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Friday, August 29, 2008

Wrapper School: Cigar Geometry

Geometry is helpful to study the composition of a cigar since it represents the Wrapper, Binder, and Filler proportions. As consumers, we are always interested in the Diameter (Ring Gauge – rg) of a cigar, but we rarely think of the Circumference (Wrapper + Binder) and Area (Filler) implications.
Imagine looking directly at the Foot of a cigar: what you see is a circle. The Diameter of that circle is the Ring Gauge (rg) – where the rg is measured in 64ths of an inch. If you look at a 32rg cigar, its Diameter is 1/2 inch. The Circumference (distance around) of that circle is 1.57 inches: this means that it takes 1.57 inches of both Wrapper and Binder to cover the cigar*. A 32rg cigar has an Area of .1963 inches: this means that the Foot (Filler) Area is .1963.

When you double the rg (Ring Gauge) of the cigar, extraordinary changes occur. A 64rg cigar has a 1 inch Diameter and a Circumference of 3.14 inches – the Diameter and Circumference have simply doubled. More importantly, the Area (Foot – Filler) of the cigar has increased from .1963 (32rg) to .7854 (64rg) – a four fold increase. This means that when the rg doubled, the Filler quadrupled!

So, doubling the rg quadruples the Filler. From this you could infer that a thinner cigar will express more of the Wrapper and Binder flavor; making the Filler flavors less pronounced. Alas, this is too simple. Cigar makers and blenders must adjust the Filler components (ligero, seco, volado) to make the cigar burn properly. If the cigar maker wants to pronounce the Wrapper more on a thinner cigar, then they will adjust the ligero and other components accordingly. If they want to recreate the same flavor profile as the thicker cigar, then they will adjust the Filler blend to that end. Ultimately, the cigar will reflect what the maker and blender are trying to achieve, and that all depends on their vision.

* It will take slightly less than 1.57 inches of binder since the wrapper covers the binder. In addition, this formula does not account for wrapper overlap which occurs naturally during cigar rolling. Nonetheless, the math is accurate enough for our purposes.

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