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.
  • Marc

    Jordan, I think you do some of the most engaging and balanced pieces in the industry! I especially enjoy your myth-testing. One factor I’d imagine important, but perhaps impossible to measure scientifically, is the flavor impact of different kinds of leaves. Aa you pointed out, wrappers are generally, though not necessarily, the highest quality leaf in a blend, but I don’t know that there is a clearly definable correlation between wrapper, quality, and flavor impact. More important I believe, is the untested assumption that wrappers constitute the highest percentage of the flavor in a blend. In a “Cigar 101′ seminar at one of the largest retailers in NYC, I was told that 90% of a cigar’s flavor comes from the wrapper!

    Wouldn’t we need to account for the strength of flavor contributed by different kinds of leaves and then analyze wrappers, binders and fillers according to both the leaf impact and the proportions? It is probably possible to provide rough proportional flavor impact for the leaf, proportion, and overall cigar, but then a truly scientific analysis would also need to account for location within the cigar, type of fermentation process, soil composition, priming location, and perhaps even the age of each component. Due to the huge array of factors involved in creating cigars, I believe they are likely the most complex human/nature creation yet devised. And all this complexity is precisely why I’m so obsessed with this hobby! Thanks for all your thought-provoking work!

    • Hey Marc, thanks for the kind words, much appreciated!

      Definitely an interesting topic. I’ve usually heard around 70% for the wrapper’s role. Obviously this number changes based on size (as shown in this article), but as to why that particular leaf affects the blend more than others could be from a few factors, such as the priming. Low-priming leaves in the blend typically contribute to the cigar mostly by combustion purposes, whereas the wrapper is geared towards flavor. I still have a hard time imagining 70% though. I suppose this is something to look into further.

      As far as testing, some cigars allow you to see the difference, such as Davidoff’s new 702 series. These are the same blends as Davidoff’s regular, Connecticut-wrapped cigars, with the wrapper being the only change. Of course we wouldn’t know if they secretly changed other components, but it’s a fun comparison and definitely noticeable.

  • Marco Lebron

    Always wondered why not add wrapper in the filler of larger gauges to maintain that rich flavor of the smaller counter parts!

    • John Hough

      because it’s usually too pretty.

      • Marco Lebron

        Thanks John, I usually shy away from large gauge cigars because I like richer flavor of the smaller gauges . Though I have smoked large gauge cigars rich in flavor they are seldom the case. But I guess it’s all a matter of personal taste.

        • John Hough

          The one large cigar I smoked that impressed me, was the Undercrown Shade, in gordito, 6×60. Full of flavor, didn’t notice, and I Was surprised!

  • John Hough

    I understood the conclusion, but for others, could you sum this up? What is the conclusion of your findings? I would guess, that a smaller ring guage DOES actually impact the flavor given off by the wrapper leaf. I love these types of things you guys do, be more scientific, start with a null hypothesis, and then confirm or deny it.

    One I mentioned earlier, and I think you can feasably do, is have cigars in cellophane, and not in cellophane, for 1 year, and blind taste test them. Also, does lighting a cigar impact flavor? Torch, vs match, vs lighter. Blind taste test. Thanks for the hard work.

    Best.

    • Don’t you think this paragraph sums it up?

      “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!”

      • John Hough

        I am not trying to be anything but helpful and genuine in here fyi. I am also a scientist so I come from that lens. No, it does not sum it up. here is the opening statement: “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).

        Is that your hypothesis if I am correct?

        Then a conclusion should be something like “Indeed, a thinner ring gauge does in fact allow for a more complex smoking experience.”

        On a side note, I love Joya Antano 1970. The grand Robusto, or Gran consul sizes “5/55, or 4 1/2x 55, are my favorite blend and flavor. When I smoke a Churchill version 6.75×42, I do not get the same rich, anise, tobacco flavor that I do in the other 2 forms. So, did the wrapper make it more mellow? was it missing some stuffing? Who knows. I also heard that some companies, actually change their blends slightly, to moderately, when creating different sizes. Some to be a totally different smoke all together.

        Thank you guys for keeping up the great work on here!

        • This is what the article is looking into:

          “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.”

          This is the conclusion:

          “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”

          Of course, the peanut butter represents the cigar’s filler and chocolate is the wrapper.

          I also state that I am not declaring one better than the other. Some cigar’s place their best tobaccos in the filler, some the binder, some the wrapper.

          And yes, there are always slight changes from size to size, I did briefly touch on this as well, but didn’t want to stray too far off topic.

          Thanks for commenting,

          • John Hough

            thanks guys!

        • John I think you are missing the point of the article. We are not making an assertion about the taste, quality, or complexity of a thinner ring gauge cigar. Instead we were fascinated by those (in the industry) that told us that ring gauge does not effect the wrapper to filler ratio.

          It turns out that it’s fairly simple to prove that notion wrong. As a scientist I’m sure you already knew that.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This
Cigar ratings calculator icon

Download Our Advanced Cigar Ratings Calculator

Join our mailing list to receive Cigar Dojo's Advanced Cigar Ratings Calculator and begin ranking your cigar smoking experiences.

You have successfully subscribed! Please check your email to confirm your subscription. Instructions on how to download the Cigar Dojo Ratings Calculator will then be emailed to you.