How cigars are made
The mystery surrounding how different tobaccos blend together to create a distinctive and consistent flavor can be attributed to the talents of the blender and the quality of tobaccos used. Of course, other factors, such as the skill of the roller are important, but the quality and aging of the tobacco itself and how each component (filler, binder, wrapper) intermarries is critical.
"The old saying 'garbage in, garbage out' applies here, as there is no substitute for quality. "
The 3 different portions of a cigar contribute differently to a cigar’s strength, flavor and how it smokes overall.
Wrapper Leaf: The wrapper is the outside layer of tobacco on a cigar. It gives a cigar one of its primary flavor components. Wrappers are typically the highest-quality leaf and are available in colors ranging from Natural (or light) to Maduro (or dark). Wrappers are either shade-grown (grown under a cheesecloth tent called a tapado) or sun-grown (grown under direct sunlight). Sun-grown wrappers tend to be thicker and oilier, leading to a fuller flavor. Wrappers are the most expensive part of the cigar and must be thoroughly inspected by hand to assure aesthetic perfection. Fermentation is another way to achieve perfection. By heating and re-heating the moist wrapper tobaccos, a specific color, texture and flavor can be achieved
Binder Leaf: This is used simply to keep the filler tobacco together. Generally, the binder is the lowest grade of tobacco within a cigar, serving structural purposes only. However, today’s top blenders have been using wrapper-quality leaves to add more levels of flavor, strength and complexity to their blends. To achieve this, a unique leaf is used that varies from the rest of the blend. For example, a spicy Mexican binder may surround a mellower blend of Dominican leaves.
Filler Leaves: Fillers are the tobaccos found at the center of the cigar. Generally, the filler is responsible for determining how strong a cigar will smoke. There are several types of filler tobaccos, including seco, olor, volado and ligero. Ligero, the fullest in flavor and strength, is becoming increasingly common in today’s premium blends.
Great blenders can achieve identical, consistent flavor even with different types of tobacco. Rolando Reyes, Sr., for example, is renowned for his ability to “improvise” and create consistent-tasting blends even though the actual filler combination may vary from batch to batch.
Now it’s time to craft
A master blender will combine various types of tobacco to create a unique flavor profile. Once achieved, the chosen filler leaves are bunched together, then placed on the selected binder leaf.
From here, the roller will roll the binder around the filler leaves to hold them into place. The bound cigars are placed into a mold and compressed to ensure they maintain their shape. Once compressed, the roller will use the wrapper leaf, and roll it around the binder, taking great care to ensure smoothness and perfect seams. The final step in the process? The cap, or the end of the cigar that you will eventually clip off. The roller will use a tool to cut out a perfect circle from the excess wrapper leaf, then secure it to the end of the cigar. After that, it’s off to the aging room, as it waits to be banded and boxed.
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