It’s interesting, as a long time cigar smoker I found it perplexing to see the advent of the Big Ring Gauge Cigars. A cigar that is a girth greater than a 60 ring gauge seemed to be out of the question for me. Think about this, if 1/64 of an inch is a 1 ring gauge then imagine how big a 60 ring gauge is? It’s almost 1 inch around and that’s a BIG cigar.
So here I am many years ago in my local shop and I see my first 60 ring gauge cigar and I remember my reaction, “This has to be a gag or something” thinking who in their right mind would ever smoke such a BIG cigar? After some conversation with the shop’s owner, we both agreed it would most likely be a fad in the cigar world and quickly go away. Boy were we ever wrong and at the time if someone told me otherwise I thought they must be daft.
Fast forward to the present day and not only are BIG Ring Gauge cigars an ever-present part of the selection in your local humidor but a 60 ring gauge today is considered small. Nearly every maker I can think of has at least a 60 ring gauge in their portfolio and some makers go up to 80 ring gauge and above. At this point, I am sure you as the reader are wondering what I am trying to tell you, so here goes. In this edition of #whatmakesacigar, I want to explore with you why you should absolutely smoke BIG Ring Gauge cigars even if you have never tried one or ever smoked a cigar before.
The first time I ever smoked a 60 ring gauge cigar I was overwhelmed, but in a very good way. I was not used to the size and felt that the amount of tobacco was going to overwhelm me. On the contrary, I found it no different than smoking a smaller ring gauge from the point of feeling but the flavor and tobacco were so much more. The ability to have more tobacco in the cigar gave my sense of aroma on turbocharging, and the easy draw along with the full amount of smoke let my pallet really enjoy the cigar. To my great surprise, I was really enjoying the cigar and the fact that it was BIG, easy on the draw, slow on the burn, and enticing to my pallet was amazing! The long time it took me to smoke this BIG cigar and enjoy it also added to the relaxation factor that I love when I light up a great cigar.
So due to this experience, I set out to understand better why a great cigar maker, like the man who truly put big ring gauge cigars it the forefront, Ernesto Perez-Carrillo, would ever make a cigar so large. Early on in my venture to understand this I was met with a lot of resistance since it took time for shop owners to learn about these cigars too. Also, it was not too often one got to spend time with a Master Blender like Ernesto, so I would try to ask at events and there to I met with mixed results. But, as time went on I found the answers and boy did they make a lot of sense.
OK OK, I bet you want to know what I found out, so let’s discuss it. First off the number one reason that many makers want to make a big ring gauge is that in fact it did take hold in the marketplace, and of course like any good business, they wanted to offer the blends they make to those that like BIG Ring Gauge cigars. However, as I dug deeper into the reason I discovered something very interesting. When a blender sets out to make one of these massive cigars they have two ways to go about it. One way is to take an existing blend and just size it up. This can work and often does but I discovered that the blender still had to make adjustments to the ratios so that the cigar tasted as close to the flavors of the same cigars smaller version. This does not make these bad BIG Ring Gauge cigars it just means that when sized-up they may not be a true match the smaller one.
The other way is that the Master Blender sets out to blend the BIG Ring Gauge cigar as exactly that a BIG Ring Gauge cigar. Now, this may sound odd to you but think about it this way. The first option the blender already had the blend and just made it bigger. In the second option, the blender had an idea as to what he wanted to make the cigar taste like and worked it to that taste from scratch. Kinda like Grandma’s homemade chocolate chip cookies from scratch versus those that you buy in the store. So knowing this I wonder why would a blender set out to make a cigar of this size from scratch when they may already have a blend that works? This is when some serious knowledge was dropped on me. When setting out from the get-go with a BIG Ring Gauge cigar in mind, it allows the blender to open up the portfolio of tobacco they own and use it to the fullest. You see in most normal ring gauge cigars, say a 50 or 52, the blender is limited to the number of tobacco leaves they can put into the filler section of the cigar, usually 4 leaves. But with a BIG Ring Gauge cigar, the blender now can go with more leaves of tobacco maybe 6 or even 8 leaves depending on the ring gauge. What does this mean to you as the smoker, especially when the BIG Ring Gauge cigar is blended as such, the flavors are more enhanced and the variations of the types of flavors are multiplied. At the end, when a blender starts to create a BIG Ring Gauge cigar from scratch, so to speak, they have much more versatility in created something unique and different than a smaller ring cigar. This to me is really exciting and what made me try more and more BIG Ring Gauge cigars.
Earlier in the blog, I mention Ernesto Perez-Carrillo. I did this for a very specific reason and septically the fact that he and he alone is credited with bringing BIG Ring Gauge cigars back to the forefront of the cigar industry. Today I get to spend time with him and we have discussed his history with this type of cigar. He told me that back in the 1970’s he made his first BIG Ring Gauge cigar for a motorcycle club in California, he recalls it was a 70 ring gauge and that was unheard of at the time. “They wanted something that would last on those long rides on the west coast” he told me. But his real jump into BIG Ring Gauge cigars was with his first company when he launched Serie R and boy was it a hit. Cigar Smokers had not seen many of this type of cigar in the marketplace and people clamored to try it. I remember that it was really hard for me to find it when I wanted to smoke one. As I recall the first of these was a 58 ring, may have been a 56, but either way the classic cigar size of the time was a Lonsdale or
Corona which is normally 42 and 44 ring gauges respectively. So going to a 56 or 58 ring gauge was a BIG jump.
Now, why would one try a BIG Ring Gauge cigar, either as a new cigar smoker or someone that has never smoked one before? I have a list of reasons but let me share some of the key reasons with you. Often BIG Ring Gauge cigars smoke cooler and tasteless harsh on the mouth. This is great for a new smoker but also the experienced smoker can enjoy a cooler smoke that is full of flavor. Flavor plays a key role, remember I said how a blender can use more types of leaves of tobacco? Draw, this is a key factor for me. I find that the draw tends to be easier making the smoke effortless and truly relaxing experience. Finally, time plays a key role. When I reach for a BIG Ring Gauge cigars I have enough time to truly relax and enjoy it, I know that I want to chill” with a cigar for at least 2 hours and get lost in the smoke while being content with my thoughts. SO much so that as I write this blog I am smoking a BIG Ring Gauge cigar!
I digress back to Ernesto Perez-Carrillo and modern-day. Ernesto and his family own a new cigar company E. P. Carrillo Cigar Co., well maybe not so new since it is 10 years old now, but, he makes, in my opinion, the quintessential BIG Ring Gauge cigar in the marketplace. YES, this is my opinion and only my opinion, but I have my reasons, many stated above. He blends a cigar known as the INCH. It comes in several versions that each has their own blend and flavor profile. They are all built from “scratch” and have been developed to be BIG and to smoke BIGGER. Ernesto has been making BIG Ring Gauge cigar for many years and he is an absolute master at it. Each of the INCH cigars is easy to draw, full of flavors due to the many types of tobaccos that Ernesto uses (especially in the fillers) and the smoke output is perfectly balanced to enhance your ability to enjoy the flavors on your pallet. Like any cigar or blend, you will find that you may have your favorite blend and size and this holds true for me too. Below I have listed out my experience with the INCH line and what I found when I smoked each blend. NOTE that I gave you a blended version of the profile since it would be too long to discuss each individually and I fear I may have bored you, the reader, already.
These cigars come in a 58, 60, 62, 64 (a true INCH) and 70 ring gauges each varying in length from 5 to 8 inches in length.
The flavor profile is a complex mix of sweet woods, earthiness, nuttiness, and spice. It has a slight undertone of sweet caramel on the finish. The smoke is rich on the output and the aroma is just as rich and full on the nose.
The cigar has an Ecuadorian wrapper (the outside leaf of tobacco), a Nicaraguan Binder (the leaf that holds the fillers leaves together), and fillers from the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua. All these combined make the INCH Natural.
These cigars also come in a 58, 60, 62, 64 (a true INCH) and 70 ring gauges each varying in length from 5 to 8 inches in length.
This cigar has a dark chocolate colored wrapper and the flavors are full of cocoa, leather, and coffee. This is an incredibly balanced cigar with a long smooth finish that has hints of sweetness along with a nice spice. The aroma is rich on the nose and the smoke output is very full.
The cigar has a USA wrapper (the outside leaf of tobacco), an Ecuadorian Binder (the leaf that holds the fillers leaves together), and fillers from the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua. All these combined make the INCH Maduro.
BIG Ring Gauge cigars, once many thought they were a fad and today they are here to stay for sure. If you have not tried one yet then I suggest you do, even if it is your first cigar ever. They are unique, different, and full of complex flavors that make these oversized cigars something worthy of your attention.
We shall discover more together as #whatmakesacigar continues with future posts.