ACCORDING to Laurence Davis, size does matter.
He would say that – he is undoubtedly a larger-than-life character and when it comes to cigars, the bigger the better, as far as he is concerned.
But size is indeed an important topic in relation to cigars. In the lifespan of what we would recognise as the modern cigar, it’s only in the last blink of an eyelid that gargantuan smokes have taken hold.
Previously, for many, many years, cigars tended to be thinner – elegant sizes like coronas or panatelas were popular and anything much above a Ring Gauge of around 42 was considered a large cigar. Take the old cigar saying, which goes something like: “When a man is in his 30s, he smokes a 30-ring gauge cigar. When he is in his 50s, he smokes a 50-ring gauge cigar.”
A 30-ring gauge cigar is today considered tiny today (incidentally, the factory name for that size is entreacto and it expresses itself beautifully in cigars like the El Rey del Mundo Demi Tasse or the equally fragrant Du Maire from Hoyo de Monterrey. LD would fall off his perch if he had to smoke those all the time.
Although, come to think of it, now that he is – ahem – a mature chap, he is entitled to smoke as many fat cigars as he likes…
In the last 15 years or so, the trend for huge ring gauges has accelerated, led at least in part by the desire for fat cigars from American smokers. The US is the world’s biggest cigar market and sells far more big ring gauge cigars than small ones.
But the need to puff on a fat stogie is not just down to our friends across the pond; it is a worldwide phenomenon. Cigar lovers in the Middle East in particular, favour massively girthed gargantuans and the phenomenon shows little sign of abating or indeed taking a U-turn anytime soon.
There’s no doubt a fat cigar gives oodles of smoke across the palate and for the master cigar blenders of the world’s great cigar houses, this must a welcome opportunity to really express their talents. But it can also be an excuse to hide mediocre tobacco inside a large package and the canny cigar lover should watch out for specimens with tons of filler and no flavour. Nobody wants a boring two-hour smoke.
A side effect of this boom in sizes is that many old – and much-loved in certain circles – cigar lines have been quietly ushered off the stage in recent years. Off the record chats with distributors and retailers from all over the world reveal that the number of long, thin cigars sold these days is miniscule. Once the numbers of a cigar line drop below a certain point and show no signs of resurrection, the powers that be show no mercy, despite history or tradition. It may be our pleasure, but it’s their business, after all.
This is a shame for those of us who appreciate the exquisite art of wrapping big flavour in a small cigar. There is an argument that a smaller, thinner size gives a truer reflection of what the blender was trying to achieve. The end effect of making this blend significantly fatter, say some, is that you can’t see the wood for the trees.
There are, of course, small numbers of beautifully aged boxes of thinner cigars available on the market – just ask at Sautter and they’ll see what they can find in the vaults for you.
And it would only be fair to say that even if they’ve put on a bit of timber, nobody could accuse modern-day cigars of being bland or boring. Recent years have seen some of the best blends in living memory.
Whatever size you prefer, Sautter will do its best to help you find the right ones. Come on in – and let’s see if size matters.