Glossary of Cigar Terms
A Cuban term for a tobacco grower.
A sticker or seal affixed on the edge of the box’s lid right over the nail. Part of the Tapaclavo is found stuck to the top of the outer lid while the rest of it wraps down to the front section, known as the larguero. It must be sliced with a tool in order to open the box.
A Spanish term for the tent under which shade-grown wrapper leaf is cultivated (see photo). The cover was traditionally made of cheesecloth, today it is made of nylon. It takes some 5,000 yards of shade to cover an acre of tobacco.
The person at Cigar Aficionado who buys cigars at retail, removes them of their identifying bands, and codes them for blind testing. The Tasting Coordinator is the only person who knows the code, and is not a taster.
Cigars are taxed at various rates, which are typically passed onto the consumer. All cigars sold in the United States are accessed a federal excise tax when imported. The federal excise tax on large cigars used to be modest, less than five cents per cigar, until April 2009 when the $32.8 billion expansion of the State Children’s Health Care Initiative (SCHIP) caused the federal excise tax to balloon to 40.26 cents per cigar. Some companies didn’t increase prices, but most did. Most states charge a tobacco tax, which is assessed at the cash register. Taxes are one of the reasons why cigars may seem more expensive at the cigar shop than they appear in Cigar Aficionado magazine.
A hand-powered bunching machine device consisting of a leather pad, metal handle and guides that aids in the creation of the bunch. These devices are used practically everywhere in the Dominican Republic, but are rare in Central America and not used in Cuba. The devices are also known as Liebermans.
Large, palm bark-wrapped bales (see photo) used for aging fermented cigar tobacco in some cigar factories.
Photo by David Savona
A popular type of flat, rectangular cigar box with 13 cigars on top and 12 on the bottom, with a spacer. The boxes are typically closed with a brass nail. These boxes are also known as flat tops. They are part of the group of cigar boxes known as dress boxes or semi plain boxes, which are wood or cardboard, and are finished with overlays of decorative embossed paper, usually emblazoned with logos, seals and crests.
A Cuban-style of cigar head, also known as a mounted head or triple cap. These heads are flat, and have three seams. 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.
A tobacco beetle is the scourge of cigar smokers. The beetles eat cigar tobacco, and although they are very small they can ruin a cigar very easily. Beetles begin as eggs, and when the temperature inside a humidor rises above 72 degrees, the eggs can hatch and form beetles, which will burrow out of a cigar. If you see a tiny, perfectly circular hole in a cigar, or little canals, it’s a sure sign of a beetle problem. For more, check out the video below.
The name given to a bicycle used to roll up the cloth runner that stretches between rows of tobacco plants in certain Connecticut shade tobacco fields. A worker pedals the bike, which retrieves the cloth running, bringing in freshly harvested tobacco. This method minimizes the amount of travel between tobacco rows, reducing breakage of tobacco leaves. To see a video of the bike in action, see below.
A tiny object the size of a candy sprinkle, from which a tobacco plant will grow. A bottle cap worth of seeds can plant an entire cantero, or seed bed, measuring 90 feet long by three feet wide. The seeds are so small that many need to be pelletized, coated with an inert substance such as clay for easier handling. (The coating melts away when watered.) Many tobacco growers get their seeds by selecting their heartiest plants and harvesting the seeds from the flower that grows at the top of the plant. The 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. 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. In weight, a tobacco seed grows by a factor of 20 million in only 90 days. 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.
The most old-fashioned way of planting seed is 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.
The seeds' size make them quite easy to smuggle, one reason why Cuban seed has made innumerable trips from the island to such places as Nicaragua, Honduras and the Dominican Republic. Some companies, such as A.S.P. Enterprises Inc. in Miami, keep their seed locked in safes and grow sterile plants to ensure that competitors can't steal the product.
Tobacconists’ Association of America
A group of cigar shop retailers.
The grain pattern characteristic of less smooth wrapper leaf, such as leaf from Cameroon. The tooth appears as tiny, fine bumps, which are pockets of oils. Tobacco with tooth is called toothy wrapper.
The act of removing the flower, and sometimes the entire upper portion of a tobacco plant. This causes the tobacco plant to redirect its energies from creation of the flower (which contains tobacco seeds) to the tobacco leaves. Cigar tobacco plants that have been topped is referred to as desflorado. Topped tobacco is stronger than tobacco that has not been topped. Check out the video below for more.
Cigar Aficionado magazine’s annual ranking of the 25 best cigars of the year. To see the current ranking, and an archive of previous winners, click here.
A Spanish term for a cigarmaker.
A type of lighter that uses a jet of very hot flame to light your cigar. These are very handy for lighting outdoors.
An increasingly popular cigar size, toros or 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. For Cigar Aficionado's ratings on toros, click here.
A cigar shape that features a closed foot, a pointed head and a bulge in the middle.
Totalamente a Mano
Made totally by hand; a description found on cigar boxes. Much better than "Hecho a Mano" (made by hand, which can mean it is filled with machine-bunched filler), or "Envuelto a Mano" (packed by hand).
A mechanized device that enables a farmer to plant large amounts of tobacco in a relatively short amount of time. As a driver moves the transplanter, which is often pulled behind a tractor, the worker drops a tobacco seedling into a hopper. The transplanter digs a furrow for the seedling, puts it into the desired depth, adds water and then digs it into place. Some transplanters are set up several workers abreast, to plant a very large amount at one time. These devices are common in the Connecticut River Valley and Ecuador, but are far less prevalent elsewhere. They cannot be used on hilly plots of land.
The decorative trimming that runs along each edge of a cigar dress box. Also called filete.
The Spanish term for filler, the individual tobacco leaves used in the body of the cigar. The filler leaves are held together by the bunch. A fine cigar usually contains between two and five different types of filler tobacco. Handmade, premium cigars are typically made entirely from long-filler tobacco, which are whole leaves. Machine-made cigars are made from short-filler tobacco, chopped up leaves, which are the leftovers from handmade cigar production.
A Cuban-style of cigar head, also known as a mounted or three-seam cap (see photo). These heads are flat, and have three seams. 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.
A form of figurado where the foot is the thickest point and the cigar’s girth gradually narrows to the head. The shape is more common in Central America than anywhere else.
Trunk pressing takes box pressing to the extreme. Cigars are placed in wooden containers, with a wooden slat between each cigar. Pressure is applied from above, and the cigars are pressed, then later rotated. This pressing and rotation squares off the edges of a cigar to a dramatic degree, giving the cigars a very square shape. The process was popularized in the United States by Padrón Anniversary cigars. The practice is commonly called box pressing, which is technically incorrect.
Many cigars come packed in individual wood, metal or glass tubes. Metal, particularly aluminum, is the most common type of tube (or tubo), and the tube can be painted or unpainted. A tube can keep cigars fresh (although it’s hard to trust the seals on tubes, so Cigar Aficionado advises putting even tubed cigars in a humidor) and provides an attractive and protective covering for your cigar. Tubed cigars are particularly good for cigar smokers on the go. Most tubes come with a cedar sleeve so as to better preserve the flavor of the tobacco, thereby avoiding any metallic flavors that the aluminum may impart. Tubes come in two varieties: pull-top or screw cap.
Spanish for tube.
The unwelcome phenomenon of having your cigar burn unevenly. To prevent it, rotate your cigar now and then.
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