A dictionary of terms you’re likely to use when speaking to fellow cigar connoisseurs.
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 resting, so that their various tobaccos can reach a constant humidity level and flavors blend.
Binder — The leaf that is rolled around the filler to hold it together.
Blending – The art of creating the “recipe” to achieve the characteristic flavor of a particular cigar.
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.
Bulk – During fermentation, air-cured tobacco is stacked and covered in burlap where it continues to ripen.
Bunch — The group of leaves that comprise the filler.
Bunchmaker/buncher — The person in a cigar factory who makes bunches.
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.
Cap — The piece of tobacco that covers the head of the cigar; the end that you will ultimately clip.
Chaveta — The flat, rounded blade used by cigar rollers to trim the various tobacco leaves during the construction of a cigar.
Cigarden — A cigar garden. A landscaped backyard environment that has been specifically designed for cigar smoking.
Coffin – An elegant wooden box used to protect and display a single premium cigar.
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.
Criollo —A native variety of tobacco that is used to develop new and improved “hybrid” seeds.
Curing – The process by which freshly harvested tobacco leaves are hung in special sheds to remove moisture.
Cutting Board — The laminated hardwood table of the bench on which cigars are made. Also referred to as La Tabla.
Draw test – A quality assurance test which measures the flow of air through the body of the cigar.
Figurado — Any “shaped” cigar, such as a torpedo, pyramid or belicoso.
Filler — A blend of tobacco that forms the thick center of a cigar and contributes to its overall taste.
Foot — The end of the cigar that you light. Also called the tuck end.
Frontmark — The name of a cigar's shape that is printed on the outside of a box. Also called a vitola.
Fuma — Exclusive to 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.
‘Gar — Slang for cigar.
Guayabera — A traditional four-pocket shirt worn by cigar makers throughout the Caribbean. The long-sleeved version of the guayabera is considered formal enough to wear without a tie to a wedding.
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.
Hecho a mano — Spanish for “made by hand,” denoting a hand-rolled cigar.
Herf — The term loosely applied to a "cigar smoking event." It can be a dinner, 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.
Keep — British term for a private cigar locker.
Lasioderma – The dreaded tobacco beetle.
Lieberman — After a bunch is made by hand, it goes into this hand-operated bunching device which utilizes a rubber sheet to roll the filler up into the binder. This apparatus does not constitute a machine-made bunch.
Maduro – The term is given to describe a cigar with an ultra-dark wrapper, traditionally of Connecticut Broadleaf or Ecuadoran Habano.
Mass-Market Cigar — A generic term for a relatively low priced cigar that is made in extremely large quantities by machine.
Mulling — A 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.”
Perfecto — One of the all-time classic shapes: a straight cigar with a reverse flare, or tapered end.
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.
Priming — This refers to the leaf’s position on the stalk of the tobacco plant. In the Dominican Republic, the filler leaves are called Ligero, Seco and Volado, with the ligero leaves at the top of the plant, seco in the center, and volado closest to the soil.
In Central America, these are called Viso, Seco and Volado. The viso leaves are located at the top of the plant, the seco leaves are underneath the viso leaves and the volado leaves are closest to the soil. Also the act of harvesting the leaves of a tobacco plant.
Private Label Cigar — A cigar that is made for just one company and which is sold exclusively by them.
Puro — A cigar whose wrapper, binder and filler are made with tobaccos that are all grown in the same country. For example, the Punch Gran Puro is a true puro; it is made with 100% Honduran tobacco. It would not be a puro if it had an imported U.S. grown Connecticut wrapper.
Pyramid — A cigar that gradually goes from a very narrow ring size at the head and flares out to a large foot. Almost always incorrectly referred to as a “torpedo,” which it is not.
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.
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.
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 stripping 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 in two separate leaves.
Super Premium — A very high-priced cigar, these are priced substantially higher than even the premiums, and relying on image as well as good tobacco.
Tercio – A square-wrapped bundle, made from the leaves of the Royal Palm that completely encases the burro of tobacco leaves for fermentation. This is an old Cuban technique, now used by General Cigar that enables the tobaccos to mature in their own natural oils while also continuing to breathe.
Torcedor — Cuban term for a cigar roller. It means "one who twists" but is used almost exclusively for cigar making. Also know as a tabaquero.
Torpedo — A cigar in which the body flares (widens) and then narrows near the tuck where it is to be lit.
Tuck — The end of the cigar that is lit. Also known as the foot.
Vega — Another word for plantation.
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 binder.
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