A cigar is a tobacco leaf wrapped around a tobacco leaf filling. Bigger than a cigarette, and taking longer to smoke, the cigar is considered by aficionados to be the finest way to enjoy tobacco.

Cigars come in several shapes and sizes. The standard shape is the round-headed cigar with parallel sides. Perfecto refers to a cigar with a pointed head and tapering sides; Panatella is a long, thin, straight cigar; Cheroot is an open-ended cigar, usually made in India or Asia. A special vocabulary denotes cigar sizes. From the smallest [3.5 in (8.9 cm)] to the largest [7.5 in (19 cm)] they are the Half Corona, Tres Petit Corona, Petit Corona Corona, Corona Grande, Lonsdale, and Double Corona. A set of initials usually stamped on the bottom or side of a box of cigars refers to the color of the tobacco leaf: C C C is Claro (light); C C means Colorado-Claro (medium); C means Colorado (dark); and C M stands for Colorado-Maduro (very dark). The darker leaf is generally the stronger tobacco.


The earliest cigars were probably those rolled by native Cubans. Columbus encountered Cubans smoking crude cigars, and subsequent Spanish and Portuguese expeditions to the New World brought back cigars to Europe. Many sailors smoked cigars, and brought the habit to port cities, but the habit did not become widely popular until the end of the eighteenth century. Cigar factories existed in Spain at this time, and in the 1780s factories were established in France and Germany as well. English officers who fought in Spain during the Napoleonic Wars brought cigars home to England, where they became a fad with the upper classes. Cigars were expensive, especially because of high import duties on them, and by the end of the nineteenth century, they had become a mark of luxury. Smoking cigars was for men only (even smoking in sight of a woman was considered vulgar), and special smoking clubs called divans sprang up where men could enjoy their habit.

In the twentieth century, cigars were associated with notable public figures, from presidents to gangsters to entertainers. Winston Churchill, Calvin Coolidge, Al Capone, and Groucho Marx, to name a few, were all avid cigar smokers. After World War II, the cigar increasingly became the old man's smoke. Instead of being considered suave, the cigar became something conspicuously inelegant. This perception of the cigar has reversed recently, as cigar smoking became newly fashionable in the 1990s. Special cigar clubs and cigar "smoke out" dinners in cities across the United States in the 1990s put forth a revamped image of the cigar as a luxurious vice for men and also women to enjoy. By the mid-1990s, there were an estimated eight million cigar smokers in the United States, and cigar manufacturers were hard pressed to meet booming demand.

Though the finest cigars still come from Cuba, cigars are manufactured all across the globe. As early as 1610, cigar tobocco was grown in Massachusetts, and other early centers of tobacco cultivation were the Philippines, Java, Ceylon (Sri Lanka), and Russia. American cigar tobacco was mostly exported to the West Indies, rolled there, and then imported as finished cigars, until the beginning of the nineteenth century. A domestic cigar industry developed after 1801, and by 1870 there were cigar factories all across the country. Tampa, Florida, was a center for cigar manufacturing, though Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and New York also had hundreds of cigar factories.

Cigars were made by hand until the beginning of the twentieth century. The industry mechanized rapidly between 1910 and 1929. The number of cigar factories in the United States fell dramatically—from almost 23,000 in 1910 to only around 6,000 in 1929—but the mechanized factories produced many more cigars than the old handwork ones. Today, the finest cigars are still made entirely by hand. But the majority are made either entirely or partially by machine.

Raw Materials

The principle raw material of the cigar is the leaf of the tobacco plant (Nicotiana tabacum).The tobacco plant grows in many climates, but the finest cigar tobacco is grown in Cuba, Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic. A cigar requires three kinds of tobacco leaf as its raw material. Small or broken tobacco leaves are used for the filler. Whole leaves are used for an inside wrapper, called the binder. The binder leaf can be of second quality or imperfect. Its appearance is not important. A large, finely textured leaf of uniform appearance is used for the outside wrapper. Some cigars are made with the leaves all from the same region. Others may be wrapped in a high-quality leaf (from Cuba for example) but filled with poorer quality leaf from another region. Secondary raw materials include a tasteless gum to stick the end of the wrapper together, flavoring agents that are sometimes sprayed on the filler leaves, and paper used for the band placed around each cigar.

Most machine-made cigars use homogenized tobacco leaf (HTL) for the binder, and often for the wrapper as well. HTL is made from tobacco leaf scraps that are pulverized, mixed with vegetable gum, and rolled into sheets. HTL is stronger and more uniform than whole tobacco leaf, and so is more suitable for use in cigar-making machines. When HTL is used for the wrapper, the manufacturer may add flavorings to it.

The Manufacturing

Cultivation of tobacco




Hand rolling

Machine rolling

Finishing and packing

Quality Control

Cigars are checked for quality during each step of the manufacturing process. The quality of the tobacco leaves is very important, and leaves are sorted and inspected after curing, after fermentation, and before they are made into cigars. The finished cigars must be checked for consistent diameter, weight, size, draw (how well smoke can be sucked through them), and for any imperfections in the wrapper or in the shape. Cigar factories employ personnel to maintain the manufacturing machinery so that cigar measurements are consistent. In many smaller tobacco factories the final inspections are done by eye. A worker places cigars through a ring to check diameter and measures their length with a ruler. Appearance is critical to the individual cigar, and a box of cigars must also be inspected so that at least the top layer is consistent in color. The quality of the wrapping must be inspected for hand-rolled cigars. The veins of the wrapper should appear in a uniform spiral, and the leaf must be smooth and taut.

Where to Learn More


Sherman, Joel and Nat Sherman. A Passion for Cigars. Andrews and McMeel, 1996.


DeGeorge, Gail, and Ivette Diaz. "I'm Rolling As Fast As I Can." Business Week, September 2, 1996, p. 46.

Flanagan, William G. and Toddi Gutner. "Cigar Power." Forbes, August 1, 1994, pp. 100-101.

Pruzan, Todd. "Stogies for Fogies? Puffing Now Upscale." Advertising Age, August 21, 1995, p. 1, 12.

Angela Woodward

Also read article about Cigar from Wikipedia

User Contributions:

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic: