Thursday, March 26, 2015

The short and long (and medium) of it: The cigar's inner workings

Here's something super-duper interesting! While at the Mr. Js Havana Cigar Shop's monthly cigar dinner, Nat Sherman's VP of Retail & Brand Development Michael Herklots discussed the inner workings of a cigar.


But, like anything else that is awesome, complex, and varied, the filler story doesn't stop there.  Look at this:


You're probably saying, What's the diff? And who cares?

(You should. But if you don't, no judgements. Just interesting cocktail party or cigar lounge fodder.)

If your cigar is composed of long fillers, that means one leaf is folded/arranged  and placed with other others of the same ilk in the same manner. These leaves run the length of the cigar and give you a straighter burn with more consistent ash, as well as a consistency of taste and a natural complexity. Think of it as variations of the same theme as the cigar burns down these leaves. You're getting the same amount of each tobacco leaf throughout. The finest cigars use this technique, as you would expect.

Think of it as the bone-in rib eye of the cigar world. When you consume it, you take your time, savoring every bite; similarly, the long-filler cigar will burn more slowly than its compatriots.

Dear God. Yum. [source]

The cigar with short filler means it is composed of chopped up leaves, so as you smoke, the flavor will consistently change, depending on what filler leaf combination you happen to be burning at that moment. Because the leaves are not burning evenly, you'll find the ash can get a bit lopsided, which will require you to pay more attention as it burns. Sometimes, you'll also get small bits of tobacco on your tongue with short filler, which can be annoying.

Generally the short filler will be considered a lesser quality cigar, but sometimes you'll see that a cigar line will say a particular stick's promotional materials will say it's made from the same tobacco as the premium cigars. How is that possible? Oftentimes, the tobacco for the short filler are the cuttings and trimmings from those premium cigars.

But! If you have a fave that also happens to be a cigar with this type of filler, don't let that stop you from enjoying it!

Think of these trimmings and choppings as the hot dog of the cigar world. And how do you consume a hot dog? In as few bites as possible, generally.

No judgements. Also delicious.* [source]

And the medium filler? Just what you think--the pieces are bigger than those included in the short-filler cigars, but are not single tobacco leaves folded or rolled together. Sometimes these are referred to as sandwiches, which brings us to...

Think of the medium filler as a nice burger. (We like cheese on ours, but that doesn't really fit the analogy.)

My burger of choice, from Friendly's. [source]

Just to throw in another thing to think about, sometimes you're going to come in contact with a cigar that, to quote Valentino's dad (in a completely different and opposite context, but I really wanted to make this reference), "I'm sucking and sucking and not getting anything."** In this case, it generally means the cigar has a really tight construction.*** To fix that, a toothpick lovingly jammed into the head**** (the cigar's, not yours) and then removed will provide safe passage for the airflow.

Of course, the opposite also occurs: a loose construction means that sucker's going to burn quickly, so be prepared. How do you remedy this? Smoke it and be done with it.


Alert, alert! Just because one cigar is tight or loose doesn't mean the whole batch is that way, so don't let one bad instance turn you off a particular cigar. Stuff happens. Just like you could be off your game at work or school, remember that you're smoking a hand-rolled cigar. A person made that--by hand. A glitch every now is to be expected--even from the best names in the business. rarely, but it happens.

Of course, there's lots of other elements at work here, all the things that make a cigar your favorite or not favorite, but I could use a snack. Let's have a snack. Or a cigar. Or both--and check in on this again later. Deal?

*Next time you're in or around Rhode Island, you MUST check out the New York System's Hot Weiners in Olneyville. Go here for more info.

**This was actually said in relation to perciatelli pasta, which is like thick spaghetti, but with a tunnel running through it. If you try to slurp it up, the sound you hear from the tunnels is the pasta laughing at you. Same concept with some cigars, though.
***Similar to it being wound too tight, which happens to me sometimes.

****Right where you snipped off or punched or V-cut the cap.


  1. Thanks for the education, once a Prof...

  2. Very informative.. Thank you


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