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Germinating to fermentation. Read the main styles of beer and how it’s made.
What makes a good cigar? Read about how cigars are grown, primed, wrapped and aged.
The following summarizes how good cigars are grown, primed, wrapped and aged.
The tobacco plant is approximately five to seven feet and each tobacco plant has six primings or “pullings” when the tobacco is collected. Generally, a tobacco plant grows to maturity in 80 to 90 days in the regions of Connecticut River Valley, Honduras, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Cameroon, Indonesia and Mexico.
The first priming is the lightest and sweetest. This leaf is normally used as a binder. The second priming is harvested approximately seven days after the first priming and is often used for the binder and filler. 70% of the primings collected during the third session will be used for wrappers.
The fourth priming collects tobacco with more body and weight because of its exposure to the sunlight. Sometimes the fourth priming is used for the wrapper. During the fifth priming, one of the most robust leaves on the plant is collected and used as a binder. If you see a very dark-wrapped cigar that is not a maduro, it may also come from the fifth priming, but it will need extended fermentation and processing to lighten its texture and reduce its strength if used for a wrapper.
During the final, sixth priming the slowest burning leaf of the tobacco plant is collected and usually only used for long filler. It is very flavorful, but not suitable for wrappers because the leaves are too small.
After being harvested the cigar tobacco enters the fermentation stage where they are tied together and hung to dry in wooden barns called “casa de tobacco” for 45 days. Then, the tobacco is slightly moistened and piled in huge bales or stalks. Temperatures inside the bales reach 140°F as the tobacco “sweats” during the early stages.
Some tobacco may be “turned” up to three or four times and re-moistened before fermentation ends. This process releases ammonia from the tobacco and reduces the overall nicotine content.
The fermented tobacco is then wrapped in bales surrounded by burlap and aged for 18 months to two years. Some keep inventories of tobacco as old as ten years.
Can I rescue a dried out cigar?
Dried out cigars can be somewhat recovered by slowly re-humidifying it in a proper humidor – too fast and you’re left with a soggy cigar. Careful handling of the dry cigar is very important to prevent any further damage.
Do cigars from different countries taste different?
Cigars from different countries have their own unique taste and character. Cigars are made all over the world, with tobacco grown in different soils, cured by different processes, and rolled with different techniques. While detailed descriptions could encompass an entire book, below are some general guidelines of cigar styles from popular Caribbean Countries.
- Jamaican cigars are usually considered mild.
- Dominican Republic cigars are mild to medium.
- Honduras and Nicaragua cigars are stronger and heavier.
- Cuban cigars are considered by many to be some of the richest and creamiest in the world.
New smokers might want to start with any cigar made by Macanudo or Arturo Fuente. For something unique, try one with a maduro wrapper which is dark and rich tasting.
How long can a cigar last in a proper humidor?
When cigars are aged properly they can last indefinitely. Many people are still enjoying pre-embargo Cubans.
Why use a humidor?
The purpose of a humidor is to provide an environment that enables your cigars to remain at their peak. The humidor needs to provide a constant temperature of about 68′ to 70′ F and humidity of 70-72%. It doesn’t really need to be fancy, but it does need to be functional.
Does the size of the cigar matter?
Yes, the size of the cigar directly affects the flavor. Cigars that are larger in diameter (ring gauge) are richer and fuller in flavor and longer cigars are a cooler smoke. The table below shows most of the common sizes..
Hand-Made Cigars – Long filler tobacco runs the length of the cigar. The wrapper, binder and filler are rolled together completely by hand.
Machine-Made Cigars – High-speed machinery combines short-filler and scrap tobacco with wrapper and binder. Tension placed on the machine requires the wrapper and binder to be made of “homogenized” tobacco product, which is stronger than natural leaves.
Hand-Rolled Cigars – A few brands combine machine-bunching, using long filler, with a hand-rolled wrapper. Some larger cigars use a mix or combination of short and long-filler tobacco.
Aging – Aging is necessary to prepare the leaf and allows the leaf to “mellow” or become more flavorful, less “green”.
Humidity – Humidity is generally best at 70%. Too much humidity will not draw well and smokes unevenly. Too little humidity creates an environment that is too dry, so the cigar will disintegrate and lose flavor.
Temperature – The storing temperature should be around 70° because beetles can’t hatch below 75° and mold can develop in hotter temperatures.
Cigar Wrapper – The wrapper is the most expensive single component and contributes up to 70% of the flavor. It should be wrapped tightly over the body of the cigar creating uniform color, oily luster and no large veins. The wrapper should not be dry, flake or crumble when touched.
Connecticut Shade – Grown on 1,200 acres along the Connecticut River, Connecticut Shade is famous for smooth complexion, light brown shade and delicate, yet complex flavor. Growing fields are covered with translucent tents to diffuse light.
Cameroon – Is darker in color and heavier in taste. It’s generally from the rich soils of West Africa, but other regions include Mexico, Honduras and Indonesia.
Maduro – Maduro is from the Spanish word “ripe”. It is from the top of the tobacco plant, last to be picked, thicker and richer. Bulk piles cause tobacco to “sweat,” causing it to become darker and sweeter.
Claro – The green wrapper with a “bitter taste” is caused by quick heating.
Binder – The binder binds the cigar together and is picked from the upper leaves of a tobacco plant for strength, flavor and burning characteristics. Since it is unseen, it is selected for function, not beauty.
Filler – The filler represents the majority of the volume yet contributes the least amount of flavor. It’s determined by type of seed, chemical makeup of the soil and where on the tobacco plant the leaf was grown. All premium cigars use “long-filler”, meaning the leaves are left whole and intact. Domestic (machine-made) cigars use “short-filler” which is chopped from broken leaves and tobacco scraps. The ash of a long-filler cigar burns in a long, cylindrical pattern, while the ash from a short-filler cigar drops off like a cigarette ash.
Cap – The cap is applied over the closed end of the cigar and holds the tail end of the wrapper leaf closed.
Maduro Wrapper – Maduro is the Spanish word for “ripe.” Leaves are selected from the fourth and fifth priming of the tobacco plant. Maduro wrappers are fermented longer and at a higher temperature. Not all tobacco leaves can be used to create maduro wrappers. Maduro tobacco must withstand higher temperature during fermentation. Connecticut Broadleaf and Mexican Sumatra are the two strains most commonly used to create a maduro wrapper.
Making a Cigar – First, a master blender creates a cigar blend. Then, depending on the ring gauge, a cigar will contain a blend of 2 to 4 different tobaccos. The roller takes the leaves and presses them together in his or her hand, then places the leaves on a binder. This is called a “bunch.” Next, the roller cuts the tobacco to the appropriate length and places into a mold. The tobacco is then screw pressed for about 1-hour in the mold until the roller removes the cigar from the mold and wraps the cigar with the wrapper leaf.
Aging the Cigar – The next stop for cigars is the aging room. Most cigars are aged at least 21-days, but you can leave the cigars in an aging room for 90 to 180 days. Aging the cigar tobacco allows the flavors to “marry” and create a more balanced smoke. After aging the cigars, each box is filled with individually hand-selected cigars matched for color.
Cigar Sizes – The longer the length and the fatter the diameter, the cooler the cigar will smoke.
Ring Sizes – One ring is equal to 1/64th of an inch. The larger ring sizes have more filler tobacco. The larger the ring means the longer and cooler the smoke. Smaller ring sizes are easier to handle and faster to smoke.
Cigar Lengths – Longer lengths give cooler smokes. Increased lengths = increased smoking times. Shorter lengths smoke hotter = less smoke travel time.
- 6 3/4 x 48+
- Good for after dinner
- About 1-hour to smoke
- 6 ¼ x 45
- Next largest in the size category
- 5 ½ x 46
- About 45 minutes to smoke
- 6 ½ x 42
- A longer corona
- 5 ¼ x 50
- Also called a Rothschild
- Very popular short smoke, about 30 minutes
- 7 x 34
- A long, thin cigar
- Means “shaped”
- Torpedo, Pyramid, and Belicoso
Dominican Republic – Most Dominican tobacco is derived from Cuban seed.
Honduras – Full bodied tobacco grown from Cuban and Connecticut seed.
Connecticut Shade Golden Color – the finest in the world, grown entirely in shade.
Connecticut Broadleaf Sun Grown– darker and sweeter.
Cameroon – High-Quality wrapper- greenish-brown in color.
Ecuador LaGloria – Sun-grown, silky texture.
Guillotine – Single & Double. Most popular method. Cut where the domed head starts to curve toward the sides. Easiest to draw, but be careful of cutting too much.
V-Cut – Easiest to do and protect the cap. The small hole affects the draw.
Piercing – Insert a small object (needle, paper clip) into the head. It protects the cap, but can be a tough draw and may give a bitter taste.
Scissors – Two blades used, can result in a poor cut.
Bulls Eye or Punch – Small, round and compact. Gaining popularity.
Biting – Messy and barbaric but always available.
Hold the cigar with the foot at a 45° angle to the flame, rotate to ensure even burn all the way around, also known as pre-char, roasting or toasting. Once evenly charred, place the cigar in your mouth. Gently draw air through the head of the cigar, still holding the flame source an inch below the pre-charred foot. Look at the foot to make sure all is burning well. Use a clean flame source such as a butane lighter, proper cigar match or a cedar taper. The ash is a testament to the quality of the cigar, a cylinder form that can be up to several inches in length. Never stub out a cigar; it will extinguish itself. Although you can re-light a cigar, it is never as good the second time around.
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