Narrow Ring Gauges
Are You Missing Some Great Smokes?
Many smokers dismiss narrow ring gauges, opting only to smoke 50+ diameter cigars. This seems to be particularly true of the newest generation of American cigar smokers, who seem to overwhelmingly prefer stocky Robustos, Toros, and Gigantes. Many cigar makers have recently released 54-60 ring cigars, attempting to cater to this "bigger is better" philosophy subscribed to by American smokers. It seems as though everything has become bigger in America: Big Gulps, Super-Sized Fries, and now, Monster Cigars.
Personally, I think this is a huge mistake (pun intended). Massive 56+ cigars are unwieldy in the hand and tragically uncomfortable in the mouth. These mammoth-size cigars tend to burn so cool they are often difficult to keep lit. And finally, their size actually tempers much of their flavor. I was genuinely surprised to see so many behemoths introduced at this year's RTDA. I am extremely interested in seeing whether most smokers will adopt these sizes, or if they are a quickly passing fad. My money is on fad, but I could be wrong (wouldn't be the first time).
Smaller-ring-gauge cigars have taken a beating in mainstream print publications over the last decade . The common charge is that they burn too hot and are not as complex in flavor. Personally, I say, "Hogwash!" Narrow-ring cigars offer a wide array of experiences to the smoker, and such generalizations are devoid of truth. So while the entire US cigar industry works to get you to try larger cigars, I am suggesting just the opposite and proudly champion the narrower classic Corona, Lonsdale, and Cuban Corona Gorda sizes.
These 40-46 ringed parejos provide some of the best smoking in the world; you are really doing yourself a disservice by not sampling these smaller vitolas. Yes, I concede they tend to burn hotter, but this, in itself, is not necessarily a negative. In fact, I argue that, in many cases, it is a positive attribute. Many blends that you find dull on your palate in a larger-ring gauge prove to be dream smokes in a smaller format. The increased combustion can convert a ho-hum blend into one of your spicy, full-flavored favorites. I often find that the cigar blends I usually think of as snoozers in a 50 ring, are delightful when smoked in a smaller ring.
Your fathers smoked them, cigar makers smoke them, and you will discover that most long-time American cigar connoisseurs regularly prefer a narrower 40-46 over the larger vitolas. Monster-size cigars are seldom smoked by seasoned smokers, except as a novelty.
My own tastes vary from large to small, so while I do appreciate a large Double Corona, I have also learned the joys of smoking narrower-ringed cigars. A smaller smoke can deliver a taste explosion that is so often lost in the girth and length of larger cigars. Also, they peak much quicker, delivering their flavor without the long wait that many larger vitolas require. Much pleasure can be found in the smoke of these thinner cigars. To dismiss them because of their size is a shameful mistake.
Here is a list of a few of my own favorite 46-ring (and smaller) smokes to give you an idea of cigars you might wish to try:
This long Lonsdale is often overlooked, as it stands in the shadow of its sister ERDM frontmarks: the Flor de Llaneza, Robusto Largas, and Rectangulares. I assure you that this is a mistake; the Cedar is nothing short of an unadulterated joy to smoke. Smooth as silk, delightful flavors of oak with a tantalizing cedar-spice finish and aroma. The Cedar is an elegant cigar from which to sip the smoke slowly and relax completely.
Don't let its diminutive stature fool you - this is a very spicy little firecracker of a cigar that contains some high-octane Peruvian Ligero in the blend. This is a cigar for those who desire some serious "pop" from their smoke. Not for the timid!
Crafted in the benchmark Cuban Corona Gorda size, this cigar is a "monster" of a smoke. It is a superb blend of hearty Honduran Viso and Nicaraguan Ligeros in a dark, sun-grown, top-primed Ecuadorian wrapper. Robust and earthy from the first puff, it builds to a potent, intense crescendo that rivals the best of Havanas. A must-try smoke for those who crave robust cigars.
This is the cigar that started the entire square-press cigar craze of recent years; it was the first "cuadrado" pressed cigar. Cuadrado is a process of firmly pressing the cigars into a square shape after they are rolled, producing a sharp, box-pressed shape (hence the "Rectangulares" name). The burn, draw, and feel of this square smoke are flawless. It is a medium-bodied cigar with a balanced blend of woodsy flavors, with earthy notes and a tantalizing sweet finish. This is a cigar that is strong enough for the long-time smoker, yet mild enough for the beginner.
This cigar is a perfect example of a blend that bores me in larger sizes, but really hits the spot in a smaller vitola. This is a quintessential Dominican cigar with an oily, claro Connecticut Shade wrapper. It remains mild, but the narrow girth gives it just the right amount of spice to make it a real palate pleaser. A great complement to a strong cup of joe.
This hefty Corona comes sleeved in cedar and is one of the cleanest, best-tasting Java wrappers I have smoked. In fact, this is the only blend with a TBN wrapper that is currently among my own favorites. Medium in body, this cigar is smooth and easygoing on the palate. A woodsy flavor and aroma are this cigar's foundation, with a distinct cedar-like spice that tempts the nose. I really enjoy this as my first cigar of the day.
This cigar features a richer, Colorado Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper with a silkier, softer texture, and a darker color than the traditional English Market Selection (EMS) wrappers used on JR Ultimate cigars. This refined change of wrapper makes the No. 10 a classic cigar with a blend exhibiting a perfectly balanced bouquet of complex flavors and aromas - a true connoisseur's cigar.
Regretfully this list is incomplete; I can still think of another half dozen or so great 42-46 ring cigars that I frequently smoke. However, it should give you a pretty good idea of narrower-ringed cigars that are definitely worth sampling. From the mild Don Diego Privada No. 4 to the mega-robust Bolivar Fuerte Cuban Corona, I think there is at least a pair within my list that will strike the fancy of every cigar smoker.
I strongly urge every cigar smoker to try narrower-ringed cigars. I know you will discover, among these smaller vitolas, cigars that will be perfect smokes for your own palate. In fact, you will probably find yourself marveling at just how "big" a smoke can be had from some smaller cigars.