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2011 Big Smoke Saturday Seminars: Size Matters

Jack Bettridge
Posted: November 2, 2011

The final cigar seminar on Saturday was a discussion of shapes and sizes in the cigar world, dubbed Size Matters. “I’m not going to have any double entendres in this seminar,” said co-moderator Gordon Mott with a smile, before unveiling a massive La Flor Dominicana cigar called the Digger. The cigar, 60-ring gauge by 8 1/2 inches long, is the size of a club.

The panelists consisted of Litto Gomez of La Flor Dominicana, maker of the Digger; Mike Giannini from La Gloria Cubana, which has built a reputation for crafting unusual shapes, such as one modeled after the Monument to the Heroes of the Restoration in Santiago, Dominican Republic, and Rocky Patel of Rocky Patel Premium cigars, which makes a Salomone.

Discussion covered the new shapes and sizes that are being marketed as well as how the dimensions of a cigar affect how it smokes and tastes. The subject also ranged to production problems attendant to odd cigars.

Patel pointed out that the relative size and shape of a cigar is often driven by the kind of leaf that goes into it. Quite logically, broader, larger leaves lend themselves to large cigars, he said, while smaller leaves are best used on a smaller cigar.

Gomez added that while his Digger is only an inch or so longer, it required a long development period for rollers to perfect the size.

A trend toward larger cigars with fat ring gauges has been alive for the last four years or so, Patel said, with six-inch by 60-ring-gauge being the trendy size. “I can spot who’s going to smoke a 6 by 60 cigar when they walk through the cigar shop door,” he added.

Michael Giannini addresses the Big Smoke audience.
General Cigar's Michael Giannini.

Gomez has one of the more distinctive and unusual sizes on the market, the La Flor Dominicana Chisel, and he described how it was created. He was driving to his factory in the Dominican Republic one morning while chewing on a figurado, something he rarely does. After 10 minutes of driving and chewing, the cigar was feeling very comfortable in his mouth. When he looked at the end, it had taken on the distinctive chisel shape at the end.

Upon bursting into the factory, he requested they roll him a similar shape, which was done by chiseling a cigar with a blade. “I loved the way it performed,” said Gomez. Ten months later it was on the cigar-shop shelves.

When the question was asked if these special shapes and sizes go to the best rollers in a factory to shape, Giannini pointed out that rollers may be the most skilled at making a certain type of cigar, but not necessarily every shape or size made.

Gomez added that the girth of a cigar might also suggest the type of leaves used in it. Chubby robustos might best accommodate thick, oily ligero leaves, he said.

At the same shaping of cigars is often suggested or contradicated by the leaf. Patel said that thin Connecticut Shade tobacco was a poor choice for a pressed cigar as the leaf is so easily ripped when it undergoes the necessary molding to get that shape. He also revealed that box pressing was not just a cosmetic treatment for a cigar, but that it had very real taste effects as the pressing action takes the air out of the leaves. All agreed the size and shape of a cigar had enormous effect on taste even when the same blend was used.

Gomez said that most of the time it took to develop an odd size or shaped cigar was due to the rolling learning curve. Once it is designed a large number of rollers have to perfect a shape so it can be produced in large enough quantity to be marketed.

Rocky Patel of Rocky Patel Premium Cigars.
Rocky Patel of Rocky Patel Premium Cigars.

The panelists agreed that the size and shape of the cigars we smoke often depends on the retailers and their preference for what to sell. For instance, there seems to be resistance from the stores for the long lancero shape. All agreed as well that presentation inside cellophane wrappers was an affectation done for the benefit of the retailer, who is trying to protect his stock from those who handle cigars while choosing them.

Giannini said that to a great extent, the impetus to forever push the envelope in regard to unusual shapes and sizes comes from the consumer. And, he added, the push from the market for new formats is one that he enjoys catering to. “We just want to have fun.”

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