Part of the fun of a hobby is learning the jargon and being able to talk the talk as well as walk the walk. So we’ve compiled a list of cigar lingo you can drop into your next conversation with a fellow cigar aficionado or during a browse through your favourite cigar shop.
Aging: Cigars spend some time aging before being shipped, but most cigars will benefit from months and even years in a humidor to develop their more subtle flavours. Read more about how to age your cigar. ***LINK
Aging Room: No, we’re not talking about your local cigar bar here. The aging room at a cigar factory is often lined in Spanish cedar and shelves filled with rolled cigars. They rest here to allow the tobacco to reach a constant level of humidity for a more even blend of flavours.
Binder: This is a carefully chosen tobacco leaf that the cigar maker rolls around the filler to hold it all together.
Blending: Like fine wine, cigars are grown as well as blended. Choosing the right blend of tobaccos to achieve certain flavours is an art in itself.
Box Press: That time when you put your cigar down for a moment and it rolls off the table. To avoid this awkward scenario, cigar makers started squaring off cigars so they were no longer perfectly cylindrical. One way is to pack them quite tightly in their box.
Bunchmaker/buncher: In a cigar factory, this is the person who makes bunches or groupings of filler and binder tobacco leaves in preparation for rolling together with a wrapper.
Cabinet Box: This cigar box made of thick exposed wood, usually cedar, that is embellished with inked stamps or embossing rather than stickers or labels used on ordinary paper cigar boxes.
Cap: The cap is the tip of the head of the cigar that you need to clip off just before smoking.
Chaveta: Cigar rollers use this flat blade shaped like a semi circle to trim tobacco leaves while they construct cigars. The rocking motion is similar to how a chef would use a single-blade mezzaluna to chop herbs.
Coffin: You’ll sometimes see a very special cigar displayed in an elegant wooden box, known as a coffin, which is designed to hold a single cigar.
Curing: Freshly harvested tobacco leaves get hung in a special shed in the cigar factory to remove moisture during the curing process.
Draw test: In cigar circles, a draw test measures how well the air flows through the body of a cigar for quality assurance.
Figurado: Shaped cigars, such as pyramids, belicosos and torpedos are called figurados. Find out more about cigar shapes. ***LINK
Filler: The thick center of a cigar is formed with a blend of filler tobacco that helps create the taste.
Foot /Tuck end: This is the end that you will light, opposite the head of the cigar.
Hand: Cigar making is still a very labour intensive process. When tobacco is being sorted, about 20 similar leaves will be tied together near the stem in what is known as a ‘hand’.
Handmade cigars: These are bunched and rolled the traditional way, all by hand, and therefore tend to be more expensive. You might see the Spanish label “Hecho a mano”.
Hand-rolled cigars: When a cigar is machine bunched but the outer wrapper is rolled by hand, it is known as hand rolled. Premium cigars are either hand rolled or handmade.
Head: Make sure the side closest to the band is the end of the cigar you put in your mouth to smoke.
Keep: The British like to store their cigars in a small private locker they refer to as a ‘keep’.
La Tabla / Cutting Board: This is a laminated hardwood table where cigar makers work their magic rolling cigars.
Lieberman: This is a bunching device that rolls the filler into the binder with a rubber sheet after the bunch is formed by hand. It’s a hand-operated tool therefore cigars made on a Lieberman are still considered handmade.
Mass-Market Cigar: The opposite of a premium handmade cigar, these low-cost cigars are churned out by the thousand on a huge machine.
Mulling: Tobacco needs to go through a fermentation process, sometimes called mulling, that transforms the leaves from green to yellow and then finally brown as it ages. This is done in a mulling room where tobacco leaves are treated to a steam room and “sweat” to begin the fermentation process.
Plume: To a novice, the crystallization of oils from the tobacco that appears as a light greyish or white dust on the surface of the wrapper can be alarming at first. But unlike mold, many believe the appearance plume signifies the cigar has been aged properly is not harmful to you or the cigar.
Puro: Meaning 'pure' in Spanish, a puro cigar is crafted from filler, binder and wrapper tobacco all grown in the same country.
Priming: This refers to harvesting tobacco leaves as well as to the position of the leaf on the stalk. Volado leaves are closest to the soil, seco are leaves in the center and ligero (in Cuba and the Dominican Republic) or viso (in Central America) are leaves at the top of the tobacco plant.
Ring Size: This is a unit of measurement that refers to the diameter of a cigar. Read more about Cigar Sizes. ***LINK
Ring Gauge: Rolled cigars are passed through a hole in this simple tool, which has marked ring sizes, to check that the cigar has been rolled to the right diameter. Sometimes ring size is called ring gauge also.
Shading: Cigars are sorted based on the slightest variation in colour, known as shading, to ensure a uniform look within each box.
Square press: A more pronounced version of a box press that results in cigars with sharper edges.
Stogie: Stogies were once long, thin and inexpensive cigars that often featured a twisted end. Today the word is a generic term for any cigar.
Tercio: This is a traditional Cuban technique where a burro of tobacco leaves are wrapped in a cube-shaped bundle with the leaves of the royal palm tree to allow the tobacco to mature in its natural oils while continuing to “breathe”.
Tabaquero / Torcedor: Cuban terms for someone who rolls cigars, literally translated as one who works with tobacco.
Vitola: Also known as afront mark, this is the name of a cigar's shape you’ll find printed on the outside of the cigar box.