Recently I’ve been working on selecting and smoking smaller cigars–both in length and ring gauge. My primary purpose for choosing small cigars like Perfectos and Coronas is a matter of smoking time. If I’m smoking during the day at all, then I am most likely at home and my daughter is taking a nap. That means lighting up a big ol’ Toro Gordo or a Churchill means that I won’t be so likely to finish before she decides to wake up. If I have a full hour, then I would be lucky. Sticking to smaller cigars (less than 5″ long and less than 48 gauge) means I can smoke the whole cigar without having to worry about her waking up while I’m in the middle of smoking.
First, let me tell you about ring gauges. Cigars are “gauged” at 1/64 inches. So, your average Toro sized cigar, at a 50 ring gauge, is 50/64ths of an inch thick. The movement now is towards thick cigars well over a 60 ring gauge. This means there is a lot of filler tobacco on the inside of the cigar. Unfortunately for filler tobacco, a cigar gets most of its flavor from the outside wrapper leaf.
The biggest side effect to smoking cigars with a smaller ring gauge–flavor. Because there is not as much filler, the flavors of the cigars I have been smoking are much more pronounced, richer. Those big sticks loose flavor with all the filler tobacco in the middle. I’m also starting to think that they’re stronger, as if designers put more ligero leaves into the sticks to make them worth the short time you have with them. I know I’ve felt more buzz of these smaller sticks than the big boys.
Probably an important thing to note about smaller ring gauge cigars, is that they tend to burn hotter. It’s the whole “big hose vs little hose” ordeal. Burning hot isn’t necessarily a good thing, as it can change the flavor of the cigar. I’m naturally a pretty slow smoker, so I tend to invite burning issues with larger cigars if I’m not mindful. The smaller ring gauges have been burning great for me, so far, with no burn issues and most have not been getting too hot either.
When there is time for something bigger, I’ve been sticking to the smaller ring gauges in the longer sizes. Londsdales, lanceros, and panatelas will burn for well over an hour, and much closer to about 90 minutes in my experience. They pack all the flavors of the petit cigars into something with more burn time for when you can really sit back and enjoy the whole stick.