It is a common philosophy in cigar circles that thin ring gauges allow for a more complex smoking experience, when compared to the modern style of gordo formats (6″ x 60, 70, 80, etc). This is because the wrapper leaf is traditionally the the highest grade leaf used on a given cigar blend, paired with the prevailing notion that a smaller ring gauge (diameter) allows for a higher wrapper/filler ratio, and thus a profile that better showcases the cigar’s wrapper.

But this opinion is not shared by all—with critics taking the position that a cigar is essentially a circle/cylinder, and that because the shape remains constant—whether small ring gauge or large—the ratio of wrapper and filler adapts in unison.

WARNING: this article is intended for “cigar nerds” and may otherwise result in boredom.

Continue at your own risk.

What is agreed is that there are other factors that will contribute to the different smoking experiences from large to small cigars, such as (generally) a cooler draw, easier draw resistance, larger smoke output, and better potential for blend variety in large-sized cigars. The last point is one of the biggest differentiators for brands that span many sizes, as leaves must be added/removed from the blend to account for dramatic diameter variations.

Few deny that these discrepancies exist, which adds depth for the cigar smoker and their ever-evolving preferences in the hobby! But what we’d like to take a look at is the claim that smaller ring gauges cater more towards a given cigar’s wrapper over the filler—compared to a larger cigar of the same blend. In other words, does a cylinder’s surface area (wrapper) to volume (filler) ratio change with increased diameter (ring gauge)?

For comparison, we will use three imaginary cigars of identical length and blend makeup, with ring gauge being the only differentiator. To make this as simple as possible, we’ll compare a 6″ x 30 (basically a panatela vitola), a 6″ x 60 (gordo), and a 6″ x 90 (this may be pushing the limits, but bigger cigars exist…).

VitolaLengthDiameter
Panatela6″30
Gordo6″60
Gordo Grande6″90

Now we need to convert the “mysterious” ring gauge number to a comparable measurement we can work with. Ring gauges are calculated as 1/64 of an inch in diameter (e.g. a 64 ring gauge cigar has a diameter of 1″). To find a cigar’s ring gauge, simply measure across the cigar’s foot and multiply this by 64—a cigar that measures 3/4″ (.75″) has a ring gauge of 48. Since we need to reverse-engineer this, we’ll divide 30 (our panatela) by 64 and see that this cigar is 0.47″ in diameter.

To make the the calculations more manageable, we’ll convert all the dimensions from inches to millimeters.

VitolaLengthDiameter
Panatela152mm12mm
Gordo152mm24mm
Gordo Grande152mm36mm

*amounts are averaged to nearest whole number for simplicity

Next we need to dust off our geometry textbooks to find the equations that solve a cylinder’s respective surface area and volume.

Right Cylinder – Surface Area:

A = 2πrh

Area = 2 x 3.14 x radius x height

Basically, all we need to do here is find a calculator and plug in the cigar’s radius (6mm for the panatela) and height (152mm) and we’ll have a basic idea for the cigar’s wrapper surface area.

In the link above, Google’s calculator shows a slightly different equation. This is because they are showing the surface area for a cylinder that is capped at both ends. Because we’re cutting the cap off the cigar and we’ll assume the cigar doesn’t have a closed foot, we’ve removed this part of the equation to only reflect the smokable portions of a cigar.

Right Cylinder – Volume:

V = πr2h

Volume = 3.14 x radius squared x height

Again, grab your calculator and plug in the cigar’s radius and height and this will tell us the cigar’s filler volume.

VitolaWrapper AreaFiller Volume
Panatela5,730mm217,191mm3
Gordo11,461mm268,763mm3
Gordo Grande17,191mm2155,000mm3

*amounts are averaged to nearest whole number for simplicity

With these numbers, all we really need to do is simplify to gain a clearer picture.

VitolaParts WrapperParts Filler
Panatela33100
Gordo17100
Gordo Grande11100

*amounts are averaged to nearest whole number for simplicity

As you can see from the table, the smaller a cigar’s ring gauge, the larger the wrapper/filler ratio becomes. This is because the wrapper leaf remains consistent in thickness from small to large cigars of the same blend. Take, for example, the thinnest cigar imaginable—there’d be no room for filler and you’d have a 100% wrapper-based cigar!

A similar example is a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. If you’re a fan of the peanut butter filler, go for the regular-sized candy. For a heavier weight on the chocolate component, the Reese’s Miniatures are going to be the way to go (as with the cigar alternative, this is my personal preference).

Or, for a more visual example of this geometric phenomena, check out the MythBusters Episode 96: Lead Balloon.

This article isn’t intended to declare large or thin cigars as “better” than the other.
Our goal is to show how the wrapper (and binder, proportionately) and filler tobaccos’ influence changes between cigar sizes.

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