The Making of a Cigar
The Making of a Cigar:
From Seed to Stogie
I won't forget the first time I read about all the effort and work that went
into making a cigar. At the end of the article, I just said, "Wowww!" Yep,
there's a lot of expertise which has been put together, even passed down family
lines that make cigar construction such a science. Really. After you read the
following paragraphs you'll surely appreciate that cigar the next time you hold
it between your fingers. Before I begin, I'd to thank Anwer Bati, the author of
The Cigar Companion, and Quintet Publishers from lovely England for being so
kind to allow me the privilege and honor to use a section of the book to briefly
tell you this intricate and fascinating story. It's a book that I highly
recommend. Here goes...
The fields to grow tobacco are flat so that water
won't wash away the seeds. The seeds are covered with cloth or straw to
shade them from the sun. The covering is gradually removed when
germination results and in about 35 days, they are transplanted to the
actual tobacco fields proper. At these fields, plants are watered by
rain, dew, and irrigated from below. The photo at right shows a worker
maintaining tobacco plants one week after being transplanted.
The quality of the cigar depends on the type and quality of leaves
used in its construction. The buds that form on the plant are hand
removed to prevent them from stunting leaf and plant growth. Wrapper
leaves for the best cigars are always grown under gauze sheets-seen on
left-which are supported by tall wooden poles. The reason for this is
that it protects the tobacco plants from the sun and prevents the leaves
from becoming thick and keeps them smooth.
The leaves are picked in horizontal
sections which are separated by an interval of a week between each
section. Roughly speaking, the top half of the plant is used as a
wrapper, the bottom half as binder, and selected leaves from the whole
plant can be used as filler.
As mentioned above, wrapper leaves can be grown
under cover or under the sun. This time, different sections of the plant
provide a different taste. Generally, the leaves from the top provide a
stronger flavor and those from the middle provide a lighter flavor. The
lower leaves are harvested for adding bulk and enhancing burning
qualities. Also, the wrapper leaves are judged by appearance and size.
The wrapper leaves are important to the attractiveness of the cigar as
well as the taste.
The whole process from planting the seed to the
end of harvesting can take about 120 days. During this time, the plants
will be checked upon many, many times.
||The First Curing (
Once the leaves are picked, they are taken to a tobacco
barn to be cured. Interestingly, the barn faces west so that each side
faces sunlight and opposite sides are heated. Temperature and humidity
is carefully controlled. This is where the leaves first loose the green
color and then change to brown. In the barn, the leaves are tied to
poles and left to dry for 45 to 60 days. After this, the leaves are
taken down and transferred to fermentation houses. They are placed in
piles that are about three foot high. The leaves are placed in their
respective classes. The fermentation requires that a small amount of
moisture be present and that temperatures don't exceed 92F. A uniform
appearance of the leaves appears. This process takes about 35 to 40
|The Sorting Process
After the curing process, the piles of leaves are disassembled, and left
to cool. Now, they are transferred to the sorting house. Here, they will
be graded and sorted according to color, size, and texture. The stems of
the filler will be removed here too. Also, the leaves are moistened in
preparation for handling, and the next fermentation process.
|The Second Curing (Fermentation)
After the sorting, the leaves are stacked again in piles about 6 feet
high for the next, more powerful fermentation which takes places in dark
rooms. The temperature must not exceed 110F. The duration of this
process takes 60 days depending on type of leaf. Because of the extended
fermentation processes, cigar tobacco has a much lower tar, acidity and
nicotine than cigarette tobacco.
|Transfer to Factory
Following the second fermentation, the leaves are packed as square
bales and sent to the factories. The bales are carefully wrapped to
ensure a constant humidity and gradually mature. Sometimes they may
mature for as long as two years. Pictured at right is the famous
Partagas factory in Habana, Cuba.
||The Texture of a
Before we get into the rolling, lets very briefly go
through the constituents of a cigar. There are three sections to a
cigar: the filler, binder and wrapper.
The filler is the innermost section of the cigar. Leaves for the filler
come from the top, middle or bottom of the tobacco plant and have
corresponding flavors of full (top), moderate (middle) and little or no
flavor (bottom). Maturing of these leaves takes from 9 months to 2
years. The choice of leaves will depend on the manufacturer.
The binder usually is derived from the top of the plant and holds the
cigar together. The binder derives its strength from being exposed to
Finally, the wrapper is the outermost layer. These leaves come from a
number of places such as: Central and South America, Carribean Islands,
Mexico, U.S. Africa and other countries. The wrapper imparts much taste
to a cigar and varies in color from light to dark.
|Now, we go into the cigar factory to see what takes
The filler is made of 2-4 leaves (depending on size/strength of cigar),
folded along their length and rolled into two halves of binder which
produces a "bunch." The bunch is then placed in a wooden mold to press
them into shape. Extra filler is cut from one end. The wrapper is
trimmed to a specific length by a oval blade called a cheveta. Then, the
wrapper is then stretched, and wound around the bunch. Then, the cigar
is rolled with gentle pressure and pressure from a flat part of the oval
blade help to keep the construction even. After this, a small, round
piece of wrapper is applied to form the cap and the open end is cut to
form the correct length. Wallah! The birth of a stogie!
|As you see, this is a highly
sophisticated process. There's a lot of skill, quality control, and
human/natural resources that go into the construction of the cigars.
Again, I've really just given you just the "skinny" on this whole
process and you'll have to read Anwer Bati's book, The Cigar
Companion, which goes into much
more detail on the whole process. There's loads of good information in
his book. I hope you've enjoyed reading this as much as I did puttin' it
together for ya guys and next time your smoking a cigar with some folks,
you can amaze them with...The Story of the Cigar, From Seed to
Lookin' better than a runway