The ring size, or “gauge,” goes hand-in-hand with the length of the cigar, comprising its overall style and/or name. Today, the six most popular cigar shapes are the “Churchill,” “Torpedo,” “Toro”, “Lonsdale,” “Corona,” and “Robusto,” each with its own respective length and ring gauge. The measurements can vary by manufacturer, but are generally kept within certain “length X ring” range standards.
Mathematically, a “ring” is defined as 1/64th of an inch. So a cigar with a 32 ring would be one half-inch in diameter. A 48 ring gauge would be closer to three-quarters of an inch. The larger the ring, often the more flavor the cigar will deliver, regardless of its strength, because more leaf has been packed into it. As a result, full-bodied cigar selections such as the Davidoff Millennium Robusto, Oliva Serie V Belicoso, and Padron Anniversary 1964 Imperial, to name a few, are often preferred after dinner when there is more time to relax and really savor their complexities.
Perdomo was among the first manufacturers outside of Cuba to introduce the Cuban Parejo cigars, a line comprised entirely of 56 to 62 ring gauge cigars. Then they debuted their Perdomo Habano series, which also features ring gauges from 50 to 60. You’ll also find 60-ring cigars in the Rocky Patel Vintage 1990 & 1992, 1999 Connecticut, and Sun Grown selections. The aptly named MAXX Cigars by Alec Bradley also ranges in ring sizes from 56 to 62. To their credit, the company added the MAXX “Nano,” a 4″ x 46 Petite Corona as an alternative for cigar smokers who prefer a smaller shape.
For those of you who believe bigger is best, you can always try the Puros Indios “Chief” that weighs-in at an eye-popping 18-inches by 66 ring. I know several people who’ve smoked this cigar and loved it. According to The Ultimate Cigar Book by Richard Carleton Hacker, The Davidoff cigar store in London has had a real whopper on display for years: a 3 foot-long cigar with a 96 gauge ring. (I’m not touching that one.) And if that wasn’t enough for Ripley, believe it or not, the world’s smallest cigar was the Cuban Bolivar Delgado, coming in at just under 2 inches!
One question I’m often asked is if some sizes or cigar shapes smoke and taste better than others. Actually, it’s a combination of two things: personal preference, which comes with experience, and the blend itself. Proportion-wise, in terms of the amount of tobacco used to the length of the cigar, the two best shapes for tasting what the Maestro Tabaquero, or “Master Blender” intended, are the 5½” x 42 Corona and the 6″ x 50 Toro. Coronas are a good size for smoking in the morning with coffee or as an after lunch treat. The 5″ x 50 Robusto is also good for “sampling” a new brand, and tend to be lower in price than the similar ring-sized Toro. (Cigars are priced according to the length and ring, too.) Cigarillos, also referred to as “café cigars,” are often popular with women smokers for their slender size and shape which is similar to cigarettes. But I’ve met plenty of women cigar smokers who can handle a Toro with the best of them.
There’s also the question about “the slash” shown in the size description for Figurados like Torpedos, Pyramids and Belicosos. For example, if you see a Pyramid labeled 6½” x 40/54, the slash (/) indicates that the cigar stars out at a 40 ring at the head and fans out to a ring gauge of 54 at the foot. Moreover, the tapered head of a Pyramid concentrates the smoke on the palate offering a richer flavor. A long cigar, like a Churchill or a Presidente, which is also wide, will smoke “cooler,” whereas a 4½” x 38 Petit Corona may smoke “hotter” or stronger. Here again, the blend is the key factor in terms of strength you experience.
Although most cigar smokers have a variety of shapes and sizes in their humidors, they tend to prefer specific cigar shapes. I smoke mostly Robustos and Toros, but I also prefer many other sizes depending on the brand. That’s why it’s important to try as many different shapes and brands as possible. Eventually, you’ll find the shape, size, and blend that best suits your taste preference in general, as well as certain cigar shapes you like best for certain times of the day.