Whether you are new to the world of cigars or have been lighting up your favorite sticks for years, there is a wealth of cigar lingo for you to familiarize yourself with.
Finding a stogie that satisfies your smoking soul can be difficult if you’re unsure about some of the most common (and less used) cigar terms that are used within the industry.
We’ve compiled this extensive cigar glossary for when you need a quick and easy reference to ensure no smoking terminology will pass you by.
Active humidification system
Battery-powered or electric devices used to maintain humidity in larger humidors (cabinets) or walk-in humidors you find in cigar shops. They do this by expelling humidified air and recirculating dry air.
A person with a love and enthusiasm for cigars (not to be confused with a connoisseur).
The process of resting tobacco for months or several years under precisely monitored conditions to meld the flavors of the individual tobaccos and shed any impurities within the tobacco.
Cigar makers will usually age the tobacco in its whole leaf form as bales for an extended period (typically up to five years) before rolling it into the finished product. Cigars can also be placed in a home humidor for additional aging after purchase.
Typically made of Spanish cedar, aging rooms are a dedicated space in a cigar factory where cigars rest for an extended period of time. This allows the tobaccos sufficient time to harmonize flavors and for the cigars to mellow.
Ammonia is a natural byproduct of the fermentation process that leaves an unpalatable sourness if the tobaccos haven’t been properly cured and fermented. After rolling, cigars tend to be aged to help rid the leaves of any ammonia still present.
Also called a “bouquet,” the aroma of a cigar is the smell it emits once toasted. Great cigars typically have alluring aromas that perfume the room. However, the aroma will generally be most potent as you’re smoking, as this is when the smoke is closest to your nose, allowing you to appreciate the aromas and flavors of the smoke.
Cigar ash is the ash produced by the cigar as it is smoked. Its function is to act as a filter to the cigar, stopping as much oxygen reaching the end of the cigar to reduce the burning temperature and cool the smoke. The ash also allows the aromas and flavors of the tobacco to develop.
A ring of paper that wraps around the top portion of a cigar to give it decoration and identity. Cigar bands contain information about the cigar — typically the name of the brand, country of origin, and whether it is hand-rolled. They also often exhibit a unique logo and specific colors to help a brand distinguish its products from other competitors.
Some cigars have secondary bands at the foot of the stogie to add visual appeal or communicate further information about the stogie (for example, wrapper varietal, or if it’s a limited edition).
A short, robust pyramid-shaped cigar similar to a Torpedo, but capped with a more rounded taper at the head.
The binder is tobacco leaf (or leaves) used to keep the filler in place and separate it from the wrapper. It’s main objective is to provide structure (rather than taste) and help the cigar burn evenly.
The blend of tobaccos that go into a cigar, used to tantalize the smoker’s palate. Think of it as a recipe that contains a unique combination of flavor notes, subtleties, and complexities. A single blend can consist of tobaccos from multiple farms and tobacco-growing regions.
A fast rolling method commonly used for cigars made in Honduras. The cigarmaker layers the filler leaves on top of one another, so they resemble pages in a book and then rolls them up in a scroll. Booking is quicker than other rolling methods, but can cause issues with a cigar’s draw if done incorrectly.
The smell or nose of the cigar produced by a collective of aromas. Unlike an aroma, a bouquet can also refer to the odor of a box of a cigars or an unlit cigar.
Boutique cigars are produced in small or limited batches and typically offer a different experience from what is usual. For example, using a variety of tobaccos to deliver a truly unique flavor.
A cigar is classed as boutique if fewer than one million are produced a year, with a strict emphasis on high-quality controls standards (usually hand-rolled) to ensure each stick is made to exacting standards.
Box aging is a way to enhance the qualities of a cigar and preserve it integrity. Similar to how wine can be improved with age in the bottle, cigars can be aged for years in the box they are packaged to maintain their original tastes and aroma.
Boxed pressed cigars are tightly packed in a box to give them their square shape. They divide cigar enthusiasts around the globe, with some finding the shape uncomfortable to smoke, while others believe it allows them to take in more air with each draw and amplifies the flavor of the tobacco.
An economic packaging method where bundles of cigars are wrapped in cellophane rather than a wooden box. Bundles usually contain 25 or 50 cigars, traditionally without bands.
Butane is a colorless, odorless gas that burns “clean.” It’s the preferred lighter fuel for cigar smokers as it doesn’t interfere with the taste of a cigar. Use high-quality, filtered butane to refill your lighters so it doesn’t clog the jets.
Considered to be the mildest wrapper with their sweet, grassy flavors, Candela wrappers are easy to recognize because of their green color. The green wrapper leaf is achieved by speedily fire-curing the tobacco to lock in the plant’s natural chlorophyll content. To do this, cigar makers seal the curing barn and increase the heat.
A cigar burning fault where one side of your stogie burns hotter and faster than the other, making a burnout canoe effect. To fix the issue, you can try re-lighting the side that’s burning at a slower rate or apply a little moisture to the fast-burning side to slow it down. You can read our guide on fixing cheap cigar problems for more details.
A piece of wrapper leaf that covers the head of the cigar to keep the wrapper and its contents from unravelling. Before you smoke a stogie, the cap has to be cut. There are different varieties of caps including the pigtail, flag cap, and triple cap — the latter style was originally popular with Cuban cigars.
Cedar (Spanish cedar in particular) is considered the best wood for a cigar humidor. It is naturally mold and rot resistant, while its excellent moisture-absorption qualities help keep cigars fresh and flavorful for longer periods. It has also been proven to act as a repellant against tobacco beetles.
The aroma of Spanish cedar has always been considered the perfect complement to the delicate yet complex bouquet of cigar tobacco. Finally, cedar is one of the most prominent cigar tasting notes.
A traditional method to light a cigar using a long, thin strip of cedar (known as a cedar spill). The spill is lit from a match or lighter, and the flame is then used to light the cigar. Not only does the spill add a welcome hint of cedar flavor, but it also ensures no impurities can ruin the burn rate and natural flavor of your stogie.
Originating in India and Burma, Cheroots are small, rustic-looking smokes that are clipped at both ends. They are machine made with lower-quality tobacco leaves, but are popular because they can be smoked without a cigar cutter or lighter.
Usually less expensive than other cigars, cheroots are commonly associated with Clint Eastwood’s characters in the many Spaghetti Westerns he starred in.
Named after Britain’s war-time Prime Minister Winston Churchill (himself an avid cigar smoker), Churchill-sized cigars are high strength and traditionally 7 inches in length with a 47 ring gauge. They provide a long smoking duration, easily lasting an hour or longer.
Cigars saw a resurgence in the USA during the mid-1990s. Known as the cigar boom, imports and sales of premium smokes increased exponentially, causing manufacturers to struggle to keep up with demand. This led to industry-wide shortages of raw materials and finished products — at the height of the boom in 1997, imports peaked at 417.8 million cigars — nearly five times more than in 1993, according to the cigar association.
A portable container specifically designed to safely hold and transport a small number of cigars. They come in a variety of shapes and styles, and will typically accommodate anything from a single stogie up to six cigars.
A space to get together with friends and other like-minded individuals to relax, network, and enjoy some premium cigars. Many cigar lounges serve alcohol and food as well.
Cigarillo means “little cigar”. They generally contain about three grams of tobacco and are machine-made from dry-cured, short-filler tobaccos. Often packaged in tins for easy storage, they are short, thin, and burn quickly.
A popular cigar wrapper with a distinctive red-brown color. There are three shades of Colorado wrappers: Colorado, Claro, and Maduro.
Also called a dry draw, the cold draw is where you clip the cigar and suck air through prior to lighting to gain a preview of the flavor profile. It also prepares your palate for cigar flavor and smoke.
A cigar’s complexity is the flavor transitions you experience from the first light to the end of your smoke. A complex cigar will change in taste while you’re smoking it, stimulating different areas of your palate. For example, it might start off spicy and become creamy or vice versa. Less complex stogies maintain the same tasting notes from start to finish.
Known for their creamy and smooth flavor profile, Connecticut Shade wrappers are grown under shade in the Connecticut River Valley.
Being labeled a cigar connoisseur indicates a higher degree of expertise and knowledge. Where a cigar aficionado would fall into the category of cigar fan, connoisseurs are masters at detecting and judging the often highly subjective flavor notes and taste of cigars.
The process of preparing cigar tobacco immediately after it is harvested, curing involves hanging the leaves in curing barns. Moisture is gradually removed from the tobacco through controlled heat, with the leaves changing color over time from green, to yellow, then finally to brown.
Constructed in or very near tobacco fields, curing barns are where tobacco is stored after harvest for around 45 days. Inside the barn, heated air is generated to dry the leaves.
A tool designed to cut off the cap of the cigar in a clean and neat manner.
Referred to as “cigar country”, the Dominican Republic is the world’s largest cigar producer.
The draw is the amount of air pulled through a lit cigar. It can vary in handmade cigars, with some sticks packed too loose or tight, which affects the difficulty level of drawing the smoke through and the burning temperature.
A South American country prized for its outstanding wrapper leaf. It has three well-known groups of cigar wrappers (Connecticut, Habano, and Sumatra), all with their own distinctive characteristics.
A bunching technique that originated in Cuba, where the roller rolls the tobacco leaves into a straw or tube shape, creating tubes with excellent air flow.
Federal Excise Tax (FET)
The US FET is levied on cigars by the government as they are brought into the United States. It’s paid by the importer, and usually passed onto the consumer. While this used to be a modest number (less than five cents per stogie), it rose to 40.26 cents per cigar in April 2009 following the $32.8 billion expansion of the State Children’s Health Care Initiative (SCHIP).
The finish is the textures and flavor that linger in your mouth between draws. Lighter cigars won’t have a particularly intense finish, but stronger, fuller-bodied stogies have distinctive flavors that will remain on your palate for a while.
The individual tobacco leaves that make up the core body of the cigar. It produces the smoke and is a significant component in the stogie’s flavors.
Usually open, the foot is end of the cigar that you light.
A very big cigar that generally measures 9 1/4 inches by 47 ring gauge. It will comfortably give you a 90+ minute smoke time.
The closed end of the cigar that goes in your mouth when smoking.
One of the four largest handmade cigar producing nations (along with Cuba, Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua). Honduran stogies typically have earthy and spicy flavor profiles.
A storage box for cigars designed to maintain the optimum temperature and humidity for your cigars so they remain at their best. Spanish cedar is commonly used for cigar humidor construction.
A common practice among cigarette smokers, remember to never inhale the smoke from cigars as the tobacco is much stronger and can provoke coughing.
One of Nicaragua’s three main tobacco growing areas, the Jalapa Valley is known for its red and clay like soil that produces subtle, elegant tobacco. Most of the tobacco grown here is used as wrappers.
The strongest variety of filler tobacco, ligero leaves are located near the top of the tobacco plant. This means they receive the most sunlight and develop a lot of oil, giving them an extremely potent flavor.
A small, portable device used to light up cigars.
Filler tobacco made from whole leaves or large pieces, which run the length of the body of the cigar. Cigars with long filler usually denote that the cigar is handmade.
An under-filled stogie is described as loose, meaning too much air passes through it on the draw. Cigars with a loose draw will usually burn too fast and hot, causing harsh flavors.
Spanish for “ripe,” a Maduro is a dark wrapper shade that ranges from dark brown to midnight black. This shade is achieved through sun exposure or an extended fermentation. One of the most flavorsome wrapper hues, they often have a chocolate or peppery taste to them.
Another important country to the cigar industry, Mexico is best known for being a tobacco-growing hotspot. San Andres Valley with its rich, fertile volcanic soil is its most famous region, producing a naturally dark and hearty wrapper. It lies between a pair of inoperative volcanoes.
Cigars stored at too high a temperature will develop mold, making them unsmokable. Because this blue or green fungus is technically alive, it can ruin your cigar collection by growing and spreading to other cigars. If you discover mold on one of your stogies, discard it immediately.
A wrapper that is medium brown in color. Grown in direct sunlight and left to age before cultivation, many Connecticut Shade wrappers are classic examples of a natural cigar wrapper.
A world leader in cigar production, Nicaragua also has the perfect conditions for growing tobacco, thanks to its warm, humid climate and nutrient-rich, volcanic soil.
It has three key tobacco-growing regions (Condega, Estelí, and Jalapa), with Nicaraguan stogies making for excellent puros due to the wide variety of tobacco grown in this Central American country.
Also known as the retrohale, nosing is the act of pushing cigar smoke out through your nose after a puff. It can take your cigar experience to a new level by enabling you to judge the power of the smoke and sense more flavors in the cigar.
The sign of a well-aged and humified cigar is the display of a sheen of oil on the surface of the wrapper. The natural oils are a highly-desirable trait and add some fantastic flavors.
Meaning “dark” in Spanish, an oscuro cigar wrapper is the darkest shade. Almost black in color, they offer an intense, rich, and unique flavor.
A straight-sided stogie with a rounded head, Parejos are the most common and traditional cigar shape.
Perfectos are a type of cigar with an unconventional shape. They are tapered at both ends, typically with a bulge in the middle.
Not to be confused with mold, plume is a powdery white substance derived from the natural oils in the cigar. It is harmless and can be easily brushed off your stogies.
A type of cigar cutter that creates a small hole in the cigar’s head, rather than fully removing the cap.
A method used to eliminate the build-up of unwanted flavors, purging is where you blow smoke from the head of the cigar out through the foot.
A cigar where the filler, binder, and wrapper are rolled only from tobaccos grown in a single country.
Measured in 64ths of an inch, the ring gauge refers to the diameter of a cigar. For example, a standard Robusto is 5 inches by a 50 ring gauge, or 50/64ths of an inch thick.
The most popular cigar size in the world, Robusto cigars are your standard 5 x 50 smoke. Not too short or too thick, they are a safe starting point for entry level smokers.
Spanish for “rose-colored,” Rosado is a rare type of cigar wrapper with a reddish tine that’s prized for its flavor.
Harvested from the mid-section of the plant, seco are the mildest and thinnest leaves on a tobacco plant.
Also known as tapado, shade grown tobacco is grown under the shade of a cheesecloth tent. The tent filters the sunlight, creating a thinner and more elastic leaf that’s less potent in flavor than sun grown tobacco.
Sometimes called chopped-filler, short-filler consists of chopped scraps of leaf. They burn hotter and quicker than long filler, and are predominantly used in cheap machine-made smokes.
The curved section or rounded area of a cigar’s anatomy where the cap meets the wrapper. It’s always recommended to cut your stogie above the shoulder so the bottom portion of the cap remains intact.
The period of time a cigar will burn for. Smoking times vary depending on the type of cigar and its size — thinner cigars burn faster and hotter than thick cigars.
Considered an excellent wood for building humidors because of its humidity absorption and resistance to mold, Spanish cedar can help your cigars fresh for longer periods. It comes from the mahogany family (Meliaceae).
A tobacco-harvesting technique where the entire stalk is cut at the base, rather than the leaves being removed sporadically. It is then hung by it stalk to cure in a barn.
A cheap, beginner-friendly smoke. The term originates from the long, thin cigars smoked by drivers of Conestoga wagons in the 1700s and 1800s.
Sun grown tobacco is grown out in a field and exposed to direct sunlight, creating a thicker leaf with thicker veins. All filler tobacco is sun grown, which results in a fuller, sweeter flavor and darker leaves.
Tobacco beetles hatch if the temperature inside a humidor rises above 72 degrees. They make tiny, perfectly circular holes in a cigar’s wrapper leaf, often forming a trail. A single beetle can ruin the entire contents of your humidor.
Pockets of oil that appear as tiny bumps in a cigar’s wrapper leaf. A cigar’s wrapper is sometimes described as being “toothy”, giving it a rough-textured feel.
Handy for lighting your stogie outdoors, a torch lighter is fueled by butane gas to create an air-propelled, ultra-hot flame. This makes it practical for toasting the foot of a cigar quickly and performing touch-ups when a portion of your cigar burns unevenly.
Usually 6 to 6.5 inches in length by a 50 to 54 ring gauge, a Toro-sized cigar is ideally suited for a good hour’s enjoyment.
A cigar that’s shaped like the military weapon of the same name, it features a pointed head, a closed foot, and a bulge in the middle.
A Cuban-style cigar head that uses two extra pieces of wrapper leaf to close the head, giving a three-seam cap. This ensures the stick is secure and has less chance of unraveling.
An uneven burn issue, where the cigar filler burns faster than the wrapper tobacco, causing a tunnel to develop on the inside of the cigar.
A cigar that doesn’t contain enough filler tobacco. Underfilled cigars will burn hot too fast and produce a substandard smoking experience.
Using a v-cutter, a v-cut gauges a “V-shape” opening in the head of the cigar. This results in a more concentrated draw.
A style of cigar cutter used to cut a “V-shape” wedge out of the tip of your cigar.
A structural part of the tobacco leaf that is sometimes visible on cigar wrappers. Veiny cigar wrappers are undesirable and are indicative of rushed curing — veins are typically stripped from the wrapper by the manufacturer.
A grade of filler tobacco, viso leaf is less intense than ligero but more powerful than seco.
A cigar factory term that refers to the shape of your stogie.
The outermost part of the cigar that holds the filler and binder together. It provides an aesthetically pleasing finish and contributes to a cigar’s overall aroma and flavor.
The process of laying stalk-cut tobacco on the ground to wilt in the sun, after it has been harvested. The wilted tobacco is then speared on a lathe and hung in a curing barn.