A cigar broken down is simply a tobacco leaf that is wrapped around a filling. However, the process and complexity of creating a cigar is not that simple. It is an art and craft that takes time, patience, and precision.
Cigars come in different shapes and sizes, (which most of you all ready know). The standard shape has a round top or head to it. However, there are many different types of cigars out there when it comes to the shape. Have you ever come across one that has a point as the head? This one is called a “Perfecto” it has a pointed head and tapering sides to it. How about a long thin cigar? You might confuse this one with a standard cigar, but this one is referred to as a Panatella, which has a long thin straight appearance. My advice is that you try them all and not to be intimidated by the different looking ones.
Now lets get into the meat and potatoes of this article. How is a cigar made, and what exactly is in a cigar?
First we need to start off with a raw material. What is that raw material you ask? Well it is tobacco; more specifically it is three tobacco leaves from a tobacco plant. A cigar starts off with broken tobacco leaves, which are used for the filler. Then a whole leaf is used to wrap the filler. This is called the binder. Finally a larger tobacco leaf is used to wrap around the binder and give the cigar its overall appearance. Some cigars are made with the same tobacco leaves and others are made with different tobacco leaves.
Now you cant just go out and pick off tobacco leaves and expect to make a cigar. First they need to be cultivated. Usually a tobacco plant will start indoors and then by transplanted outside. The tobacco leaves are carefully watched and pruned so that they grow to the desired size.
Once the tobacco has been harvested it needs to be cured in order to develop its over all aroma characteristic. Tobacco leaves are considered cured when they change from their lush green appearance to a more dried out brown color. In order to cure tobacco leaves they are typically “strung to strips of wood called laths.” Once the tobacco leaves are attached to these laths there are two different methods to curing them. The first is called air curing. If the weather is dry and the tobacco leaves are placed in a well-ventilated structure, the leaves will cure naturally. The other method is called “flue-cureing.” In this method the laths are hung in a structure that is manually heated and controlled from 90-170 degrees. The temperature must be constantly monitored so that the leaves do not dry to quickly.
Now that the leaves are dried out they need to be separated by their color and size. Once separated the leaves are tied together into bundles. These bundles are referred to as hands. The hands or (bundles) are then placed in boxes called hogsheads. The tobacco is kept in these boxes for a period of 6 to 5 years. During this time the leaves will go through a process called fermentation. This is where the cigar will develop its flavor. Once this process is complete the leaves will be sorted out again.
Now is where the skill comes in when making a cigar. The filler leaves must have their stems removed or you wont have an even burn. The deveined leaves will then be wrapped in bales and put away for further fermentation. The leaves are then steamed to restore any lost humidity and sorted again.
Once all the tobacco leaves are sorted it is time to hand roll and complete the cigar process. Two to six leaves are selected for the filler. They are placed onto of each other. This is important because if the filler is not packed evenly the cigar will not burn evenly. Now the worker will place the filler on the leaf that will be used as the binder and will roll it cylindrically around the filler. The cigar is now placed in a mold to hold it together until the process can be finished. The final step, and most challenging is the actual wrapping of the cigar. The worker will take the tobacco leaf that has been designated as the wrapper leaf and place the unfinished cigar on top of it. The wrapper leaf will be wrapped around the filler and binder three and a half times and then held together with vegetable paste, (Cigar glue).