AGING: Aging cigar tobacco gives it more nuance, softens rough edges, and generally improves the product. Cigarmakers age fermented tobacco in bales, typically for two to several years.
AGING ROOM: A special room located in a cigar factory, where the walls are lined in Spanish cedar and inside, completed cigars are permitted to rest, so that their various tobaccos can reach a constant humidity level while their flavors blend.
AROMA: Is the smell from a burning cigar.
ASH: The burning end of a cigar.
BALE: A unit of storage for fermented cigar tobacco.
BAND: Paper ring surrounding the cigar and which contains the brand and logo. The Spanish term for band is anilla. Often and mistakenly confused with the vitola.
BINDER: The leaf that is rolled around the filler to hold it together. The Spanish term for binder is capote or capillo.
BLEND: The mixture of different types of tobacco in a cigar, including up to five types of filler leaves, one or two binder leaves and an outer wrapper. Some specialty cigars are made with two wrappers, but this is rare. To achieve complexity in a blend, a cigarmaker will use tobaccos grown in various countries, or from varying regions of one country. He will also use tobacco from different primings. In many factories, the blends are well-kept secrets passed down from father to son.
BOFETÓN: The protective sheet of paper that folds over the top layer of cigars packaged in a dress box. It is usually glued to the inside of the box and bears the brand’s logo. It’s the first thing you see when you open the box.
BOX AGING: Box aging refers to the time a cigar spends in the box after being rolled, which improves the qualities of a cigar, much as a fine wine can improve with age in the bottle.
BOX PRESS: Pressing or squaring off cigars, so that they are not round. The original purpose of box pressing was to keep the cigars from rolling off the table. Today many cigars are Square Pressed, which produces even sharper corners than the original box or Spanish press.
BROTHER OF THE LEAF: Brother of the leaf is a modern-day term to describe a fellow cigar smoker. It’s commonly shortened to BOTL.
BUNCH: The group of leaves that comprise the filler and binder before they are rolled into a wrapper.
BUNCHMAKER/BUNCHER: The person in a cigar factory who makes bunches.
BUNDLE: A packaging method, designed with economy in mind, that uses a cellophane overwrap. It usually contains 25 or 50 cigars, traditionally without bands. Bundles, oftentimes seconds of premium brands, are usually less expensive than boxed cigars.
BURRO: The term for a large pile of tobacco, arranged for fermentation.
CABINET BOX: A thick cedar box in which all of the wood is exposed and not covered with stickers or labels. Ink stampings or embossings are used instead.
CANOEING: A flaw in a cigar’s burn, in which a narrow strip burns quicker than the rest of the cigar, making a burnout canoe effect.
CANTERO: A term for a seedbed, the part of a farm where tobacco seedlings are grown.
CAP: The piece of tobacco that covers the head of the cigar; the end that you will ultimately clip. The Spanish term for cap is perilla.
CASA DE TABACO: A curing shed.
CASE: In the cigar production process, workers case, or slightly moisten, aged tobacco so that it will become supple and ready for manipulation. Some factories use a technique in which the leaves are bathed in a fine mist of water, others use huge rooms with extremely high humidity and others dip the stems of tobacco directly in water. The leaves are usually prepared a day in advance.
CEDAR: Type of wood that is used to make most cigar boxes and humidors. Cigars are aged in Spanish cedar lined aging rooms or in Spanish cedar boxes.
CEDAR SPILL: A strip of Spanish cedar used for lighting a cigar in a very fashionable, formal way.
CHAVETA: The flat and rounded blade used by cigar rollers to trim the various tobacco leaves during the construction of a cigar.
CHINCHAL: A small canary cigar factory.
CHOP: A slang term for short-filler tobacco, or picadura.
CIGAR CASE: A portable storage device for a small number of cigars.
CIGARDEN: A new term that refers to a landscaped backyard environment that has been specifically designed for cigar smoking.
CLARO: A pale-green to light-brown wrapper, usually shade-grown.
COFFIN: An elegant wooden box used to protect and display a single premium cigar.
COLD TASTE: The act of clipping a cigar and sucking air through the cigar prior to lighting. This can tell you if a cigar will draw, and it will also give you a first impression of how the cigar may taste after lighting.
COLORADO: A medium-brown to brownish-red shade of wrapper tobacco.
COLORADO CLARO: A medium-brown colored wrapper.
CONDITIONING: The process of spraying newly-arrived hands of tobacco, dry from storage, with water, so that the re-moisturized tobacco becomes pliable and easy to work with.
COSTERO: The lateral sides of a cigar box, which normally bear the brand name and other decorative elements.
CRIOLLO: A native variety of tobacco that is used to develop new and improved “hybrid” seeds.
CUBIERTA: The top surface or outer lid of a cigar box.
CUJE: A wooden pole used to hang freshly harvested tobacco leaves in a curing barn. The tobacco is held to the cuje using string that is sewn through each leaf.
CURING: The process by which freshly harvested tobacco leaves are hung in special sheds to remove moisture.
CUTTER: A device for preparing a handmade cigar for smoking by piercing or removing its cap, or head.
CUTTING BOARD: The laminated hardwood table of the bench on which cigars are made. Also referred to as La Tabla.
DESFLORADO: Tobacco that has been topped, or removed of its flower, seeds, and sometimes the entire upper portion of a tobacco plant. This causes the tobacco plant to redirect its energies from creation of the flower to the tobacco leaves. Topped tobacco is stronger than tobacco that has not been topped.
DESPALILLO: The Spanish term for deveining tobacco, which is the process that is more commonly called destemming or just stemming. The stem of a tobacco leaf is very thick, and needs 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.
DIPPING: A frowned upon method of dipping the end of your cigar in a glass of spirit. Don’t do it.
DOGHOUSE: The top vent in a tobacco curing barn. It remains open, to encourage air flow.
DOUBLE CLARO: A green shade of wrapper tobacco, achieved by a heat-curing process that fixes the chlorophyll content of the wrapper while it’s still in the barn.
DRAW: The amount of air that gets pulled through a lit cigar. It can be too easy or too tight.
DRAW TEST: A quality assurance test which measures the flow of air through the body of the cigar.
EMPILONADO: The process of making a burro of tobacco for fermentation.
ENSARTE: The process of hanging tobacco in a curing barn.
ESCAPARATES: Cooling cabinets in which cigars are kept at the factory for a few weeks after they have been rolled.
FACE: The side of a cigar that is banded. Cigars are made by hand, so one side might look better than the other. The color sorter selects the better side, places it that side up in a tray, and that is the side that bears the face of the cigar band.
FIGURADO: A Spanish term that refers to cigars with shapes sizes, such as belicosos, torpedos, piramides, perfectos and culebras.
FILETE: The decorative trimming that runs along each edge of a cigar dress box.
FILLER: A blend of tobacco that forms the thick center of a cigar and contributes to its overall taste. The Spanish term for filler is tripa.
FINISH: A tasting term. It refers to the taste that lingers on your palate after a puff.
FIRM: A term used to describe the draw of a cigar, or how the air moves through the cigar. A firm draw means extra effort is required to get the smoke from the cigar. Gently massaging the cigar may help improve the draw. Very firm cigars are considered faulty, and a plugged cigar is unsmokeable.
FLAG TIP: An extension of the wrapper leaf shaped to finish the head of a cigar; used instead of a cap. Flags are sometimes tied off in a pigtail or a curly head.
FOOT: The end of the cigar that you light. Also called the tuck end.
FROG’S LEGS: A cigar factory term for a leaf of filler tobacco that’s been stripped of most of its stem. The top third or so of the stem, nearest the tip of the leaf, is kept, the rest is stripped, leaving a leaf that somewhat resembles a frog looked at from above.
FUMA: Exclusive to us at General Cigar, this is an unfinished cigar made of one type of tobacco used primarily by the blender to determine the tobacco’s flavor and strength.
GUM: A flavorless, odorless vegetable adhesive used to secure the head of the wrapper leaf around the finished bunch. The Spanish term for gum is goma.
HAND: A hand of tobacco is a group of similar leaves, usually 20, that have been tied together at the bottom of their stems so that they are easy to transport within the factory.
HANDMADE: A cigar that has been bunched and rolled entirely by hand.
HAND ROLLED: A cigar in which the wrapper has been rolled onto the bunch by hand. Sometimes loosely used to designate a handmade cigar.
HEAD: The end of the cigar that is clipped. The head can take many forms, including round, flat, mounted, flag tip, and more.
HECHO A MANO: Spanish for “made by hand,” denoting a hand rolled cigar.
HOLDER: Cigar holders are an interesting affectation and collectible, but true aficionados let nothing come between their lips and the head of a cigar they’re smoking.
HUMIDIFICATION ELEMENT: The device that maintains the humidity in a humidor. These can be active humidification systems, operating mechanically with a blower, or passive systems, that simply rely on air to move about without manipulation.
HUMIDOR: A room, or a box (see photo), of varying sizes, designed to preserve or promote the proper storage and aging of cigars by maintaining a relative humidity level of around 70%. Advanced humidors can also regulate temperature.
HYGROMETER: A device that indicates the humidity, or percentage of moisture in the air; used to monitor humidor conditions.
INHALE: What you don’t do with cigar smoke.
JAR: Ceramic or glass, these are decorative vessels that often double as humidors and usually hold 25 cigars. Often, jars are released as limited-edition promotions of certain brands. Amatista jars are heavy glass jar containing 25 or 50 cigars.
KEEP: British term for a private cigar locker.
LANCE: A cutter with a pointed, sharp end used to pierce a small hole in the closed end of a cigar. Also called a piercer.
LARGUERO: The front side of a cigar box, which normally bears the brand name and other decorative elements. The country seal often wraps around from the top of the box, down over the larguero and then underneath to the bottom of the box.
LASIODERMA: The dreaded tobacco beetle. They 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 72º, 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.
LIBRA DE PIE: The tiny leaves that grow at the lowest level of tobacco on a plant. Libre de pie, or sand leaf, is often not used, and discarded.
LIGERO: One of the three basic grades of filler tobacco. Ligero is the strongest variety (seco is the mildest, viso is stronger than seco but more mild than ligero.) Ligero lends body to a blend. The name means light in Spanish, and these leaves —which come from the top section of a tobacco plant— receive the most sunlight of any tobacco leaf. They are noticeably thicker than other leaves.
LONG FILLER: Filler tobacco consisting of whole leaves, which run the length of the body of the cigar, rather than chopped pieces (short filler) found in machine-made cigars. The Spanish term for filler tobacco is tripa.
MADURO: A wrapper shade from a very dark reddish-brown to almost black. The color can be achieved by sun exposure, a cooking process or a prolonged fermentation.
MASS-MARKET CIGAR: A generic term for a relatively low priced cigar that is made in extremely large quantities by machine.
MEDIA RUEDA: A bundle of 50 cigars. Cigar rollers usually use ribbon to tie the cigars they produce into half-wheels.
MULLING: Another term for fermentation, or the aging of tobacco leaves to bring them to color, from green to yellow to brown.
MULLING ROOM: A fermentation or steam room, where the tobacco leaves are allowed to “sweat.”
NOSING: The act of exhaling a bit of cigar smoke through your nose after a puff, which is a way to judge the power of a smoke and get more notes on the cigar’s flavor. Do not inhale the smoke.
OIL: The mark of a well-humidified cigar, and an attractive element to the wrapper of a cigar.
OSCURO: The blackest shade of wrapper, darker than maduro.
PAREJO: A straight-sided cigar, such as robustos and petit robustos. Cigars that are not straight sided are called figurados.
PERFECTO: One of the all-time classic shapes: a straight cigar with a reverse flare, or tapered end.
PLUG: A blockage that sometimes occurs in the tobacco that can prevent a cigar from drawing properly. A plug can sometimes be alleviated by gently massaging the cigar.
PLUME: The crystallization of oils from the tobacco of a cigar; it takes on the appearance of a light grayish-white dust on the surface of the wrapper. It is not harmful; some even believe it is beneficial to a cigar’s taste.
PREMIUM CIGAR: A generic term for a high-grade, 100% tobacco, long filler, handmade cigar, as KOLUMBUS cigars.
PRIMING: The rows of leaves on a tobacco plant. The number of primings varies, but six is average. The first priming is closest to the ground, the sixth is near the top. The higher the priming, the stronger the tobacco. Most fine cigar tobacco is harvested by priming. Workers always harvest from the bottom of the plant up, taking two to three leaves at a time. The lowest level of priming, known as sand leaf, or libre de pie, is often discarded. A few days go by between priming harvests, allowing the plant to further mature.
PRIVATE LABEL CIGAR: A cigar that is made for just one company and which is sold exclusively by them.
PURO: A Spanish term for a cigar.
RING: A unit of measurement divided into 1/64ths of an inch, used to calibrate the diameter of a cigar. Thus, a cigar that is a 32 ring is 32/64ths of an inch, or 1/2 inch thick.
RING GAUGE: A handheld device, usually made of brass or wood, which features a hole that is pre-measured to a specific ring size. Completed cigars are passed through this hole to make sure they have been rolled to the correct diameter.
ROLLER: A worker in a cigar factory who makes a cigar. In factories where the rolling and bunching is divided, rollers put the outer wrapper leaf on a cigar.
ROLLING GALLERY: A name for the area in a cigar factory where cigars are made by hand. The production is often split between cigar rollers and cigar bunchers. Bunchers work with filler and binder to create the bunch, rollers wrap the cigar leaf around the finished bunch, creating the cigar.
ROLLING METHOD: The way a cigar is rolled by hand. There are three main styles: booking, which involves laying each leaf atop one another, as pages of a book would lie; the accordion method, which involves layering each leaf in a wavy pattern that resembles an accordion when finished; and entubado, or entubar, where each component filler leaf is rolled like a straw or tube before being wrapped in the binder and then the bunch.
ROLLING TABLE: The station, typically made of wood, where a cigarmaker sits and works.
RUEDA: A bundle of 100 cigars. Cigar rollers usually use ribbon to tie the cigars they produce into wheels.
SECO: Seco is the mildest grade of filler tobacco. It is also the thinnest. Volado is stronger and thicker, and ligero is the strongest, thickest grade of tobacco.
SHADING: A term used to describe the sorting of cigars by extremely slight variations in color, prior to boxing, for visual appeal.
SHED: Large wooden-sided and straw-sided barn where harvested tobacco is hung for the air curing process.
SMOKEASIES: A term originally coined by the author to generically describe any room or facility that caters strictly to cigar smokers, permitting them to light up and relax without incurring the wrathful glares of less sophisticated individuals. It is a modern-day version of the speakeasies of Prohibition infamy.
SMOKERS: The term loosely applied to a “cigar smoking event.” It can be a dinner, a cognac or whiskey and cigar tasting combined, or simply a randomly scheduled gathering where people from all walks of life get together to smoke a cigar, without regard to race, creed, religion or politics. Also called a herf.
STOGIE: Originally a long thin, inexpensive cigar, often with a twisted end. Now it has come to be a generic term to describe any cigar.
STRIPPING: The act of hand striping the stem from the tobacco leaf, leaving approximately 1/3 of the stem in the leaf for filler tobacco. The entire center vein is removed for wrapper tobacco, resulting two separate leaves.
SUPER PREMIUM: Normally priced substantially higher than even the premiums, and relying on image as well as good tobacco.
TAPACLAVO: 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.
TAPADO: A Spanish term for the tent under which shade-grown wrapper leaf is cultivated. The cover was traditionally made of cheesecloth, today it is made of nylon.
TERCIO: Large, palm bark-wrapped bale used for aging fermented cigar tobacco in some cigar factories.
THIRTEEN TOPPERS: 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.
TOPPING: 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.
TORCEDOR: A Spanish term for a cigar roller. It means “one who twists” but is used almost exclusively for cigar making. Also know as a tabaquero.
TOTALMENTE A MANO: Made totally by hand, as the KOLUMBUS cigars; 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).
TRIM: The decorative trimming that runs along each edge of a cigar dress box. Also called filete.
TRIPA: 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.
TUBO: Many cigars come packed in individual wood, metal or glass tubes. Metal, particularly aluminum, is the most common type of tubo, and can be painted or unpainted. A tube can keep cigars fresh and provides an attractive and protective covering for your cigar. 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. Come in two varieties: pull-top or screw cap.
TUCK: The end of the cigar that is lit. Also known as the foot.
TUNNELING: The unwelcome phenomenon of having your cigar burn unevenly. To prevent it, rotate your cigar now and then.
UNDERFILLED: A cigar that was bunched without enough tobacco. Underfilled cigars will burn hot, and will give you a substandard smoke.
VEGA: A tobacco plantation.
VEIN: A structural part of a leaf. Prominent veins can be a defect in wrappers. Many cigar rollers strip part of the vein when rolling a cigar, to minimize the effect of the veins showing to the smoker. Cigars should also be rolled with the veiny side of the wrapper up, so the heaviest veins end up on the inside of the cigar.
VISTA: The inner lid of the box, usually depicting brand art, crests or logos.
VITOLA: A cigar factory term for a cigar shape. Piramide, Robusto and Petit Robusto are three examples of vitolas.
VOLADO: A grade of filler tobacco. Volado leaf is more powerful than seco and less powerful than ligero. It also tends to be thinner than ligero and more thick than seco.
WILTING: Allowing stalk-cut tobacco to sit on the ground in the sun after chopping. The wilted tobacco is then speared on a lathe and hung in a curing barn.
WOODEN MATCH: The best type of match for lighting a cigar. The longer the wood, the easier it is to light your smoke.
WRAP SET BOX: A cedar plywood box, in which you rarely see the wood because of the total coverage by labels and colorful border trimmings.
WRAPPER: The outermost leaf of a cigar that is rolled around the finished bunch and binder of a handmade, premium cigar. Wrapper leaves need to be coddled and treated with the utmost care to avoid blemishes and tears. Wrappers, when purchased, are the most expensive type of tobacco. The Spanish term for wrapper is capa.
ZAFADOR: The term for worker who sort cigar tobacco. In a cigar factory, tobacco leaves are sorted in many ways, including type of tobacco, size and color.