops, designed to hold 25 or 50 cigars, often wrapped with a ribbon. 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.
A five-inch long cigar with a 50 ring gauge, such as a robusto, should provide anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes of smoking pleasure. A double corona, a 7 1/2-inch cigar with a 50 ring gauge, may give over an hour's worth of smoking time. A thinner cigar, such as a lonsdale, smokes in less time than a cigar with a 50 ring gauge.
The type of wood that is used to make most cigar boxes and humidors. Spanish cedar 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.
A solution of 50 percent water, 50 percent propylene glycol used to recharge traditional humidification devices such as Credos and other devices that operate using foam. Its presence will keep water from evaporating beyond 70 percent relative humidity.
A strip of Spanish cedar used for lighting a cigar in a very fashionable, formal way. A 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.
A variety of tobacco harvest where the entire plant is cut, rather than the leaves being removed a few at a time, as in priming. Connecticut broadleaf and Mexican San Andres Negro are two varieties of cigar tobacco that are stalk cut.
After cutting, the plants are allowed to wilt, then are speared on lathes that are tipped with sharp spear heads (see photos at right to view the process.)
The spears piece the stalks and hold the tobacco plant in place. They are then hung upside down in tobacco curing barns, or casas de tabacos, and allowed to cure.
Photos by David Savona
The stem of a tobacco leaf is very thick, and need to be completely or partially removed before the leaves can be rolled into cigars. For binder and wrapper tobacco, workers remove the entire stem, either by hand or by using a machine made specifically for such an action. For filler tobacco, a worker strips the bottom two thirds or so of the stem, leaving a leaf that somewhat resembles a frog looked at from above, so such leaves are known as frog’s legs. Stemming is also sometimes called destemming.
A slang term for any type of cigar, often used to describe cheap or roughly made cigars. The term comes from the long, thin cigars smoked by drivers of Conestoga wagons in the 1700s and 1800s.
Undesired shoots that grow from tobacco plants. Suckers can be removed by hand by workers in tobacco fields (as seen in this video footage.) The growth of suckers robs the plant of nutrients that would normally be directed to the flower or the tobacco leaves. Removing the suckers allows the leaves to grow bigger and better.
Suggested Retail Price
The price suggested by a cigar brand owner or distributor for their product. The price includes the federal excise tax charged on cigars, but does not include state tobacco taxes or sales taxes, thus the price can vary greatly on the same cigar sold state-to-state. Cigar Aficionado magazine publishes suggested retail prices in its ratings.
Tobacco grown in direct sunlight, which creates a thicker leaf with thicker veins. All filler tobacco is sun grown. Today many types of wrapper tobacco are grown in the open sunlight, which results in fuller flavor and darker leaves. In some regions of the world, such as Ecuador and parts of Indonesia, cloud cover negates the need for shade.
Photo by Barry Abrams
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