Construction - The Parts of a Cigar
The wrapper is the outside layer of tobacco on a cigar. It gives a cigar one of its primary flavor components. Wrappers are usually very high quality leaves, and are available in colors ranging from double claro, the lightest to Oscuro, the darkest. Wrappers are very important to the taste of a fine cigar.
Binder leaves are the intermediate leaf used to hold the bunch of filler tobacco together. These vary considerably from one manufacturer to the next.
Filler is the bunch of tobacco found at the center of the cigar. Generally the filler is responsible for determining how strong a cigar will smoke. There are two types of filler: long filler, which contains the whole leaf running from the head to the foot of the cigar, and short filler, comprised of scraps of tobacco (often the trimmed ends of long fillers).
The blending of wrappers, fillers and binders determines the overall flavor of a cigar. There is an art to blending tobaccos and as you smoke different cigars, you will notice how the various tobaccos interplay with one another.
Are there any differences between the blends of different size cigars in the same line?
Manufacturers often use the same types of tobacco in different sizes, producing different tastes. Often the consumer will perceive this as the same "blend". There is a difference however - it's in the proportions of each type of leaf used. An experienced roller may use different proportions of the tobaccos in different sizes to allow for that size differences. In a smaller ring cigar, the binder and wrapper have a greater influence on the taste, for instance. The blender will allow for this difference by re-proportioning the filler blend. It's just one of those details that requires years of training among master rollers. (and of course, one of the reasons smokers will prefer the taste of one size over another of the same blend....
What is ring gauge and how is it measured?
Ring size is the cigar's diameter, measured in 64ths of an inch. Thus a 32 ring cigar will measure 1/2 inch in diameter. Although many catalogs list ring sizes, they may deviate from each by a couple of points on specific cigars.
DOUBLE CLARO (also called Candela or American Market Select)- green to greenish brown. The color is achieved by picking the leaf before it reaches maturity, and then drying it rapidly. Very mild, almost bland with very little oil.
CLARO - light tan. Usually this is the color of shade grown tobacco. Connecticut Shade wrappers are said to be some of the finest in the world. Shade grown tobacco is grown under large canopies to protect the tobacco from harsh sunlight. Neutral flavor and smooth smoking.
NATURAL - (also called English Market Select) light brown to brown. These are most often sun grown, meaning they are not protected by canopies like shade grown leaves. Fuller bodied flavor than shade grown leaves, but still very smooth.
COLORADO CLARO - mid-brown, tawny. (For example, brands such as Dominican Partagas or Fuentes, using Camaroon wrappers.)
COLORADO - reddish dark brown, aromatic. A cigar with this wrapper tastes robust and rich.
COLORADO MADURO - dark brown, medium strength, slightly more aromatic the maduro. Usually gives a rich flavor, as found in many of the best Honduran cigars.
MADURO - dark brown to very dark brown. These usually have more texture and veining than the lighter wrappers. They are often described as oily looking, with stronger taste - sweet to some palates with a unique aroma.
OSCURO - very dark brown or almost black. They are the strongest tasting of all wrappers. These wrappers tend to be from Nicaragua, Brazil, Mexico, or Connecticut Broadleaf.
The term EMS or English Market Selection is a broad one, which refers to brown cigars- anything other double claro, (EMS) essentially.
The darker the color, the sweeter and stronger the flavor is likely to be, and the greater the oil and sugar content of the wrapper. Darker wrappers will normally have spent longer on the tobacco plant. or come from higher altitudes: the extra exposure to sunlight produces both oil (as protection) and sugar (through photosynthesis). They will also have been fermented for longer.
Body, strength, flavor, and blends
All too often, smokers confuse, or blur together, the concept of body, strength and flavor in a cigar. You had posited smoke volume as a possible component - interestingly enough, smoke volume does indeed relate to these factors as well - more on that in a moment.
Most smokers define a cigar's character to two primary components:
BODY (or 'strength', and even 'intensity'), and
FLAVOR (the 'taste' that characterizes a particular cigar)
A full bodied cigar would be perceived as 'strong', but not necessarily as 'flavorful' - naturally, the converse is also true. Incidentally, many veteran smokers favor cigars characterized by both full body, and full flavor.
As an illustration...
Many inexperienced smokers mistakenly assume that all Cuban cigars are 'full bodied' - in fact, a large number of the great Cuban cigars are prized for their 'delicate' (what some might regard as medium or even light) body. A classic case in point are the larger Cuban Hoyos (and many of the Cuban Montecristos) which are characterized by their unrivaled complexity of 'taste' (full flavor), and relatively mild (as compared to other Cuban cigars) body. Likewise, there are a few Cuban cigars that are found be to quite strong (full bodied), but not very flavorful (some of the Sancho Panza, and El Rey Del Mundo come to mind).
While it is true that a smoker will select a type of cigar on the basis of body (full, medium or light), many assume (wrongly) that all smokers desire cigars that are full flavored. Just as some individuals are put off by 'full flavored' cuisine (Szechuan, or Cajun for example) some smokers desire cigars that are more 'gently' flavored (the Macanudos are a prime example).
As you can clearly see, we're obviously not talking science here. In a discussion of cigar body and flavor, of paramount consideration is experience, and a frame of reference. As one embarks on a lifelong relationship with cigars, a DR Cohiba might be perceived as a wonderfully robust smoke -- however, after a year or two of smoking, that same cigar will cause the smoker to wonder if the manufacturer altered the blend of this 'once' great smoke. It's all a matter of ...taste.