The term “cigar” is often used in a catchall capacity for a tobacco product that is, in truth, manufactured and sold in many sizes and shapes. Let’s begin with the fundamentals that characterize all cigars. A cigar contains fermented tobacco leaves bundled within a leaf (known as a binder) and encased within a paper wrapping. Those three elements are essential to the cigar recipe: tobacco, binding leaf, and a wrapper. Whereas tobacco leaves were originally tied or held together by hand when being smoked, the cigar form allows for a bundle to be conveniently held, managed, and inhaled by the smoker.
The variations begin to branch out from that basic formula almost immediately. Firstly, there is the leaf factor. Yes, all cigars are comprised of tobacco leaves, but those leaves differ in the fullness within the rolled cigar. Whereas cigars rolled in the traditional form tend to use full leaves, those produced by machine operation use crushed or otherwise broken up leaves. Those of the former type, the full leaf variety, are categorized as long filler, while those with broken or crushed leaves are known as short filler cigars. Cigar enthusiasts (or “aficionados” in the industry parlance) are discerning in terms of which of these they prefer, and the difference between the two is quickly detectable.
The shape of a cigar will often (though not always) dictate what sort of leaf composition the smoker can expect. That information is also knowable in other ways (labeling, for instance), but shape preferences tend to be determined by the smoker’s long filler/short filler tastes, among other things. In some instances, a shape or style of cigar is associated exclusively with either short or long filler.
In addition to leaf integrity (full vs crushed), the specific section of the tobacco leaf used in a given cigar also contributes to its flavor, strength, and overall potency. Leaf sections differ based on sunlight exposure and soil proximity. The uppermost part of the tobacco plant is known as the ligero and is noted for its concentrated spiciness and slower burning quality. From there, the plant becomes less concentrated in flavor and somewhat faster burning. The seco sits in the middle is bold in its taste and burns at even clip, while the base of the plant, the volado is milder than the others and burns more readily. Just as with leaf integrity, the shape and size of the cigar often determines what section or sections of the leaf will be found within.
The Significance of Cigar Shapes
Commonly associated with the Caribbean and Central/South America, tobacco is also widely cultivated and harvested in elsewhere on earth. Large tobacco plantations sit in the American Deep South and are also found as far away as India and Pakistan. Climate and local tastes result in distinctive cigar flavors and styles from country to country, but the industry is nevertheless governed by a shape convention. Leaf composition, quality, and integrity join with commercial demand and prevailing preferences to determine the sizes and shapes most or least commonly sold within a given region. Taken together, size and shape are known as vitola in the cigar industry.
Cigar Shape List
1. Parejo Cigar
If cigars can be said to have a “standard” appearance or aesthetic, that honor might go the cylinder-like parejo, whose sides are straight by design, whose one end is open while the other is capped and must be sliced off prior to the cigar being smoked. The parejo is typically round but is often compressed into an imperfect square shape for packing purposes. When the non-smoker pictures a cigar, it is likely the parejo shape that comes to mind, if only because of its prevalence.
2. Figurado Cigar
The figurado is more accurately described/defined by what it isn’t as by what it is. While the parejo is the basic or standard cigar shape, the figurado is anything the parejo is not. This means that figurados are not straight along their sides, but instead fluctuate in form and cut. They might swell in the center or taper towards one end. A figurado is recognizable for having greater flair than its parejo counterpart.
3. Cuban Rounds Cigar
Something of a misnomer, Cuban Rounds Cigars are not, in fact, of Cuban origin. Cuban Rounds are rolled in Nicaragua and are strictly comprised of short-filler blends. They are produced in accordance with Cuban methods, are rather inexpensive, and possess a recognizably spice-rich taste.
4. Torpedo Cigar
The torpedo cigar shape is aesthetically distinctive, as its head tapers to a notably fine point. This shape yields a slow burn and a concentrating of the cigar’s tobacco flavors. As the smoker inhales, the flavor consolidates at the narrow draw point, which enhances the tobacco taste. At their longest, torpedo cigars measure about seven inches in length, though they are typically a bit shorter than that.
5. Perfecto Cigar Shape
A bulging center is the perfecto cigar shape’s most notable characteristic, along with its closed foot and a sharply tapered head. The perfecto’s unique dimensions allow for considerable experimentation with flavor blends and the like. Rolling a quality perfecto requires time and skill, which explains their typically being rolled by experienced artisans.