“I found it perplexing to see the advent of Big Ring Gauge Cigars. A cigar with a ring size greater than a 60 seemed to be out of the question for me. Think about this, if 1/64th of an inch is 1 ring gauge then a 60-ring gauge is almost 1 inch thick—that’s a large cigar.”
— Ernesto Perez-Carrillo
Remember that scene in Robin Hood: Men in Tights, where Little John dukes it out with Cary Elwes at the ford crossing? As the two men’s flimsy fighting staves diminish in size, their attack techniques are altered, ultimately resulting in a splinter-filled game of “Pluck.”
Premium long-filler cigars are quite similar in many ways. The shape, size, and styles of cigar types (or vitola, as it is called in Spanish) can significantly affect the smoking experience, especially when a beefier ring gauge is present. Therefore, smoking a premium cigar blend with a hulking ring gauge can be very different from puffing on a thin Portofino.
But as you shall soon discover, it’s not always the cigar itself that is to blame for a particular level of flavor, aroma, heat, or intensity. How you cut and light a cigar has just as much to do with the experience as the intensity and frequency of the pulls you make along the way down the barrel and toward those parting puffs.
So yes, cigar size does matter. And today you are going to see precisely why the ring gauge of a specific stogie can make or break a pleasant cigar smoking session.
Bigger Isn’t Always Better… Right?
Although there has been much speculation over the years as to whether or not the cigar market’s zealous infatuation with enormous ring gauges will continue to grow, a far more serious consideration deserves discussion: Big cigars aren’t for everyone.
Blame it on their unwieldy size, higher price point, intense characteristics, cigar cutter limitations, or jaw-aching circumference, there’s no getting around the downsides that come with large ring gauge cigars.
Burn rate is another concern. On average, the average 70-ring gauge stogie is going to take at least two hours to incinerate every centimeter of tobacco between its foot and cigar band.
Then there’s the issue of intensity. Flavorful notes may be more prominent, but it's the strength of all that nicotine-rich cigar tobacco that warrants the most concern.
You’ve also got heat to consider, for too much will create an acrid flavor and an uncomfortably hot mouthfeel, and too little may result in a stalled smoke session. This depends more upon who is doing the puffing, and how intensely/frequently they take pulls.
As the size and intensity of the ember burning on one end determine how potent the flavor and strength of the cigar is, so too does it control temperature. Puff slowly and savor. That sturdy ash will keep the cherry well insulated and your large ring gauge cigar from getting too hot or being prematurely extinguished.
Tobacco Nerd Note: Only so much tobacco can be used during the production of most cigar types. This translates to about four leaves being used in total. However, a cigar with a larger ring gauge can utilize anywhere from six to eight leaves, thus opening the door to a world of premium tobacco blends and a far more complex cigar smoking experience.
Larger Serving Sizes of Everything
Considering that almost all long-filler cigars consist of a premium cigar blend of some form or another, the binder, filler, and wrapper tobacco varieties all determine the level of each aforementioned attribute.
While the cigar wrapper itself can be attributed to a vast majority of the flavor detected within a proprietary premium cigar blend, there’s far more to it than just those pricey outer tobacco leaves.
Thick cigars require much more of everything, with the filler and binder side of the smoke’s construction seeing the most significant increase in content. Some may argue that this dumbs down the overall flavor of the wrapper itself, but we here at Klaro Cigars tend to favor a different school of thought.
It’s a simple matter of surface ratio more than anything. Stuff more long-filler into a bulging binder, and you will have to utilize more premium cigar wrapper leaf to encompass all of that fermented fun. This is why it’s always best to smoke multiple sizes of a particular cigar blend before writing it off entirely, as the actual form itself can determine the taste and intensity.
This has given just cause for almost every cigar manufacturer to stuff some form of 60+ ring gauge smoke within its portfolio, with certain cigar brands even venturing into 80 ring gauge territory. If that doesn’t sound overwhelming to some of you, wait until you get this next part of this large cigar story…
Rollin’ Heavy, E.P. Carillo Style
Ernesto Perez-Carrillo is one of the men responsible for putting big-ring cigars at the forefront of the public’s puffing preferences.
As the story goes, it all started way back in the 1970s, when Carrillo was contracted to roll a limited-release cigar with an oversized ring gauge for a motorcycle club in California. A 70-ring gauge monolith, the cigar was unlike anything the tobacco market had ever seen and stands as one of the first times in history that something so hefty was rolled.
Apparently, the bikers wanted a smoke that could hold up during spirited jaunts up and down the coastline, and in true E.P. Carrillo fashion, the tobacco mastermind delivered the goods and then some. And while this sort of super-sized cigar would not be resurrected and replicated until well over a few decades later, Carrillo’s role in the creation of the “fat cigar phenomenon” cannot be ignored.
However, it took quite a bit of convincing for the cigar master blender to buy the fact that these ultra-wide smokes would sell. Even Ernesto is quick to admit that he scrupulously critiqued a competitor’s 60-ring gauge cigar with a discerning eye the first time he encountered it. As his skepticism began to get the better of him, Carrillo tried to dismiss the toothy tobacco product as a passing fad or a prank. Surely there was no way that a cigar of this size would ever catch on...
But memories of that limited run of cigars he rolled for the California bike squad back in the ‘70s continued to permeate Carrillo’s mind. As it became obvious that the popularity of large ring gauge cigars was only increasing, a decision had to be made.
Serving as a template of sorts, the biker cigar of old inspired Ernesto-Perez Carrillo to create what many consider to be his most significant addition to cigar culture, and the most recognizable large ring gauge cigar of all time: the La Gloria Cubana Serie R.
Considered to be the superior smoking option by many cigar smokers, 60+ ring gauge cigars have seen unbridled success over the past two decades, thanks in part to how they combust, the cigar flavor profiles they project, and the easy draw they provide.
Tobacco Nerd Note: Full-bodied in flavor, strength, mouthfeel, and size, the Serie R of today may no longer be under Carrillo’s control, but it retains something else instead. The title of being the quintessential large ring gauge cigar of the modern tobacco world.
For many, the thought of smoking something as massive as a 70-ring gauge cigar is borderline laughable. It’s something that you might chief on when playing poker with your buddies, or while bowling a few frames down at the local alley.
But as you just found out, big cigars are here to stay, and will likely continue to grow in popularity now that they have become widely recognized as a legitimate smoking option, and not a publicity stunt cigar of some sort.
We suggest that everyone should try a fat cigar at least once or twice in their lives. Just because the cigar flavor profile and intensity you get from all of that tobacco all at once are undeniably euphoric.