Cigars are made either by hand or by a machine. If the tobacco leaves are picked, sorted, and bundled by an individual – they are hand-made. The cigar itself will be fashioned by a skilled cigar roller using a few simple tools.
What is a premium cigar?
A premium or super-premium cigar is a cigar made by hand and should be consistent from one cigar to the next. Premium cigars are constructed from three parts – the filler, the binder, and the wrapper. The filler is the interior of the cigar. When the term “long filler” is used, it means that the filler was constructed from full leaves. These leaves are picked, stored, and aged intact, and are obviously handled with great care. Rolling long filler cigars takes great skill to insure that it burns evenly and smoothly. The second type of filler is short filler. Short filler consists of loose clippings of leaves that are leftover from the long filler production. The next part of the cigar in the binder that consists of several layers of leaves that encircle the spirals of filler. As the name implies, it forms the filler into a circular shape, so that the next, and final component, the wrapper, can be applied.
What is the anatomy of a cigar?
Cap Flag – C – Head I G – Body A R – Tuck or Foot
Cap, Head or Flag – A loose piece of tobacco applied with natural glue as the finishing touch to the cigar. Offers a nice appearance and, if applied properly, feels good in your mouth and prevents the wrapper from unraveling.
Body – main portion of cigar consists of Filler, Binder, and Wrapper.
Filler – long leaves of tobacco (Long filler) or cut up pieces of tobacco (Short filler) that compromise the bulk of the cigar and deliver most of the flavor.
Long filler – filled with long leaves of tobacco deftly gathered together by a roller. A long-filler cigar is almost always handmade, and all premium handmade cigars are long-filler cigars.
Short Filler – the middle of a short-filler cigar is filled with leaves, stems, and other scraps of tobacco chopped up by a machine, in a machine made cigar.
Binder – tough, coarse tobacco that holds the whole thing together in hand made cigars or ground up tobacco bits that are held together by natural glue in machine made cigars.
Wrapper – A silky leaf of tobacco that makes your cigar look and feel attractive and delivers most of the flavor.
Tuck or Foot – The business end of the cigar – the end that you light.
There are some basic shapes that share common names. These shapes are given names, so that there is some degree of universality in the industry. These descriptive dimensions are approximate, but here are some guidelines: Short is less than 5.5 inches. Long is greater than 6.5 inches. Thin is less than 42 ring size. Thick is greater than 47 ring. Manufacturers also add common adjectives to the shape name. Gorda, grande, gran, larga, extra, doble, or double means they are adding on to the size. Petite, slim, finos, or demi means some sort of reduction to the size.
A cigar is measured by length and ring gauge (diameter). The length is measured in inches. The ring gauge is measured in units of 1/64th of an inch. A 64-ring cigar would be one inch in diameter. Most cigars are between 32 and 52-ring size. For example, a cigar that is called “8 x 48″ is 8 inches long and 48/64ths of an inch in diameter. The girth determines how much of the cigar’s burning tip is exposed to air. The fatter the cigar, the slower and cooler a cigar smokes because more of the filler is exposed to air. The shape is the length balanced with a particular ring gauge.
You should pick a cigar for the amount of time you have available to smoke. If you are at a sporting event or on a golf course, choose a large cigar that will last for a long time. If you are in a cigar friendly restaurant and you want to have a nice after dinner smoke, choose one that will last about 30-40 minutes. As you experiment with different sizes you will find one that you are most comfortable with.
How many wrapper colors are there? There are about a dozen or so, all variations of these basic ones, listed from lightest to darkest: Candela, Double Claro, Claro, Colorado, Colorado Maduro, Colorado Rosado, Maduro, and Oscuro.
How do you know where a cigar is from? A cigar’s country of origin is classified by where it was rolled, regardless of where the wrapper, binder, or filler is from. Typically, the filler tobacco is usually grown in the same country as where the cigar is made. This is not an absolute rule, as cigars rolled in the US, (typically, Miami or Tampa regions) must import all of their filler. Another exception is Honduran and Nicaraguan cigars, as their native grown fillers are often too harsh to be used exclusively, and are typically blended with Dominican filler in order to produce an acceptable smoke.
In the last 20 years, the quality and variety of cigar tobacco from the Dominican Republic has greatly improved. Near the city of Santiago, live the majority of Dominican cigar makers. This area is the primary agricultural region in the northern half of the country. Since most Dominican tobacco is derived from Cuban seed varieties, it is quite full flavored and lends itself to the creation of unusually complex blends.
Ecuador produces high quality Connecticut and Sumatra seed varieties of tobacco. They produce both shade and sun grown tobacco leaves for both filler and wrappers. The tobacco is milder and less robust in strength and flavor that the original. The wrapper’s silky texture has a color similar to Connecticut and Cameroon.
A 10-year civil war and blue mold infestations have slowed the production of the high quality Cuban and Connecticut varieties of tobacco grown in these two counties. Both countries produce a full-bodied tobacco with strong spicy flavors.
Mexican leaves are widely used as binders and filler in cigars. A variant of the Sumatra seed tobacco, Mexican tobacco is often used as a maduro wrapper because it can stand up to the cooking and sweating process that creates the darker leaf colors. Mexico is well known for its sun grown tobacco especially tobacco grown in the San Andres Valley. Mexican cigars are usually made with 100% local tobacco.
The Connecticut River Valley produces some of the finest wrapper leaf tobacco in the world. This leaf called, the Connecticut Shade, is grown just north of Hartford. It has a fine brown to brownish yellow and very elastic leaf that creates a mild to medium bodied smoke. It is widely used on premium cigars. Connecticut Broadleaf, a dark almost black leaf that is used on maduro cigars, is another type of tobacco produced in the region.
Cameroon/Central African Republic
This area of West Africa is known for a high quality wrapper leaf, which is famous for its completely neutral flavor. This makes it an ideal tobacco for cigars with full flavored fillers. Cameroon wrappers are greenish brown to dark brown, with a distinct grain called “tooth”. Unfortunately, production has suffered from management changes and bad weather in recent years.
Tobaccos from the islands of Indonesia are known as Java or Sumatra. Sumatra wrapper leaves are often dark brown and have neutral flavors; these leaves are usually used in the manufacturing of small cigars.
Cut off. Needs extremely sharp blades.
When cigars are stored in a humidor they start “marrying”. If your humidor is filled with the same or very similar types of smokes, the tobaccos will blend and absorb each other’s oils, flavors and aromas. This is a good thing and you do not need cellophane. However, if you mix cigars of very different strengths or blends, you will create one blend amongst all of your cigars. This is usually not so good and you should use cellophane to separate the different brands as much as possible.
A cigar that has dried out will never be the same as one that has remained properly kept, but it can be re-humidified slowly and will most likely regain most of its taste and body.