For those first venturing into the world of cigars, and even for veteran aficionados, the sheer abundance of different cigar shapes and sizes can be confusing at best, and daunting at worst. The same blend of tobaccos is sometimes offered in a dozen differently sized cigars, making it difficult to choose and often causing novices to wonder about the reasons behind such methods. Is there some practical benefit to each size? Does the size affect flavor? Is it all purely aesthetic?
Below we'll explain cigar sizing and the various shapes — known as "vitolas" in the industry — and then discuss some benefits and other considerations when choosing a size and vitola.
All cigars are measured in inches for both length and width — the latter referred to as "ring gauge" and based on 1/64th of an inch. For example, a cigar with the measurements 6.5" x 50 denotes a size six and a half inches long with a ring gauge of 50, or a diameter of 50/64ths of an inch. This standard of measurement remains constant across the cigar industry; however, when it comes to cigar shapes (vitolas), the exact terminology and measurements can vary between brands, so when in doubt, rely on the length and ring gauge of a cigar to determine if its the size you're looking for.
The Belicoso has a tapered cap but features a steeper, shorter taper compared to the Torpedo's longer, gradual one. Belicosos also tend to be on the shorter side, essentially resembling a Corona or Toro with a tapered cap. (Average dimensions: 5"-5.5" x 50)
The Churchill is a larger straight-sided cigar, both longer and wider than the traditional Corona. It was appropriately named after the size of cigar most often smoked by Winston Churchill. (Average dimensions: 7" x 47)
Considered the archetypal cigar, the Corona is often what one thinks of when imagining a cigar. Though it's size can vary, the Corona is the standard by which most other straight-sided cigars are measured. (Average dimensions: 5.5"-6" x 42-44)
The Diadema features a tapered cap and foot, but is straight-sided through the middle. A slightly smaller Diadema is often called a Salomón. (Average dimensions: 8.5" x 52)
The Double Corona is a straight-sided cigar that's both longer and wider than the traditional Corona. (Average dimensions: 7.5"-8.5" x 49-52)
A longer, thinner straight-sided cigar, the Lonsdale offers a nice balance between the Panetela and wider Corona varieties. (Average dimensions: 6.5" x 42)
Going the opposite direction of Robustos and Toros, the Panetela is one of the thinnest straight-sided cigars. Its length can vary considerably, but the ring gauge typically falls below 40, with longer varieties sometimes called Gran Panetelas. Three Panetelas curled and braided together are called a Culebra — something of a novelty vitola, with each Panetela intended to be smoked individually. The myth surrounding its history suggests that cigar factories gave each worker three complimentary cigars per day, but in Culebra form, ensuring they couldn't be resold and also making it easier to distinguish anyone smoking non-complimentary cigars. (Average dimensions: 5"-7.5" x 34-38)
The Perfecto tapers both toward the cap and the foot, with a bulging waist in the middle. This vitola doesn't rely on dimensions so much as it does form, meaning that the size of Perfectos can vary greatly.
As the name suggests, the Petit Corona is a smaller Corona, maintaining the Corona's proportions and straight sides but decreasing the length and presenting a smaller ring gauge. (Average dimensions: 4.5" x 40-42)
The Pyramid tapers all the way through the cigar, from foot to cap, making for a smaller ring gauge as the cigar is smoked.
The Robusto is a short and wide, straight-sided cigar, similar in length to a Petit Corona but broad like a Churchill and Robusto. (Average dimensions: 4.75"-5.5" x 48-52)
Also called Corona Gorda, which literally means "Fat Corona," the Toro maintains the regular Corona's straight-sided length but increases its width, something of a lengthier take on the Robusto. (Average dimensions: 5.5"-6" x 46-50)
The Torpedo features a gradually tapering cap that comes to a point. The rest of the cigar, though, remains straight toward the foot. Typically, Torpedos are on the more robust side, size-wise. (Average dimensions: 6"-7" x 52-54)
Numerous factors play into choosing a vitola, most notably convenience, time, and flavor. Longer, wider vitolas can be cumbersome to smoke hands-free and to travel with, but they provide a longer smoking experience, allowing for prolonged enjoyment of the blend's flavor, while smaller sizes afford greater convenience and less smoking time. None of these factors is more advantageous, and depends solely on the situation. Generally speaking, the time you're able to devote to a cigar is a good starting point when considering a vitola.
Regarding flavor, some vitolas, though they may feature the exact same tobacco varietals, can offer a different profile and bring out different nuances of the blend. Most obviously, the sizes of different vitolas change the ratios between the wrapper, binder, and fillers: Thinner cigars often showcase more wrapper, while thicker ones usually add more filler to the ratio. As such, the notes of the wrapper or binder can be more prominent depending on which vitola is smoked. Also of note is the tapered cap of some cigars — like Torpedos and Belicosos — which is designed to funnel the smoke and flavors, often providing more nuance and complexity.
While the vastness of cigar shapes and sizes can appear overwhelming and sometimes redundant, such variety allows for different smoking experiences, allowing connoisseurs to explore a blend even further. Ultimately, the deciding factors are determined by the smoker themself, and smoking through a line's range of vitolas is a delicious and exciting journey of finding favorites and determining differences.Find Your Next Cigar