"Mild" vs. "Medium" vs. "Full cigars"...What are you afraid of?

By Humberto P. Gonzalez

Today's blog was written by my good friend and coworker, Humberto Gonzalez. This is also the first article by other cigar experts & enthusiasts who will now be contributing to this blog. Enjoy the read. - G.K.

This question has plagued me as of late. As the self proclaimed "sampler guru" of Famous Smoke Shop, I am charged with the task of putting together exciting and affordable, unadvertised "phone-only" deals for our call-center staff to introduce to their customers, among other things. Some of the latest versions of these sampler deals include "The Muscle" and the "Jet Black," both containing some respectably fuller flavored cigars. Although many of our customers seem to be enjoying them, a sizable number of our phone-in customers wouldn't touch the offer with a ten foot match. It appears people associate strength with harshness. Being a seasoned cigar smoker myself, this issue has become a pet peeve of mine (Believe me. I have many.) So let me set the record straight. There’s nothing to fear.

I was a road cigar salesman for a few years before coming back to Famous this past July. In my travels, I learned many things from a variety of interesting and knowledgeable people in the industry. One of those things is that there is a distinction between full body and full flavor. It was a concept I did not understand until a few respected cigar manufacturers cleared it up for me. They explained that strong, "kick-ass" cigars are probably not meant to be that way. By virtue of a variety of fermenting and aging mistakes, stronger cigars end up being harsh and sometimes unpalatable.

Cigar smokers characterize such cigars as "strong" or "full." (I could name a few branded examples but wouldn’t want my in-box flooded with hate mail.) They also went on to tell me that a properly constructed cigar, from start to finish, should never be so overwhelmingly strong as to get you dizzy or develop a cold sweat. After all, a cigar is supposed to be a refined instrument for the purposes of relaxation and enjoyment. Not something for the masochistic.

I've seen many people on the streets actually relish in a "stronger is better" attitude, like they have something to prove by being able to endure the punishment that an improperly fermented ligero leaf has to inflict. I suppose there’s nothing wrong with that from an individual point of view, but it sends a negative message to many new cigar smokers. So, they stay away from some real gems that could prove to be a newly found favorite.

For the sake of making the distinction, a full-flavored cigar, on the other hand, means its ingredients are fermented and blended in a manner which amplifies the taste experience you may expect from a mild or medium-bodied cigar. Well cultivated, cured, and processed tobaccos blended properly will usually yield a smooth, satisfying experience. A full-bodied cigar really has nothing to do with the cigar's strength. It has more to do with the amount of smoke it produces. I think most cigar smokers will agree that more smoke equals greater pleasure.

The bottom line is this: If you’ve shied away from stronger cigars because you fear their effects, don’t be. You may be missing out on a very pleasant experience. I'll continue to create cigar samplers that display the full spectrum of strengths and flavors for you smokers. In time, I'm sure you’ll understand what I'm talking about. So go on, add a little spice to your life.


Anonymous said…
Very good article, as always. However, a 'strong' cigar is made up of a chemistry blend that is inherent to the leaves used. Once you have the formula, it stays like that and there few 'aging mistakes' that could foul a cigar. A strong cigar is not flavor or smoke, is chemistry: solids that land on your mouth and are brought to your stomach by the saliva, so EXPECT cold sweat and dizziness if you're smoking on an empty stomach. A 'strong' component will always remaing high in the flavor curve (it's called the dominant flavor) and, therefore, will not treat you lightly.
Keep up the good work.
Anonymous said…
I'm also surprised at how many people relate the color of the wrapper to the "strength" of a cigar. For my persoanal taste, I don't find many cigars that are mild and have complex flavor. There are some, but they are typically very expensive. On the other hand,there are as many "medium" body cigars as "full" that have great flavor profiles.
Jim in Millington, TN said…
Thanks for this great information. I learned something again reading your blog's. The difference between full bodied and full flavored. I understand these two terms better now than I have before. Actually as I see it you can have these two plus I think full strength could be a third. This third one being reserved for those cigars that will set you down in your chair and give you that "in your stomach" feeling. I don't mind one of these every once in a while, but I really like a cigar that when you release the smoke through your nose it really gives you it's full flavor without knocking you to your knees. Now, along with all the different taste's a cigar blend has to offer I will really be more in tune with whether it's full bodied, full flavored or even full strength and if you have one, two, or maybe all three in one cigar. Thanks for the great blog, Humberto. I will be looking forward to more good reading from Gary and yourself.
Thanks for a great post. As a new cigar smoker, it's made a confusing topic easier to understand.

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