The return of the thin cigar. As much as everything, cigars go through cycles too. From approximately 2007, there was a rat race to produce the strongest cigar possible. Several brands tried to blend cigars jam-packed with Ligero just to create a cigar that would knock you off your feet. And for a while, this rat race went on. Even though the epicenter of the strong, stronger, strongest epidemic was Nicaragua, even the Dominican Republic didn’t escape from the madness.
But then, suddenly after a few years, the rat race was over. Almost all the new blends that were released were medium-bodied instead of Ligero heavy. But it did create a myth that all Nicaraguan cigars are super strong, especially by Habanos fanatics. A lot of the strong cigars are still being made, such as the Cain F, Tatuaje Fausto, La Flor Dominicana Double Ligero to name a few. And not considered crazy strong anymore, just full-bodied. Maybe we, as a cigar community have gotten used to it. It’s much like music when The Beatles and The Rolling Stones got popular, they were considered loud. In the late 1980s, that same was said about Guns ’n Roses but if you listen to it now you won’t call them very loud. Even though the music hasn’t become louder since Guns ’n Roses dominated the charts.
During the same era of the strong cigars, another innovation showed up on the shelves of the retailer. An innovation fueled by Oliva Cigars. According to the legend, the great minds of Oliva wondered how they could get the taste of the last third of the cigar throughout the whole cigar. Their solution was to create a cigar with the same amount of tobacco as a toro, yet in a short cigar. That resulted in a short yet fat cigar, the Nub. And that was the first popular, regular production cigar with a ring gauge of 60 or higher. Yes, there were gimmick cigars with bigger ring gauges like the Bazooka, but Nub was the first 60+ cigar that wasn’t a gimmick.
And that was the start of a segment for the cigar industry. Big ring gauge cigars. An innovation that changed the whole view on ring gauges. Remember, in the mid-1990s during the cigar boom, a robusto was considered a fat smoke. And when J.C. Newman released the Diamond Crown line, all with ring 54, that was almost considered blasphemy. But the Nub gained popularity and was copied by almost everybody.
Gordo, Super Gordo and more
But a 4×60 wasn’t enough for most, so a new vitola was invented. A vitola which most call Gordo, although others call it double toro or other names. But that size is 6×60 or a variation close to that size and ring. Asylum, the brand of Tom Lazuka and Christian Eiroa, took it even further by creating a 7×70 and a 6×80. Drew Estate launched the MUWAT with 3 different 60 ring gauge cigars. Alec Bradley took the ‘everything is bigger in Texas’ motto and created a 7×70 Texas Lancero. And these sizes gained more and more popularity.
To the purists and lovers of thin ring gauges, this was pure horror. Habanos followed the trend, but it meant that smaller ring gauges were discontinued. And in the new world, new releases saw more thicker rings than thinner rings. If you ask blenders, factory owners, and brand owners their favorite vitola, most will still admit that they love thinner ring gauges. So the rise of the thicker ring gauges is consumer motivated.
Wrapper filler ratio
Most of the flavor of a cigar comes from the wrapper. The filler is less about flavor, but more about combustion. So when the ring gets thicker, the ratio of wrapper to filler declines. That causes the cigar to be less flavorful and less dynamic. When the ring gets thinner, the opposite happens. If you don’t believe that the wrapper is the leaf that brings the flavor, go to a rolling event if you have the chance. Grab two of the same cigars from the shelve, plus another one with a different wrapper. Ask the roller to replace the wrapper from one of the cigars with the different wrapper from cigar three. Then smoke the cigars with the same filler and binder, but with a different wrapper. The wrapper makes a world of a difference.
When you ask why people smoke big ring gauges, the answer is often ‘bang for the buck’. For a lot of other products, that is a perfectly fine answer. Upsize your meal at McDonald’s, get beer in a bigger glass or things like that. Because that doesn’t change the flavor of the food or the beer. But a thicker ring gauge does change the flavor and experience of the cigar. And shouldn’t it be quality over quantity? If a little less tobacco creates a much better experience, isn’t that the better choice?
Return of the thinner cigars
Just like what happened with strong cigars, we notice a trend. And that trend is that the thinner cigars are slowly coming back. Kristoff is adding a corona size to all their lines. Other new releases include thinner ring gauges. Tatuaje added a petite corona to the Black series, plus the ME II doesn’t have any cigar over ring 52. DAV launched a limited edition Lancero. And they are not the only ones. The thick ring gauges will never disappear. But the thinner ring gauges are making a comeback. And that’s a comeback we have been eagerly waiting for. Hopefully, Habanos will be following this trend and brings back some thin ring classics as well.