Glossary of Tobacco Terms

This section of the website is intended for the historical and informational purposes of thinking adults. Anyone who has been raised since the turn of the 20th century already knows that tobacco can be addictive and lead to various forms of cancer.  If you do not smoke, it would seem illogical to start.  We, in no way, encourage people to use any form of tobacco product.

In his 1954 work, "The Gentle Art of Smoking", Alfred H. Dunhill was nostalgic for a past when smoking was an "art" and enjoyed as a pleasurable pastime in elegant smoking rooms. He remarked that the "furious tempo of modern life" had resulted in tobacco, in the form of ubiquitous cigarettes, being used as a narcotic to calm frayed nerves and becoming a habit and therefore no longer pleasurable. Common sense dictates that anything you do to your body in excess (a habit) is detrimental.

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Aging - A mild state of fermentation.

Air-cured  - Tobaccos that are dried naturally, sheltered from sunlight. This drying is carried out on the whole plant or as individual leaves reach maturity. There are generally five crops in a season. Sugar produced by the plants is degraded during the three months treatment.

American blends - These blends have the following components: Virginia, Burley and Oriental in variable proportions to which a "sauce" consisting of humidifying and sugar elements is added. These blends are finally sprayed with aromatic flavors.

Aromatics - Additives used to flavor tobacco.  These include flavors like cherry, apple, orange, chocolate, coffee, and whiskey.
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Band - The ring of paper with the name of the cigar brand, wrapped near the closed head of the cigar and usually held on with a vegetable based glue.

Barrel - The main body of the cigar.

Binder - The portion of a tobacco leaf that is rolled around the filler to hold it together.

Blend, Cigar - A mixture of different types of cigar leaf tobacco, including up to four types of filler leaves, a binder and an outer wrapper.

Bloom - A fine white powder that forms on the wrapper of the cigar caused by the oils that exude from the tobacco. It can be gently brushed off with a small camel hair brush, though there is no need to do this. Bloom indicates the cigar is alive, maturing as it should inside a well maintained humidor. Bloom should not be confused with mold. Mold is a bluish-green and stains the wrapper. Mold usually indicates a humidor is too warm or has excessive levels of humidity.

Blue mold - Blue mold is a damaging fungus that forms on the tobacco leaf and can ruin the crop. Blue mold is a big problem where there is a lot of dampness or rain.

Briar Pipe - The name is a corruption of the French word "bruyere", or heath tree, a low shrub found throughout Europe, primarily around the Mediterranean. The true briar is only made out of the very hard, dry root of the mature shrub which may be anything up to 250 years old.

British Flake and Ready Rubbed - The tobacco leaves are compacted under great pressure and heat is applied for days at a time. The Cakes of tobacco are then removed from the press and cut on a guillotine into thin slices. The Pipe smoker breaks the flakes up in the palm of the hand to the texture that suits the pipe and ones own style of smoking. This type of tobacco produces a cool slow burning smoke, but does require skill and practice. More Pipe smokers are buying their tobacco in the "Ready Rubbed" form for convenience and it gives almost the same qualities as the original flake, but does provide more consistent, easy smoking, ideal for the new pipe smoker.

Bunch - The mix of filler and binder leaves before they are rolled into a wrapper.

Bundle - A method of packaging cigars using cellophane as opposed to a box. A bundle usually contains from 25 to 50 cigars and are less expensive than boxed cigars. Bundled cigars usually contain the seconds from premium brands.

Burley is a category of highly developed plants that is air-cured and used primarily in cigarette production. Historically, the primary growing regions were Kentucky and Tennessee but its demand has caused it to be cultivated in Indiana, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, the Virginias, as well as in other countries like Argentina, Malawi and Brazil. Although it is generally high in nicotine, low in sugars, and not very aromatic, is very useful in blending and to modify the burn characteristics of a blend.

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Cap - A circular piece of wrapper leaf cigar tobacco that is placed at the head of the cigar to secure the wrapper. Cuban cigar caps have a distinctive three to four-layer circular look that distinguishes them from cheaper counterfeit look-a-likes.

Chaveta (roller's knife) - The knife used in a cigar factory for cutting the wrapper leaf.

Clay Pipe - These pipes do smoke quite hot but one trick is to dip the pipe in cold water and shake of the excess before filling and lighting, Clay's tend to give an earthy taste to the tobacco, quite unusual but not unpleasant.

Corncob - Normally associated with the great smoking country of America. Daniel Boone was said to have smoked a "Missouri Meerschaum." As the name suggests the corncob pipe is made from a corn cob, now specially grown hybrid cobs are cultivated for the making of these pipes. The cobs are dried for about two years before being treated and coated. One good cob typically makes two pipes. The corncob pipe is very light weight and porous and adds a certain flavor to the tobacco smoked.

Corojos - Plants chosen to provide wrapper leaves and grown under a gauze sunscreen.
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Dark blends - These consist of dark tobaccos from various origins (France, South America, Africa and Asia) and Oriental. Generally they do not contain additives or "sauce".

Dark tobaccos - Are plants generally quite developed which initially were the most widely spread in the world. Also used for cigar making, the leaf is subjected to a second treatment - fermentation.

Dublin - The bowl is broad at the top and becomes narrower further down. The bowl is at a slight angle to the shank.

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Entubar - A rolling method that originated in Cuba. Rather than booking the filler leaves, the roller folds each individual filler leaf back on itself, then bunches the leaves together. Proponents of this method say it creates superior air flow through the cigar, which results in a more even draw and burn.

Escaparates - Cooling cabinets in which cigars are kept at the factory for a few weeks after they have been rolled.

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Fermentation - There are primarily two types of fermentation, natural fermentation and forced fermentation, with the duration of the process ranging from two days to two months or more. Natural fermentation, sometimes known as aging, is a chemical reaction caused by moisture and warm temperatures; it occurs when tobacco is packaged in bales or hogsheads. Natural fermentation generally gives tobacco a more uniform color and a milder taste. Forced fermentation involves placing tobacco in huge stacks so that the chemical reaction caused by the moisture and warm temperatures is intensified by the pressure the tobacco is under. Forced fermentation generally gives tobacco a more uniform color, as well as a smoother aroma and taste.

Filler - Tobacco used as the main body or core of a cigar that provide the significant portion of the taste.

Fire-cured - Is a type akin to Dark, it's natural drying is completed by a wood-fired fumigation (oak is used by the traditionalists).

Flag - An alternative to a cap that involves shaping the wrapper leaf at the head of the cigar so that it secures the wrapper in place. Sometimes a flag can be tied off in a pig-tail or curly head.

Flake and Plug tobaccos - After the tobacco leaf has been prepared, it is put into molding presses where it is put under tremendous pressure usually by means of hydraulics, here it is pressed into what is commonly known as Cakes. The Cakes are then placed into retaining presses, depending on the color required of the tobacco it is cold or heated. The amount of pressure and heat will determine the final tobacco color. Flake tobaccos can be recognized through the slices that are sold, there are a few exceptions such as ready rubbed flake and partly broken flake. Plug and Bar tobacco is produced by molding under pressure.

Flue-cured - Are represented by the majority of warm-air dried Virginia. The cultivation is expanding rapidly. The plant developed is average and six crops are produced. Each crop is taken to a bulk curing barn where it is dried by warm air for seven days. The leaves become yellow as a result of a rapid rise of temperature. Among the Virginia are the aromatics and the fillers, the latter used as a major ingredient to balance the mixture. The blends and the taste-lines: Each industrial blend is the result of the scientific compositions of several grades from the same tobacco and from different types.

Foot - The open end of the cigar you light.

Frog-eye - A whitish spot on tobacco leaves that gives the tobacco a ripe appearance.  The spot is actually the result of a disease.

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Hand - Individual tobacco leaves hung together after harvest and tied at the top. These hands are piled together to make a bulk for fermentation.

Hand-rolled (Handmade) - A cigar made entirely by hand, usually constructed with a high quality wrapper and long filler and binder as opposed to cut filler used in machine made and cigar seconds.

Head - the closed end of the cigar, or the end you cut and smoke.

Hookah - Also known as a Qalyān or Narghile and commonly containing multiple stems, they are devices usually associated with Middle Eastern cultures and social smoking. They are a form of water pipe, often very ornate and attractive, used to cool the Shisha (tobacco blend) smoke.

Humidor - Can be an entire room or a small box that is designed to preserve fragile cigars. An optimum humidity and temperature level in a humidor is 70/70, or 70 percent humidity and 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius).

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- L -

Latakia - A product originally prepared in Syria and named after its port city, Latakia, it is now primarily produced in Cyprus. Starting with oriental tobacco, it is cured over wood fires which imparts an intensely smoky aroma and flavor. It is very strong and used to flavor English and American blends.

Ligero - One of the three basic types of filler tobacco. The name means "light" in Spanish.

Long filler - A term used to designate filler tobacco that runs the length of the body of the cigar, as opposed chopped up pieces know as "cut-filler."

Lugs - Lugs are the leaves around the bottom part of the stalk. They are characterized by their small size, thinness and brightness. They make up 13% of the plant's total weight. The nicotine content is around 2.5%, and the sugar level varies from 12-20%.
- M -

Machine made - A term that refers to cigars made entirely by machine and utilizing less expensive cigar tobacco.

Medical Terms Related to Smoking
• Acetylcholine: A neurotransmitter, or chemical in the brain that carries information between nerve cells.
• Addiction: A strong dependence on a drug.
• Arteriosclerosis: A disease in which a sticky substance known as plaque adheres to the walls of the arteries, narrowing and eventually clogging them.
• Bronchitis: An inflammation of airways in the lungs known as bronchi, usually caused by an infection or by smoking.
• Claudication: Pain in the muscles (especially the calf muscles) during exercise caused by too little blood flow.
• Emphysema: An enlargement and destruction of the tiny air sacs in the lungs known as alveoli.
• Mesolimbic dopamine system: A circuit in the brain that when stimulated by certain substances, such as nicotine, can lead to intense cravings
• Neurotransmitters: Chemicals in the brain that carry information between nerve cells.
• Nicotine: The substance found in tobacco that causes addiction.
• Nitrosamines: Compounds found in cured meats and tobacco than can cause cancer.
• Osteoporosis: A progressive disease that weakens the bones, causing them to fracture more easily.
• Passive smoking: The breathing in of air that contains other people's smoke.
• Peripheral vascular disease: A circulation disorder in which arteries carrying blood to the arms and legs become narrowed or clogged.
• Thrombosis: Blood clots in the legs that can break off and go to the lungs causing respiratory distress or failure.
• Withdrawal: Symptoms that occur after stopping a drug. Smoking withdrawal may include anxiety, irritability, insomnia, dizziness, difficulty in concentrating, fatigue, depression, and constipation.

Maryland-type is a market class of tobacco that is a light, air-cured type used in some American cigarette blends but more commonly in Swiss cigarette blends. Its light, fluffy nature results in good burning properties. Generally speaking, Maryland-type tobaccos are have a neutral aroma and are low nicotine.

Similar in leaf-type to Burley tobaccos, but usually darker green in color without the lighter colored, creamy mid-veins. Maryland tobacco varieties are harvested by cutting the stalks, hung in tobacco barns, and air-cured like Burley. This results in cured leaf displaying shades of brown but sometimes with undesireable yellow and green colors.

Meerschaum Pipe - Pipes have been made from this material since the beginning of the eighteenth-century. Meerschaum pipes mainly originate from Turkey where the material is mined. It is actually a mineral, a rock made up of magnesium, which can be found at a depth of around thirty feet. The qualities of this material in the use of pipe making is that it is lightweight and very porous, it is also very easy to work with as regards to carving. The meerschaum pipe takes on a lovely color of a golden brown as it is smoked over the years, adding extra beauty to the pipes appearance.

Mixtures - With these, their unique character comes from careful blending of many different exotic tobaccos and not forgetting plain natural Virginia and Shags. Some of the more exotic tobaccos in these mixtures have been previously pressed and darkened and may include rich flavorings to enhance the aroma and taste, they are generally lighter in character and easier to smoke.

Mold - The wooden form used by cigar rollers to give shape to a finished bunch of cigar tobacco. Some molds have two parts which are then placed in a press.
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- O -

Oriental is a market class of tobacco grown largely in the Balkans and eastern Mediterranean, "orientals" include Turkish-type tobaccos.  Providing a distinctively aromatic smoke with nutty, sometimes a sweet-and-sour" flavor, it is generally used as an ingredient in blends.
- P -

Perique - Grown largely in New Orleans, specifically in the St. James parish, 'Perique' is used as a "seasoning" for pipe tobaccos, providing a distinctive aroma and peppery flavor. Ultimately the pleasure of a good tobacco lies in the blending process. Individual manufacturers jealously guard the secrets of their own brands, which are as numerous and distinctive as individual pipe designs - from the richness of Latakia-based mixture, to the mellowness certain Virginia flake blends. Beginners are faced with many choices that only trial and error will result in the exact blend that meets their preference. Click here for an interesting article.

Priming (Sandleaves) - These are the leaves at the bottom part of the stalk. They are the first leaves to ripen, and the first to be harvested. They make up about 12% of the plant's weight. Primings contain only 1.5 to 2% nicotine and 5 to 10%) sugar.

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- R -

Ring gauge - A standard industry measurement for the diameter of a cigar in 64ths of an inch. A 50 ring gauge cigar is 50/64ths of an inch thick.  Click here for more information.

Rosado - A Spanish term that means "rose-colored." It is used to describe the reddish tint of some Cuban-seed wrapper.

- S -

Seco - One of three basic types of filler tobacco. The name means "dry" in Spanish.

Shade grown - Prime tobacco leaf grown under cheesecloth tenting called a "tapado" to produce a thin, elastic tobacco leaf that is most often used in premium cigars.

Shisha, also known as Mu‘assel, is a tobacco product used in hookahs. It is a blend of various tobaccos, including orientals, sweetened with honey, fruit pulps or molasses, and commonly fruit flavored.

Smoking leaf - "Smoking leaves" grow just above the middle of the stalk. They make up around 7.5% of the plant's total weight. These leaves ripen to a bright orange color and contain about 3% nicotine. The sugar content is about the same as in the lugs.

Smoking Time - A 5-inch cigar with a 50 ring gauge, such as a Robusto, should provide anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes of smoking pleasure. A double corona, a 7 1/2-inch cigar with a 50 ring gauge, may give over an hour's worth of smoking time. A thinner cigar, such as a Lonsdale, smokes in less time than a cigar with a 50 ring gauge.

Shoulder - The area of a cigar where the cap meets the body. If you cut into the shoulder, the cigar will begin to unravel.

Spanish Cedar - The kind of wood that is used to make most cigar boxes and humidors.

Spill - A strip of cedar used to light a cigar when using a candle or a fluid lighter, both of which can alter the taste of the cigar.

Sugar - Sugars occur naturally in tobacco. Darker wrappers, such as maduros, contain more sugar, making them sweeter.

Sun-cured - Represent almost the totality of Oriental tobaccos. Their cultivation is confined to Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria, and to a lesser degree adjoining countries. The essential characteristics of oriental tobaccos are their aromatic qualities and a high sugar content (10 to 15%). The smoke is generally mild and this characteristic brings a binding and homogeneous effect to mixtures.

Sun grown - Tobacco grown in direct sunlight that creates a thicker leaf with thicker veins that's often used in more hearty tasting cigars like maduros.

- T -

Tapado - A cheesecloth tent under which shade-grown wrapper leaf is cultivated.

Tips - The tips are the leaves growing at the top of the tobacco plant. They are relatively narrow and pointed, but are usually heavier-bodied than leaves lower down the plant. Tips represent around 18% of the plant's total weight, and contain a nicotine level of about 3.5%. Leaf These leaves grow just below the tips and are characterized by their relative length, and are firm and heavy-bodied. Nicotine content can range from 3% to over 3.5%, while sugar level is around 15%.

Torcedores - A person who rolls cigars.

Turkish - Turkish tobaccos include many varieties, grown in the eastern Mediterranean, and highly valued for their sweet, spicy flavors that provide body to tobacco blends. Some varieties include, 'Bafra', 'Samsun' and 'Shirazi'.

Twist and Spun Cut - These are really tobaccos for the enthusiast, usually stocked by the specialist tobacconist. Full bodied, powerful and rich, they are made in the traditional style developed by sailors, spun to form a rope.
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- V -

Virginia blends - This taste is, with the preceding, the oldest known. It is characterized by the pure Virginia blends, originally without additives.

Volando - One of three types of filler tobacco.
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Wrapper - A tobacco leaf of varying quality that's wrapped around the finished bunch and binder to complete the cigar.  Leaves with elasticity are used to restrain the filler within the cigar. Good wrappers usually have no visible veins. Colors vary due to the maturing process.

Cigar wrapper colors - Cigar wrappers come in various shades as follows:
• Amarillo: A yellow wrapper leaf grown under shade.
• Candela: A bright green color that was first popularized in the U.S. in the 1800's and early 1900's.  Achieved by a heat-curing process that fixes the chlorophyll content of the wrapper while it's still in the barn. See also double claro.
• Claro: Pale to light brown. The Classic color of Connecticut shade grown tobacco wrapper. This color can also be referred to as natural.
• Colorado claro: Darker brown in color and similar to a Cameroon wrapper from West Africa.
• Colorado: A reddish brown wrapper most often seen in well aged and mature cigars.
• Colorado maduro - A dark brown wrapper, usually seen on cigars produced in Honduras, Nicaragua and sometimes in Cuba.
• Double claro: A greenish-brown wrapper that produces a somewhat light and bland taste.
• English Market Selection: A color designation for wrapper leaves that are somewhat lighter in color than Maduro, especially selected for taste and bouquet. Also referred to as Naturals.
Maduro: A dark, almost coffee like color associated with full flavored and slightly sweet tasting cigars.
• Natural: See Claro
Oscuro: Strong flavored wrapper tobacco produced in Mexico, Brazil and Nicaragua.

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