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Tobacco Leaves

Common Vocabulary

There is a substantial amount of words and phrases used to describe tobacco, we have compiled a list of definitions to help increase your knowledge on cigars.


The burning end of a cigar. A bright, white ash indicates tobacco that has received ample magnesium in the soil. Cameroon tobacco typically burns with a bright white ash. A flaky white ash may have had too much magnesium. Cuban tobacco tends to burn with a grayish ash (see photo). A black ash may indicate the tobacco inside was grown in soil lacking proper nutrients.

Fine, handmade cigars are made with long-filler leaves, and the ash on such cigars retains strength even after burning. Some fat cigars can be made to stand upright on their ashes, and can hold ashes of considerable length. (Cigars made with short-filler tobacco tend to have very flaky ashes with little strength.) Resist the urge to tap your ash; it’s better to let it fall when it’s ready, after you see a seam develop, typically around the one-inch-long mark.


Aging takes many forms in the premium cigar industry. Cigarmakers age fermented tobacco in bales, typically for two to several years. Aging cigar tobacco gives it more nuance, softens rough edges, and generally improves the product. This is particularly important with stronger varieties of tobacco, such as ligero. Many manufacturers also further age their cigars after rolling. This process can be as short as a month or so or more than one year. Not only does this help the component tobaccos (filler, binder(s) and wrapper) marry, but it can make the cigars more pleasant to smoke. Connoisseurs who purchase cigars often take this step even further by aging their smokes in their cigar boxes inside of a humidor, sometimes for decades. This is known as box aging.

Fine cigars, like fine wines, can improve with age. While not every cigar will get better over time, ones that are full flavored, rich and robust in youth are likely candidates for long-term aging. With almost every cigar there is a point of diminishing returns. Many consider five to ten years to be optimal, but we have smoked—and enjoyed—cigars that were decades old.


A cigar that intertwines two wrappers in the form of ascending, or descending, helical stripes. Also known as "candy canes" and "double wraps."


The tobacco leaf (or leaves) that hold together the filler tobacco. The combination of a binder (known as a banda in Spanish) and filler tobacco is known as the the bunch. With the wrapper and filler, the binder is one of three main components in a handmade cigar. Many binders were grown with the intent of being wrappers, but defects in the leaf caused them to be graded as binders, which are considerably less expensive than wrappers. Some cigar factories use two binder leaves, to add complexity to a cigar blend.


The mixture of different types of tobacco in a cigar, including up to five types of filler leaves, one or two binder leaves and an outer wrapper. Some specialty cigars are made with two wrappers, but this is rare. To achieve complexity in a blend, a cigarmaker will use tobaccos grown in various countries, or from varying regions of one country. He will also use tobacco from different primings. In many factories, the blends are well-kept secrets passed down from father to son. The blends at Tabacalera A. Fuente y Cia. in the Dominican Republic, for example, are not written down, and are only known by Carlos Fuente Sr. and his son Carlos Fuente Jr.


Bloom, which is also called plume, is a naturally occurring phenomenon in the cigar-aging process. Oils that exude from the tobacco in a finished cigar will appear as a fine white powder and can be brushed off without leaving a mark. Bloom is not to be confused with mold, which has color to it and stains the wrapper.

Box Aging

Box aging refers to the time a cigar spends in the box after being rolled, which improves the qualities of a cigar, much as a fine wine can improve with age in the bottle. Cigars can improve with age for many years, and the Connoisseur’s Corner section of Cigar Aficionado—which deals exclusively with aged cigars, some as old as many decades—provides some of the highest scores the magazine has ever given.

Box Pressed

The slightly squared appearance taken on by cigars that are packed tightly in a box, particularly a flat-top box. Montecristo No. 2s from Cuba exemplify the box-pressed shape. Cigars are packed into a dress box, stacked atop each other, and then are physically pressed to give them a somewhat flatter and somewhat square appearance.
The term has also been used incorrectly to denote trunk pressing, which is a much more severe press involving wooden slats between cigars, a process that results in a very squared-off cigar.


A packaging method, designed with economy in mind, that uses a cellophane overwrap. It usually contains 25 or 50 cigars, traditionally without bands. Bundles, oftentimes seconds of premium brands, are usually less expensive than boxed cigars.


A country in West Africa known for growing toothy, dark wrapper tobacco. Tobacco grown in the neighboring Central African Republic is also sold under the name Cameroon. In the early to mid-1990s, Cameroon leaf became endangered in the wake of the departure of the French, but the dedicated efforts of the Meerapfel family revitalized supplies of the leaf.


A green shade of wrapper tobacco achieved by a heat-curing process that fixes the chlorophyll content of the wrapper while it's still in the barn. Also referred to as double claro. From about 1958 to the early 1970s, Americans smoked billions of cigars, and nearly all of them were candelas. They were so popular in the United States that the term American Market Seletion (abbreviated as AMS) was created by the major importer of Cuban cigars at the time to designate green or candela colored wrappers.


A piece of wrapper leaf placed at the head, or top, of the cigar to secure the wrapper. Caps come in a variety of forms. Cuban-style caps are mounted, or flat, and have three seams. They are known as mounted heads, three-seam caps or triple caps. This method is being found in a variety of other countries now, including the United States, some factories in Nicaragua and Honduras, and in very rare instances the Dominican Republic. The more common type of head is made with a small circle of wrapper leaf, and has a somewhat round shape. Other varieties include those with pig tails or flag caps, which have a thin strip of tobacco protruding from the head, which can be anywhere from a quarter inch to an inch or more long. The cap has to be cut, pierced or removed to draw smoke through the cigar.


A large corona-format cigar, traditionally 7 inches by a 47 ring gauge. The most famous Churchill is the Romeo y Julieta Churchill. The grand size takes its name from legendary cigar aficionado Sir Winston Churchill, who was famous for almost never being seen without a cigar.


Favored by some aficionados and scorned by others, these thin, short cigars, popular in Europe, are generally machine-made, and many brands use homogenized wrappers or binders.


A pale-green to light-brown wrapper, usually shade-grown.


A medium-brown to brownish-red shade of wrapper tobacco.

Connecticut Broadleaf 

A type of tobacco grown in the open sunlight, principally in the Connecticut River Valley. Connecticut broadleaf grows as a squat, bushy plant. The leaves are very wide, hence the name, and after curing they get very dark. Broadleaf is among the prized wrapper leaves used to make many maduro cigars. The plants are stalk cut, the entire plant harvested at one time.

Connecticut Habano

A dark, sun-grown wrapper variety from the Connecticut River Valley that is grown in lower quantities than Connecticut shade and Connecticut broadleaf. Like broadleaf, Habano is grown in the open sunlight. The plant grows leaves with pointy tips, as opposed to wide leaves with somewhat rounded edges, as found on broadleaf. It’s known for hearty flavor.

Connecticut Shade

The term for Connecticut-seed tobacco (a derivative of Sumatra seed) grown in the  Connecticut River Valley, under shade. The cover diffuses the rays of the sun, resulting in a thin, supple leaf with very thin veins. The leaf is prized for wrapper tobacco, and is known for its golden-brown color and mild taste profile. Connecticut seed tobacco is grown in a host of other countries, but true Connecticut shade comes from the Connecticut River Valley.


The most famous variety of Cuban-seed tobacco. Corojo seed was first developed in the 1930s at the El Corojo plantation outside San Juan y Martinez, Cuba. The leaf was used to wrap Cuba’s finest cigars. Descendents of the seed are now grown in Central America and the Caribbean, but Cuba no longer grows Corojo.


One of the most familiar sizes and shapes for premium cigars. Coronas are parejos, straight-sided cigars, with an open foot and a closed, rounded head. The Cuban standard for the size is 5 5/8 inches long with a 42 ring gauge.

Cuban Sandwich

A handmade cigar made with a mixture of long-filler and short-filler tobacco. These cigars are sometimes referred to as mixed-fill cigars.

Cuban Seed

Usually refers to plants grown in non-Cuban countries with seeds that originated in Cuba. Cuban-seed tobaccos tend to be full in flavor. Tobacco changes when planted in different soils, so a seed from Cuba planted in, say, the Dominican Republic, will not taste identical to the one planted in Cuba.


Spanish for "snake." Culebras are cigars made of three panetelas braided and banded together; usually 5 to 6 inches in length, most often with a 38 ring gauge. Legend has it that the culebra was invented as a way for factory owners to ensure their rollers were not exceeding their three cigars per day allotment. They would be given one braided culebra; a worker smoking (or taking) a straight cigar could be recognized as stealing. Whatever the legend, culebras are eye-grabbing smokes


The very important step in preparing cigar tobacco immediately following the harvest. Freshly harvested tobacco leaves (which have been either primed or stalk-cut) are hung in tobacco curing barns, also known as casas de tabacos. There the leaves turn from green to brown in a process known as curing. Moisture is slowly removed from the plant over a period of around 45 days, depending on the weather. Vents are opened and closed in these barns to make adjustments, and sometimes propane gas powered burners or small charcoal (or carbone) fires are lit to increase temperature, and on occasion humidity is added. The tobacco leaves turn from green, to yellow, then finally to brown. The veins and the very thick stem are the last to turn. This curing process prepares the leaves for fermentation, but the tobacco would be too raw and harsh to enjoyably smoke in this form.

Double Claro

See Candela

Double Corona

A big cigar, known as a prominente in Cuban cigar factories. The cigars generally measure 7 1/2 to 8 inches by a 49 to 52 ring gauge. 

English Market Selection

Abbreviated EMS, a term used to designate a natural color wrapper, not claro or lighter shades, nor maduro or darker shades. In the United Kingdom, an EMS sticker found on boxes of Cuban cigars refers to inventory that has been vetted by Hunters & Frankau, cigar distributors.


Perhaps the most important step in preparing cigar tobacco for smoking. After harvest, workers gather the tobacco leaves in large bulks (known as pilónes), moistening the leaves and allowing them to ferment. The pressure and the heat causes temperatures to rise, perhaps as high as 140 degrees Fahrenheit before the bulk is broken down and rebult. This process, called working the bulk, releases ammonia from the tobacco and creates a chemical change in the tobacco. Smoking unfermented tobacco can make a smoker ill.


The end of the cigar you light. Most often it is open. Most perfectos have narrow feet resembling a nipple, and the draw of such cigars can be improved by cutting a bit off that end. A few handmade premium cigars have completely closed feet.


Spanish for "fat," as in the corona gorda shape, a thicker corona. The traditional size is 5 5/8 inches with a 46 ring gauge.

Gran Corona

A very big cigar; generally 9 1/4 inches by 47 ring gauge.


The closed end of the cigar; the end you smoke. The head can take many forms, including round, flat, mounted, flag tip, and more.


One of the three main tobacco growing areas of Nicaragua. The Jalapa Valley is known for its subtle, elegant tobacco, and much of the tobacco grown here becomes Nicaraguan wrapper. The soil in Jalapa is red and clay like, and considered some of the most prized growing areas for tobacco anywhere.


A long, slim cigar that is part of the gran panetela family. The first lanceros were rolled at El Laguito in the 1960s with the creation of the Cohiba Lancero.


One of the three basic grades of filler tobacco. Ligero is the strongest variety (seco is the mildest, viso is stronger than seco but more mild than ligero.) Ligero lends body to a blend. The name means light in Spanish, and these leaves—which come from the top section of a tobacco plant—receive the most sunlight of any tobacco leaf. They are noticeably thicker than other leaves. Ligero grown in the Estelí region of Nicaragua is known for being one of the strongest varieties used in the cigar industry.

Long Filler

Filler tobacco consisting of whole leaves, which run the length of the body of the cigar, rather than chopped pieces (short filler) found in machine-made cigars. The Spanish term for filler tobacco is tripa.


A lonsdale is generally longer than a corona but thicker than a panetela, with a classic size of 6 1/2 inches by 42 ring. Example: Montecristo No. 1


A wrapper shade from a very dark reddish-brown to almost black. The word means ripe in Spanish. The color can be achieved by sun exposure, a cooking process or a prolonged fermentation.


A medium-brown colored wrapper, also referred to as a Colorado Claro.


The mark of a well-humidified cigar, and an attractive element to the wrapper of a cigar.


The blackest shade of wrapper, darker than maduro.


A distinctive cigar shape that is closed at both ends, with a rounded head; usually with a bulge in the middle.

Petit Corona

A small cigar, known as a mareva in a Cuban cigar factory. Petit coronas vary in size, but the Cuban standard is 5 1/8 inches long by 42 ring gauge. The Montecristo No. 4, one of the world’s most popular cigars, is a petit corona.


A sharply tapered cigar with a wide, open foot and a closed head.

Ring Gauge

A measurement for the diameter of a cigar, based on 64ths of an inch. A 40 ring gauge cigar is 40/64ths of an inch thick, a 64 ring gauge cigar would be one inch in diameter. Cigars have grown very fat in recent years. Diamond Crown, made by Tabacalera A. Fuente for J.C. Newman Cigar Co. in the mid-1990s, made headlines in year 1995 when it debuted with all 54 ring gauges, considered quite fat at the time. Today it is not uncommon to see cigars with ring gauges of 60 or more.


A substantial, but short cigar; traditionally around 5 inches long by a 50 ring gauge. Robustos have become the most popular cigar size in the world.

Shade Grown

Wrapper leaves that have been grown under a tent, also known as tapado. The filtered sunlight creates a thinner, more elastic leaf. The practice of growing under shade originated in the Connecticut River Valley in 1900. The original tents were made of cheesecloth, but today nylon is the preferred material.

Short Filler

Used mainly in machine-made cigars, short-filler tobacco (also known as picadura, or chop) consists of chopped scraps of leaf. Short filler burns quicker and hotter than long filler. A small number of cigars are made by hand with a blend of short and long-filler tobaccos. These are known as mixed-fill cigars or Cuban sandwiches.


The slightly curved or rounded area of a cigar where the cap meets the body. If you cut into or below the shoulder, the cigar will begin to unravel.

Sun Grown

Tobacco grown in direct sunlight, which creates a thicker leaf with thicker veins. All filler tobacco is sun grown. Today many types of wrapper tobacco are grown in the open sunlight, which results in fuller flavor and darker leaves. In some regions of the world, such as Ecuador and parts of Indonesia, cloud cover negates the need for shade.


An increasingly popular cigar size, toros or corona gordas (which literally translates to fat coronas) are fatter than coronas and sometimes also longer. The typical Cuban standard size is 5 5/8 by 46, but today it’s not uncommon to see many with ring gauges well over 50


A cigar shape that features a closed foot, a pointed head and a bulge in the middle.


A cigar factory term for a cigar shape. Robusto and corona are two examples of vitolas.


A high-quality tobacco leaf wrapped around the finished bunch and binder of a handmade, premium cigar. Wrapper leaves need to be coddled and treated with the utmost care to avoid blemishes and tears. Wrappers, when purchased, are the most expensive type of tobacco. Wrapper can be grown in many countries from a wide varieties of seeds. The Spanish term for wrapper is capa.


Information provided by Cigar Aficionado 

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