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As you’re sitting there lighting up your favorite cigar, do you ever wonder about the steps involved in making your cigar? Where the tobacco you are about to enjoy was grown? Or who had a hand in rolling your cigar? The creation of premium hand rolled cigars is a labor intensive, complicated process that needs to be done just right in order to produce the finest quality and taste associated with many fine cigar brands including Montecristo cigars and Rocky Patel cigars. While most cigar aficionados know that rolling premium quality cigars is no easy feat, many are unaware that the entire process can take several years. Read on to learn how cigars go from seed to smoke.
Growing the Tobacco:
Cigar tobacco is most commonly grown in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Tobacco seeds start off the size of a pin head. The tobacco seeds are planted and in about two months they grow into seedlings, a tobacco plant that is a few inches tall. The strongest seedlings are transported to a prepared tobacco field. In about 2 months, the seedlings will grow into mature tobacco plants and, depending on the type of tobacco, range from 6 feet to 10 feet tall.
Priming the Tobacco:
Next, the tobacco leaves are harvested in “primings,” where 2-4 leaves are removed from the plant at a time. Tobacco is harvested this way because tobacco leaves mature from the bottom of the plant first, moving upward to the top of the plant. The tobacco is sent to a curing barn where it will spend anywhere from one to two months drying, and eventually turning from green, to yellow, to brown. Then the leaves are sorted and separated into wrappers, fillers, and binders.
Fermentation and Aging Process:
During the fermentation process, slightly moistened tobacco is put into piles that can weigh up to 5,000 pounds and the temperature is closely regulated to monitor the fermentation. The tobacco will be rotated 3-4 times during the process to ensure all tobacco is evenly fermented. Ammonia and some of the nicotine content is released during the fermentation process.
After fermentation, the tobacco is packed into bales and the aging process begins. Once the tobacco is dry the fermentation stops. Tobacco can be aged anywhere from 18 months to several years.
A master blender’s greatest feat is to maintain consistency of flavor throughout all of the cigars. This can be difficult because different environmental changes can significantly alter the taste and aroma of the tobacco on a year to year basis. A master blender will combine 2 to 4 different types of tobacco to create a harmonious blend.
Hand Rolling Cigars:
The binder leaf is wrapped around a bunch of the filler leaves and then placed in a mold to become firm and secure its shape. This process if called bunching. Next, the cigar goes to a skilled cigar roller where the elastic wrapper tobacco is stretched and molded around the cigar body and a cap is placed on the opened end of the cigar. This is a very important part of the cigar making process as aesthetics are very important when smoking a fine cigar. Each hand rolled cigar is carefully inspected by a supervisor to ensure even consistency and that there are no tears or soft spots.
Finished cigars are then sent to the aging room where they are kept at an ideal temperature and humidity. This allows for cigars to dry and become firmer, slower-burning smokes. The cigars also “marry” by absorbing flavors from the other tobacco creating a more balanced flavor. Cigars can age anywhere from three weeks to a year.
Cigars are then banded and boxed and sent to the retailers.