The character of a cigar is determined by two types of factors: natural influences and man-made ones. Natural factors that affect tobacco development include elements like the weather, the composition of the soil, and the very nature of the tobacco plant itself. There’s not much a blender can do about the climate in Ecuador or the soil in Nicaragua.

However, other influences –– like curing and fermentation –– are under direct control of master cigar blenders. This allows for a great range of creativity and exploration. Indeed, the curing and fermentation process is (arguably) the stage in cigar production when the flavors and qualities that come to define an individual cigar start to take shape.

Curing 101

Let’s dispel a common misconception. Curing tobacco is not the same as merely hanging tobacco leaves out to dry. The only time tobacco leaves are dried –– as opposed to being cured –– is for the creation of the infamously green-colored Candela tobacco style. (The Edge Candela by Rocky Patel is a good example of a cigar that prominently features Candela tobacco.)

Curing is instead a series of complex chemical changes that convert big, raw, and green tobacco leaves into the much more recognizable brown tobacco leaves you’d normally associate with a cigar. During the curing process, tobacco leaves are (often) stored in large dark barns where heat is applied to facilitate the chemical reactions necessary to create quality cigar tobacco. Curing takes around 6 weeks to complete, and tobacco leaves lose most of their “green weight” over this period. However, it really is the first 48-72 hours that make or break tobacco curing. If you’ve ever tried a cigar that had a raw or unintentionally bitter taste, it’s likely because something went wrong during this crucial time frame. One final note: the longer tobacco leaves are cured, the darker they become.

curing image

Tobacco Fermentation

Cigars are sometimes compared to fine wines or craft beers, and there’s something to be said for the comparison –– since all three undergo their own form of fermentation. Tobacco fermentation involves the application of water, heat, and pressure to fully develop the aroma, taste, and color of cigar tobacco. It’s during this stage that tobacco loses significant amounts of ammonia, nicotine, and sugar. As is the case with nearly every aspect of tobacco production, Maduros take longer to ferment than other cigars.





Fermentation may last anywhere from six months to a full year. What’s more, some cigar tobaccos undergo multiple fermentation cycles. One of the more interesting variations on cigar fermentation occurs deep in the Amazon rainforest. There, tobacco leaves are packed into a special carrot-shaped cylinder called an andullo (or carrote) to ferment. This specially-fermented tobacco is used in CAO Amazon Basin.

Fast Facts You Can Use

  • For most of the 1960s, Candela cigars were extremely popular in the USA. Even President John F. Kennedy was known to be a fan of Candelas! They’re not quite so popular now, but there is still a market for them.
  • Oscuro tobacco is the darkest variety of Maduro and is left to ferment the longest in almost all cases.
  • Smoking “taste” tests begin during the fermentation process.

Conclusion

Ready to test your knowledge and earn a badge? Then take our quiz on this lesson here. And don’t forget to check out the other Seed to Cigar features on Cigar World to complete your cigar education!

Ready to earn the Curing & Fermentation Badge?

Question 1: What color are Candela-wrapped cigars?

Correct! Sorry, that’s not the right answer.

These special cigars are a light green color.

Question 2: True or False: Curing & Fermentation occur naturally without human intervention

Correct! Sorry, that’s not the right answer.

Careful planning and execution is required to successfully cure and ferment tobacco leaves.

Question 3: What is the darkest variety of Maduro?

Correct! Sorry, that’s not the right answer.

Oscuro is the darkest variety of Maduro and means “dark” in Spanish.

Question 4: True or False: Tobacco fermentation can take between 6 months and a year to complete.

Correct! Sorry, that’s not the right answer.

The fermentation process requires plenty of time to complete.

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Previous Article: 2: Harvesting Tobacco

Like so many aspects of cigar production, harvesting is a labor-intensive process done primarily by hand. Depending on the type of tobacco grown, 2-full time workers may be required for harvesting purposes –– per acre. Because of the diverse nature of tobacco (and cigars), though, the act of harvesting can occur at different times and in different ways.

Ultimately, how a tobacco plant is harvested is determined by various factors that all influence the quality and performance of the final product –– the cigar. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. First, we need to take a look at something else entirely: the sun.

Next Article: 4: Sorting & Grading Tobacco

Unlike other massive manufacturing undertakings, which are often completely automated (or nearly so), the majority of the work done to create a cigar is carried out by human beings with their hands. A big reason why noticeable errors don’t occur more regularly during cigar production is the sorting and grading process.

While all tobacco leaves share certain characteristics, not all tobacco leaves are suitable for use in a cigar. Quality sorting and grading guarantees the integrity of the cigar –– from appearance to taste to performance.

Join Cigar World Testing Lab

Comments

  • Member Avatar
    (6 months ago)

    need to try the Amazon Basin now!

  • Member Avatar
    (6 months ago)

    Makes you enjoy the craft of the cigar alittle more.

  • Member Avatar
    (6 months ago)

    CAO Amazon basin is on my to do list too!

  • Member Avatar
    (6 months ago)

    Now I want to try Candela cigars :)

  • Member Avatar
    (6 months ago)

    Haven't tried the Amazon Basin, but CAO is amongst my favorites.

    • Member Avatar
      (6 months ago)

      the amazon basin is amazing. great flavor and burn. its a shame they are hard to come by