How Fine Cigars Are Made
Imagining native people, growing the crops of their ancestors and then rolling them into a perfect, cylindrical cigar is a gorgeous image, just maybe not entirely accurate. It’s true that a lot of cigars are still produced in the countries and regions where tobacco originated, but it’s become a business first and foremost. While many native people grow the crops and roll the leaves, few if any of the best fine cigars are assembled in a truly indigenous environment.
The image of beautiful islander girls gathering leaves of tobacco would sell on 1950’s advertisements. The reality, though, is that most cigar makers are men, often older and covered in calluses and wrinkles. Those are markings of talent. The best cigar rollers have decades of experience, and they can almost rival machines in production: creating over a hundred fine cigars in a day. They use only a wooden board, wooden mold, and a curved blade, adding 2-4 damp tobacco leaves as the filler of each cigar. Rolled, bundled with a binder, and then pressed into the mold, these men quickly add a wrapper, trim the edges, cap the end, and then move onto the next one. It’s fast, but they’re practiced and careful enough to produce at high volumes without damaging leaves.
After this process, the cigars are bundled into groups of 50 and placed in a conditioning room with monitored humidity levels. Inspectors check them for quality, and they may wait dormant for three weeks or twenty years—truly fine cigars can last for decades if temperature and air moisture levels are appropriately maintained. Since all handmade cigars come from or near the equator, it isn’t difficult to create these ideal storage conditions. Market demand, though, generally keeps this waiting period short. Before packaging and shipments, the cigars will go through one last inspection and get graded by color. They’re then branded, stacked in boxes, and shipped all around the world.
All handmade cigars tend to come from the Caribbean or South American nations, but for comparison if nothing else, it’s wise to know the process of machine-made cigars. Because climate is rarely a concern for cigar factories, they can be found all over the world, including Scandinavia and the United States. It might be a stretch to ever call these “fine cigars,” because the process is so automated and inattentive. Whole leaves are never used as cigar fillers, just ground up tobacco, and even the wrappers themselves might not be dried leaves but something closer to paper. This affects the burning and overall experience; so most lovers of cigars would rather go without than ever smoke a machine-made cigar. Of course a cigar from a factory is cheaper, but if you appreciate the old romance of tobacco, paying a little extra for something rolled by hand is worth it.