4 Inches or 9 Inches? Thick or thin? Is Bigger Really Better?
In cigars, as in real life, there's much ado about size. But does it really make a difference? Should you expect a thick and intimidating nine-incher to be better than a modest four-and-a-half?
In this article, we address the size issue. We'll teach you how to 'measure up' and how the big and the little really compare.
Know Your Shapes
In any discussion of size, shape (or 'format') is an important factor.
First there are the standard cylindrical cigars, called 'Parejos.' These more traditional cigars typically have an open 'foot' (the bit you light) and a closed 'head' (the bit you snip off before putting it in your mouth).
Then there are the more exotic and irregularly shaped 'Figurados'. From pyramid shaped to rope to torpedo, the Figurados are all good fun. Different manufacturers use different names, but the below should do you for starters.
Size it Up
So now we get down to it. But first a little about units. In the U.S., U.K. and Cuba, you measure length in inches and diameter by 64ths of an inch ('ring gauge'). So a cigar with a ring gauge of 45 has a diameter of 45/64ths of an inch. (Some countries use centimeters for length and millimeters for diameter. But, in this article, we'll keep it simple and use inches and ring gauge.)
Oh. One other thing: fine cigars aren't graded by weight. In fact, the only time they're weighed is in the factory, for quality control.
Petit Corona: At the incy-end of town, we have the Petit Corona. It's usually only 4 1/2 inches long, with a ring gauge of 40 to 42.
Corona: This is your stock-standard Parejo. Typical dimensions are 5 1/2 to 6 inches with a ring gauge of 42 to 44.
Churchill: Essentially just a big Corona, usually 7 inches long with a 48 ring gauge.
Robusto: Think of it as a stocky Churchill. Becoming increasingly popular, the Robusto is usually 5 to 5 1/2 inches long and has a 50 ring gauge.
Corona Gorda: Kind of a long Robusto or Robusto 'extra', the Corona Gorda's popularity actually preceded that of the Robusto. Its traditional measurements are 5 5/8 inches long with a 46 ring gauge.
Double Corona: The name says it all! Standard dimensions are an impressive 7 1/2 to 8 inches long with a substantial 49 to 52 ring gauge.
Panetela: Like a long and slinky Corona, the Panetela was very popular in the 1990s. Length varies from 5 to 7 1/2 inches and diameter from 34 to 38 ring gauge.
Lonsdale : Thicker than a Panetela and longer than a Corona, the Lonsdale is usually 6 3/4 inches long with a ring gauge of 42 to 44.
Pyramid: Aptly named, the Pyramid has a broad, open foot, tapering sharply to a closed head. Pyramids are usually 6 to 7 inches long with a ring gauge of about 52 to 54 at the foot and about 40 at the head.
Belicoso: The Belicoso used to be a genuine short Pyramid, 5 or 5 1/2 inches long with a slightly more rounded head and a ring gauge of 50 or less. These days, however, many are little more than Coronas or Corona Gordas with a tapered head.
Torpedo: The imaginatively named Torpedo features a closed foot, a pointed head and a bulge in the middle.
Perfecto: The Perfecto is similar to a Torpedo, with a closed foot and a bulging middle. The big difference is its rounded head. They vary in length more than just about any other cigar, starting at 4 1/2 inches and going all the way to 9 inches. They also vary considerably in thickness, from 38 to 48 ring gauge.
Culebra: Somewhat rare, these days, the Culebra (or 'rope') is one of the more exotic Figurados. It's actually three Panetelas braided together and presented as one cigar. But it's not smoked as one; you unbraid it first (perfect for sharing with your two closest cigar-aficionados!!!). Culebras are usually 5 to 6 inches long with a 38 ring gauge.
Diademas: The big daddy of the Figurado world! Diademas are a tapered cigar, usually 8 inches plus, with a closed head (ring gauge 40) and a foot that's sometimes open, sometimes closed (a hefty 52 ring gauge, or more).
Size Versus Strength
So now, the verdict... There are many myths about size and strength, most suggesting that the bigger the cigar, the stronger. The truth is, there's no correlation between size and strength at all! Some large cigars are made with mild tobacco, so they're mellow. Conversely, some small cigars are made with strong tobacco, so they really pack a punch.
And to top it off, there's no format consistency from brand to brand. Compare two Lonsdales from two different companies, and they'll most likely taste entirely different.
The moral to the story? Experiment, shop around, trust your tastes, and above all, have fun!
And that's the long and the short of it!