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Saturday, February 20, 2010

How to Select a Premium Handmade Cigar

What is a handmade cigar?
It is a cigar that is bunched, rolled and trimmed by a skilled individual worker. This worker can either be one person who works alone on a single cigar, or the labor can be divided between a buncher and a roller who works on the same cigar. The point is that the entire cigar is completely made by hand from start to finish.

How do I find a handmade cigar that is just right for me?
Consider your own personal preferences for taste, first. There are mild cigars, medium cigars, and full-bodied cigars. You can usually tell the difference by the color of the wrapper. Normally, the darker the wrapper, the more full-bodied the cigar’s flavor will be.

A handmade cigar should have a mild sheen to its appearance. There should be no veins in it. There are, of course, different colors of wrappers. There are candela, which is greenish in color, natural, which is light brown in color, Colorado and Rosado, which is red in color, and Habano, Maduro, and Oscuro, which are all dark brown.

What causes wrappers to have different colors?
The way tobacco is grown changes the color of its leaves. The more direct sunlight the plants receive, the darker they are.

How should a fine handmade cigar feel when I hold it?
A fine cigar should also feel smooth when you hold it, and it should be firm with no soft spots. Soft spots are bad because they make cigars burn unevenly. The cigar should not be too tight, either. If it is, the draw will be very difficult.

How is a cigar handmade?
There are three parts to a handmade cigar—the filler, the binder, and the wrapper. Every one of these parts has a specific purpose.

The most distinguishing characteristic of truly good cigars is that they all have long filler. This means that the tobacco leaf inside the binder spans the entire length of the cigar. Every one of these leaves is one half of an entire tobacco leaf. The vein that runs down the middle of the leaf is taken out, and both halves are then used to make cigars.

The binder is used to contain the filler. It is pliable and silky, and actually rougher than the wrapper. It has no flavor, but it is very important because it helps give the cigar its shape and firmness by containing the filler at just the right density.

The wrapper on a handmade cigar is made from very high quality tobacco. It has a smooth texture and is slightly oily to the touch. It is made to burn steady and contribute to flavor.

Are handmade cigars more expensive?
Yes. They are usually priced higher and are often classified as premium or super premium cigars.

Can I be guaranteed I am getting a premium cigar?
Unfortunately, this is not the case. Purchasing a handmade cigar will not guarantee a premium cigar. Although premium cigars are all handmade, there are always individual cigars that are flawed, and there are cheap imitations everywhere. Inspect what you buy and ask questions before you spend your money on something that is less than the best.

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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

What Makes a Premium Cigar Truly PREMIUM?

What is a premium cigar?
Premium cigars are always made by hand, and when you look at two premium cigars of the same type, they are consistent from one to the next. It takes a great deal of skill to roll such a cigar in order to make certain that that it will burn smoothly and at just the right rate.

What type of filler is used in premium cigars?
Long filler is used. Long filler is made from full leaves that run the entire length of the cigar. They are carefully picked, carefully handled, stored, and aged intact. Aging is the most important component to this process. Just like fine wine, fine tobacco must go through a carefully timed and monitored process to truly offer the level of excellence that justifies a cigar being called “premium.”

In most cases too, a single country of origin, such as Cuba, Honduras, or Cost Rica, is used exclusively to make the filler in a specific brand or line of cigars. This, again, guarantees that the taste of each and every cigar in the box will be consistent with that of the previous one smoked.

What kinds of wrappers are used in premium cigars?
The wrapper is a high-quality tobacco leaf that is wrapped around the finished bunch and binder. A truly excellent wrapper will have no visible veins on its leaves, and no blemishes of any kind. The colors of wrappers are generated by the aging process. Basically, there are three shades of wrappers used in premium cigar rolling. The first is CANDELA or DOUBLE CLARO, which is a light yellow-green shade. It is known for the mildest flavor and the sharpest aroma. The second shade is NATURAL, also known as ENGLISH MARKET SELECT. It is a light or medium brown. The taste is more rounded, as they say, and the aroma more laid back. Most aficionados prefer the EMS shade in their cigars. Finally, the MADURO wrapper is the darkest in color (being sometimes almost mahogany black) and has the fullest aroma and taste.

What type of taste is a premium cigar known for?
There are many different flavors that have become famous with cigar aficionados over the years. Experienced smokers generally agree that the best tobaccos have a distinctively mild or rich taste with subtle overtones of additional tastes as well. Some of these subtle overtones come from the wrappers as well as the fillers.

Popular flavors include spice, leather, earth, toast, nut, berry, almond, pepper, woods, and even grass. Yes, all of these are aromatic overtones that an experienced smoker not only likes, but genuinely loves.

As a general principle too, lighter colored wrappers are characterized by milder flavors and fewer aftertastes. Darker wrappers are normally much richer in flavor. This is not a hard fast rule though. It really all depends on the manufacturer and the blend more than anything else, because a truly premium cigar is a masterpiece that defies stereotype.

What type of aroma characterizes a premium cigar?
Aroma comes from additives that create scents like apple, orange, cherry, chocolate, coffee, and whisky. Properly storing a cigar in a humidor is necessary to keep it in the very best condition.

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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Cigar Rolling

It is the process of rolling cigar filler in a cigar binder and wrapper to produce the finished product of a fine, premium cigar.

The best cigars are still hand rolled. Cigar rolling by hand is an art as much as it is a skill. In fact, the Torcedor, the old term for cigar roller, was regarded in the early days as being more of an artist than an employee.

You might even say it’s almost like a craft whose very practice commands a respect beyond assembly and production. It takes years of on-the-job training to become a Master roller.

For the new craftsmen, it takes at least a year for a roller just to learn the basics of cigar rolling. These basics appear remarkably simple at face value. This is not the case. Each step requires pinpoint accuracy and must be done correctly in order for each brand of cigar to have its own unique flavor, burn, aroma, and true quality appeal.

The roller must learn to take the filler and pack it evenly for the cigar to burn smoothly. The wrapper must also wind about the cigar in a spiral. Both of these aspects of cigar rolling require insight, intuition, and skill with the hands that does not come overnight.

Hand cigar makers like this sit at small tables in cigar factories. He or she has a tray with sorted tobacco leaves on it and enough room for cigar rolling. The first step in the process is the selection of the leaves for the filler.

They must be placed on top of one another and rolled in a bunch. The binder then goes around this bunch cylindrically, and the half-finished cigars are then placed in wooden molds that keep their shape until they can be wrapped.

The binder, though a flavorless part of the cigar, is crucial to rolling the more famous and sought-after brands because it literally helps hold the cigar together.

Cigar rolling requires all rollers to keep the tobacco moist—especially the wrapper—and to use chavetas, which are specially designed crescent-shaped knives to shape the filler and wrapper leaves quickly and accurately.

After the partially finished cigars are placed in a wooden mold, the press is turned by hand until the roller feels that enough pressure has been placed on the tobacco leaves. This gives the cigars their shape.

After this, the rollers in training carefully take the cigars from the molds and pass them to the Master roller, who then completes the finishing touches of cigar rolling and puts the head on the cigar.

A Master will produce hundreds of cigars a day that look almost identical.

Prior to the cigars being aged, an examiner inspects the cigars for imperfections and checks them for quality assurance.

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Cigar Fillers

Cigar Filler is the tobacco at the heart of the cigar. 98 percent of the cigar is made from this portion of tobacco, and most of its flavor comes from it as well.

What makes cigar fillers different from cigarette fillers?With cigars, you have a leaf wrapper wrapped around leaf fillings. With cigarettes, you have finely cut tobacco that has paper wrapped around it.

Are different kinds of fillers used in making cigars?Many cigars, especially the world-famous brands, use different kinds of tobacco for cigar filler and the cigar wrapper. High quality cigars are often called long filler cigars, meaning that they use long leaves throughout.

They also use a third kind of tobacco leaf called a binder that lies between the filler and the outer wrapper. This layer allows the makers to make wrappers out of more delicate and attractive leaves. Such cigars almost always blend different types of tobacco. Even Cuban cigars will use tobacco grown on different parts of the island to blend multiple flavors.

Lower-grade, machine-made cigars will often rely upon chopped tobacco leaves for filler. Long leaves or even a paper-like substance made from tobacco pulp is used for the wrapper that keeps the cigar together. This causes these cigars to burn differently, and they are therefore less sought out than hand-rolled cigars.

How are cigar fillers prepared?Cigar fillers and binders are removed from tobacco leaf bales and inspected. If necessary, they are aired on racks to get rid of excess moisture. They are then stored in wooden barrels until they are ready to be used.

How is the cigar filler rolled? In a hand-rolled cigar, the filler will be made of several different blends of long tobacco leaves. In machine made cigars, short filler is used, and it contains chemicals and other substances along with remnants of tobacco leaves.

The cigar filler creates about half of the overall flavor. The cigar wrapper leaf of tobacco creates the rest of the flavor. The binder itself has little or no flavor at all.

Where is cigar fillers grown?Filler tobaccos are grown throughout the world. In Cuba, cigar manufacturers only use filler that is grown in Cuba. Other cigar manufacturers will use filler that comes from several different countries.

There are tobacco fields throughout the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. A great deal of cigar filler tobacco is also grown in Mexico. Of course, the most famous and beloved leaf comes from the Vuelto Abajo region of Cuba. Its volcanic soil produces a tobacco that is rich, smooth, spicy, and sweet.

Jamaican cigar fillers are known for being light in body and sweet in taste.

Dominican fillers feature a wide range of flavors because The Dominican Republic has so many different climates, altitudes, and soil types.

Honduran filler has something of a coffee tone to it. Nicaraguan cigar fillers are known for spicy and earthy tones.

Mexican filler is strong, sweet, and spicy. Much of it, in fact, is often blended with Jamaican and Dominican tobacco.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Cigar Wrappers

Cigar wrappers make cigars taste great and look fantastic.

What makes cigar wrappers different from cigarette wrappers?
Cigars are made of three different types of tobacco leaves. The variation of these leaves determine the characteristics of the cigar.

The outer leaves of the cigar are the cigar wrapper. They come from the broadest part of the plant. The wrapper adds much to the character and flavor of the cigar. It also defines the color of the cigar as a whole.

A cigarette is distinguished from a cigar by its smaller size, use of processed leaf, and paper wrapping, which is usually white, though other colors are available. Cigars are typically composed entirely of whole-leaf tobacco.

How are cigar wrappers made?
A cigar's outermost leaves, or wrapper, come from the widest part of the plant. The wrapper determines much of the cigar's character and flavor, and as such its color is often used to describe the cigar as a whole. Colors are designated as follows, from lightest to darkest.

How is the cigar wrapper prepared?
After tobacco leaves have aged, they are sorted out to be used as fillers or wrappers. Quality and appearance determine which leaves will become wrappers. Leaves are moistening and handled very carefully to ensure the integrity of every leaf.


Leaves are bailed, then inspected, then unbaled, then reinspected, then baled over again as they continue to mature. At the height of their maturity, leaves are then used to make cigars.

Where are cigar wrappers grown?
The tobacco that is used to make cigar wrappers is grown in the Latin American Countries of Brazil, Cuba, The Dominican Republic, and Honduras. In Asia, it is grown in Indonesia, Sumatra, and the Philippines.

Some of the more notable cigar wrappers are grown in the West African country of Cameroon, and some cigar tobacco is grown in the Eastern United States.

Why are so many cigar wrappers grown in these other countries?
It has a lot to do with soil content and climate. The best environment for tobacco to grow is in ground that is rich and loamy. The optimal climate conditions are those where it is moist and mild throughout the year. Such conditions not only contribute to the health and vitality of the plants, but they also contribute to how tobacco tastes.

In fact, if you take a seed from tobacco in say, Cameroon, and grow it in Brazil or Kentucky, the product you produce will taste differently than the Cameroon parent plants.

Because of this, you will always see on our site a strong emphasis on cigar wrapper and the country of origin. This is both to help the new cigar smoker learn more about their new passion, and to also give experienced smokers a very vital piece of information to the art and lifestyle of smoking cigars.

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