Even the blending experts don’t always agree on how much of a cigar’s flavor comes from the wrapper leaf – learn why, plus we pay forward a cool trick you can try to test your favorite cigar to see how much its flavor comes from the wrapper leaf.
5 Things You Need to Know About… Torpedo Cigars
5 Things You Need to Know About… Torpedo Cigars
By John Pullo
If Torpedoes are your favorite cigar shape – you’ve not only got good taste, you’re among a loyal following of cigar enthusiasts. But have you ever wondered why you were drawn to them in the first place? For me, Torpedo cigars are a great “change of pace” pick, because there’s big flavor in there. But there’s more to know – and appreciate – about them, than just their pointed heads.
The generic definition of a Torpedo is a cigar with a tapered head that comes to a point; as you’ll see, the word “Torpedo” gets thrown around a lot, instead of some more accurate cigar descriptions.
Then there’s the smoking experience…you may have heard us talk about some cigars being “front-loaded,” meaning the cigar opens with a blast of intensity, then settles in before it starts to build in strength and flavor again. Torpedoes tend to burn with more of that intensity, more consistently. They also burn a little more slowly, because they have a naturally tighter draw, which can be adjusted by how you cut it.
There’s more – so use these five pearls of Torpedo wisdom to take your cigar expertise to the next level. You might even be convinced to try your first, if you’ve never had the pleasure.
Torpedo Cigars are a Little Harder to Make.
And that means they might cost you a little more, but that goes for pretty much all Figurados. Part of that is because the task of making these special shapes is entrusted to the factory’s more experienced rollers. In the case of most Torpedo cigars, the body – or barrel – of the smoke is formed the same way as any Parejo; as Lázaro Collazo, head of quality control at the Habanero factory told Financial Times, “The main challenge is in the cabeza or ‘head’ of the cigar. In a Parejo cigar you cut the binder/filler after you have rolled a cylinder of tobacco. This creates the flat end onto which the cap is placed. With a Pirámide, you have to continue rolling the binder and filler tobacco into a Pirámide shape, and then also add the cap at the end. This is a more complicated and difficult process.”
And yes, most Torpedoes do have a cap – it’s called a flag, which is a strip of tobacco that’s wound around the pointed head of the cigar to finish it off.
Most Torpedo Cigars are Not Actually Torpedoes.
Naming cigar sizes has always been left to the blender’s discretion…one brand’s Robusto is another brand’s Rothschild. So don’t be surprised when you see Torpedo swap places with Belicoso or Piramide (aka, Pyramid).
Here are the tells:
- “True” Torpedo cigars are 6 1/8 x 52; they have a closed foot, a bulge in the middle, and taper to a point at the head. A legit Torpedo – having all of these qualities – is actually pretty hard to find.
- Belicosos are, technically, supposed to be shorter…their heads taper more dramatically, but the point is rounded. Most Torpedoes out there are actually Belicosos.
- Piramide cigars taper the entire length of the cigar; the head, however, is pointed like a Torpedo.
All of these cigar shapes fall under the Figurado side of the family tree, as opposed to straight-sided, round-headed Parejos: Churchill, Toro, Robusto, etc.
…and the most popular Torpedo isn’t a Torpedo, either.
The Montecristo No. 2 – which I’ve seen described as “the staple to which all other Torpedoes are compared” – is actually a Piramide. Look closely, and you’ll see how the cigar tapers very subtly, from foot to head; the sides are not parallel, as in most of today’s Torpedo cigars.
The Point of a Torpedo is the Point.
The point of a Torpedo shape is to deliver more concentrated flavors to the smoker’s palate, and it’s achieved by channeling the smoke through the point of the cigar. Because most Torpedo cigars are a wider ring gauge, this gives the blender the space to mix a wider variety (and larger quantity) of tobaccos, resulting in deeper layers of complexity. For instance: the 6×56 Oliva Serie V Torpedo has plenty of room for an extra pinch of slow-burning ligero, as does the 6 ½ x 54 Perdomo Habano Barrel Aged Torpedo. And for Torpedoes with “true” dimensions (52RG), like My Father Le Bijou 1922 Torpedo and the Rocky Patel Decade Torpedo, they’ll smoke with the intensity of a smaller cigar – because the opening you cut is smaller.
Bottom line: you get the nuances of a large cigar passing through a narrow headspace, giving it the intensity of something more akin to a Cuban Corona. That unique expression of flavor is why Torpedo cigars often smoke differently from the other sizes in the same blend or line.
Cutting Torpedo Cigars Can Be a Little Tricky.
How deep you cut the cap of a Torpedo determines your control over the intensity of the flavor. I’ve heard some folks say that a correct way is a straight cut, anywhere between 3.5mm to 4mm down from the tip. Cut too shallow, and the draw will be tight; cut down too far, and you risk the cigar’s wrapper unravelling on you. Besides, if you cut too deep, you lop off most of the tapered head – which is the whole point of smoking a Torpedo.
You can also v-cut a Torpedo: a v-cutter exposes enough surface area to give you a good draw, and the wrapper is at very little risk of unfurling.
Or, try the Dickman cut (stop laughing). Also known as an angle cut, this technique is rumored to get its name from Joe Dickman, a former Arturo Fuente rep out on the West Coast. It’s a straight cut with a guillotine done at a very steep 45 degree angle; supposedly, this method “opens a tremendous surface area and directs the smoke down onto the palate – the idea being that it will maximize the cigar’s flavor.”
Torpedoes are Ratings Winners.
Seven out of the top 15 cigars of 2017 were Torpedo cigars; or as we discussed, close enough to be considered one.
Those that like Torpedoes usually tell you they love them. But Torpedoes are not, shall we say, the most popular humidor picks among the masses…
That is, in part, due to the Torpedo being an acquired taste: more focused and intense flavor isn’t always a selling point. They’re more expensive cigars, and they take a little more care in transporting – the tapered head can break. Plus, not every cigar maker puts out a Torpedo alongside his or her usual 4 or 5 Parejo selections.
Even in Cuba, it’s taken awhile for some brands to consider making figurados of any kind – and even longer for them to catch on. Many of them are limited to special editions, and most brands offer a single option they call a “Belicoso,” in the neighborhood of 6 1/8” x 52.
So consider yourself now a Torpedo cigar expert – and be sure to share these 5 Things You Need to Know with your cigar buddies. You might just turn them on to the next great smoke!