Cigars 101

What’s up with all these 6 x 60 ring cigars?

According to Nick, from a cigar manufacturer’s perspective, making a 60 ring cigar is not all that profitable because the yields are poor and you have to use a lot of good quality tobacco to make that ring size.

“I started the Cuban Parejo line because so many customers were asking for it,” said Nick. After trying several different widths between 54 and 70, he finally settled on 60 since it seemed to be the best fit. As a result, the 6 x 60 began showing up in almost all of Perdomo’s leading selections including, Perdomo Habano and the 10th Anniversary Champagne series, among others. Moreover, these cigars have done so well that half of their rollers have been assigned to making Grand Toros just to keep up with the demand.

“I’d prefer to do cigars that were closer to forty-two and forty-four. I’d have a higher yield by using a lesser amount of tobacco, and they’re easy to blend. But the demand for sixty ring cigars is just un-frickin’ believable!”

According to Nick, the big wide cigar trend is something that’s really now, but it’s been in longer than most people think. When the trend started about seven or eight years ago, a lot of factories begged-off the fat cats due to their high cost.

“It takes about thirty-three pounds of tobacco to make one-thousand standard size cigars. To make a six by sixty it takes upwards of fifty pounds,” said Nick. “The profit margin per stick is lower, but the customers love it. And because I make what my customers want, not what I want, it’s worked really well.”

The most consistent thing about the Grand Toro format (also called a “Double Toro”) is its extra flavor and complexity. Not surprisingly though, there is a cadre of cynical cigar smokers who have criticized the shape, claiming that by making them manufacturers can get rid of some of their low-grade tobacco.

“You can’t really cheat on a cigar like that,” said Nick. “I can only speak for myself, but we don’t do that. An experienced cigar smoker will be able to tell in an instant, because [a 6 x 60] cigar has so much tobacco, you pick up way more nuances and flavors. It’s got’a be rock solid. All I can add is, this format has been a big winner for us.”

According to Ernest Perez-Carrillo, president of E.P.C. Cigars and creator of the original La Gloria Cubana blend, “We introduced a 60 ring gauge cigar in the Serie R line in 2001. We only had a couple of sizes, so I asked, ‘What can we do next?’ First we decided to go with a four and three quarters by forty-eight Rothchild. Then I found these old sixty ring molds, so I said, “Let’s try a sixty instead.”

As for the trend itself, Carrillo feels that cigar smokers have been asking for wider ring sizes because they believe the cigar will be stronger. But that’s not necessary true. What is true is that when you have a cigar of such big proportions, you get much more flavor.

“If you’re making a Corona or a Lonsdale, you are limited to about three filler leaves (Viso, Seco, Ligero) plus the binder and wrapper. For a 60 ring cigar I can use anywhere from four to six different fillers, then you have one or two binders and the wrapper. Due to the large filler to binder and wrapper ratio, the result is a cigar with much more complexity.”

So is the 6 x 60 cigar trend a novelty? “No,” says Carrillo. “It’s a cigar that delivers in flavor. We have the “Golosos” in our original E.P. Carrillo series, the “El Decano” in the New Wave Connecticut series, the “2010 Dominantes” and “2011 Inmensos” from our Short Run series, and we’re adding a 60 ring size to the Elencos series.”

Alan Rubin, president of Alec Bradley Cigars submitted this reply: “We did it five years ago with Maxx, but we, too, are listening to our customers. We’ve added a six by sixty ring to the Family Blend line called the GS57, a Double T, to the Prensado line, which is a 6 x 62 box-pressed, and Black Market and American Classic Blend, our two new releases, have six by sixties.”

As for the “why?” Rubin feels the economy dictates that we want more for less.

“A big beefy cigar provides more smoking time for the money. Maybe not more flavor, maybe not more complexity, but more time. Cigar smokers can take an hour and a half to two hour vacation and never leave their chairs when smoking a big cigar. And why not, we all deserve a little more down time.”

“For a period of time we noticed smokers were cutting back to shorter or quicker smoking cigars,” said Janelle Rosenfeld, VP of Premium Cigar Marketing & Communications for Altadis, U.S.A. “Recently, perhaps with the increase of cigar lounges, or perhaps as a ‘revolt’ against smoking regulations, we have had smokers asking for longer smoking cigars. It’s as if some smokers are saying ‘I’m going to smoke a cigar and I want to relax and enjoy it and not rush through the experience.’ I say…GREAT!”

To fill those requests Altadis has released 6 x 60 cigars this year in several of their premier editions. Their latest Grand Toro release is the “Magnum” which has been added to their popular Romeo y Julieta Reserva Real line.

“60 rings take a lot of tobacco, and you have to get the mix just right in order to maintain that wonderful balance and keep the smoke true to the original blend,” she added.”

Nestor A. Plasencia Jr., whose family has made just about every cigar shape and size imaginable added the following comment:

“We have noticed this trend lately, too. I think most of the new brands we are doing have at least a 58 ring gauge. Cigar smokers are always looking for something new. From a blending perspective, I really like this because we can play with different tobaccos and create very complex blends; something you cannot do with smaller ring gauges.”

Jose Oliva of Oliva Cigars/StudioTabac said: “Large ring cigars are part of the trend towards full flavored cigars. They offer a large volume of smoke, thus increasing the flavor profile. The current trend to large ring cigars is far greater than the previous interest in Lanceros. While Lanceros continue to be a favorite among the avid enthusiasts, they don’t compare with the much broader segment of smokers who enjoy a larger ring.”

So, it appears the two primary reasons cigar smokers love a large ring gauge is, 1) they’re getting a lot more bang for their buck, and 2) the cigars offer a lot more flavor. The more tobacco, the more complex the smoke; it’s that simple. The 60-ring cigar craze has a dedicated following, and its not a small group, either.

“Based on our research it’s growing,” said Nick Perdomo. “The demand for the six by sixty format has grown 50 percent. It’s the number one selling sku in our Habano line, Gran Cru and 10th Anniversary Champagne, It’s hard to keep up with production. I had no idea it would ever take off like this.”

P.S. (Sep. 25, 2011) After reviewing the comments, I was reminded of my first 6 x 60 cigar. It was a Rocky Patel Sun Grown “Sixty.” I beleive it was in 2005, and that Rocky was preparing them for market, because when he handed it to me, he said it was a new size they were adding to the line, and added, “It’s fresh from the factory.” I don’t think it had a band, but I remember was how creamy and flavorful it was. So, whenever I think of 6 x 60 cigars, the RP Sun Grown Sixty comes to mind first, maybe because it was my first. Although I’ve grown fond of many other cigars in this format, the Sun Grown Sixty remains on my hit list.