Every premium cigar you’ve ever had was rolled by hand. As opposed to cigarettes and machine-wrapped cigars, premium cigars are crafted by hand by trained artisans. The art of rolling a cigar is a time-honored tradition that can take years to master. While we’ll take a quick look at this process here, remember that it is much easier said than done.

Properly rolling a cigar ensures that the flavors complement each other well, that the cigar burns evenly, and that the draw is measured and smooth. You can tell when a cigar has been rolled properly by the quality of the burn, the solid development of the ash, and the balance of the draw. Even slight imperfections in the rolling process can compromise the integrity of a cigar, which is why professional cigar rollers are held in such high esteem and train so vigorously to hone their skills.

Cigar Rolling 101

Before an artisan can roll tobacco leaves into a cigar, they must be deveined. Interestingly, this is one of the few elements of cigar production normally done by a machine. Once the thick veins at the center of the tobacco leaves are removed, the roller can begin. The crux of rolling tobacco into a cigar involves rolling filler tobacco leaves into tubes and “bunching” them together. This bunch is then carefully rolled within the binder leaves. Finally, the roller encompasses both binder and filler with the wrapper.

Cigar rollers mostly work with their hands to form cigars. Besides their fingers, the tools they utilize include water, a small knife to cut off loose edges, and a sticky substance designed to seal the cigar closed. (This substance varies from place to place. Tree resin called Tragacanth, organic cigar glue, and even egg white can be used to create this seal.) Some factories organize their rollers to work in tandem –– with one person bunching the filler leaves and another rolling them together.

S2C Rolling Image

Cigar Shapes & Sizes

It would be difficult enough to master the act of rolling cigars if they all shared the same dimensions. However, if you walk into any cigar shop today, you’re likely to see dozens of cigars of myriad shapes and sizes. Cigars are generally measured by how long they are (in inches) and how wide they are across. Width on a cigar is referred to as a “ring gauge.” A “60 ring gauge cigar” is one-inch thick.

So on the small end of the scale, a petit corona or petit robusto cigar may have dimensions around 4 to 4.5 inches long with a ring gauge between 35 and 45. On the other end of the spectrum, a Churchill-size cigar has dimensions that are easy to remember –– 7 inches long X 47 ring gauge. And, of course, there are cigars that are even larger than a Churchill. CAO 60 Torque, for instance, is 8 inches long and boasts a beefy, 60 ring gauge.

Cigars that are not perfectly cylindrical have a number of different names and designations. Torpedo, or pyramid, cigars come to a point at the head. Perfectos taper off to a point at both ends. Many popular cigars come in a range of sizes and shapes –– so new smokers may benefit from experimenting to find their preferred ring gauge, length, and shape.

Fast Facts You Can Use

  • The Churchill cigar size is, of course, named after Winston Churchill. The famous British statesman preferred this “vitola” (cigar shape and size) and was known to smoke around 10 per day.
  • During a good shift, a professional roller can craft around 100 cigars.
  • The strangest cigar vitola is perhaps La Culebra –– The Snake. A Culebra is actually three very thin and twisty cigars bound together. They are fairly rare in today’s market.


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 Rolling Badge?

Question 1: What British Prime Minister was renowned for their cigar smoking habit?

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

Winston Churchill may not be the only world leader to smoke cigars, but there’s a reason his image is inextricably linked with cigar-smoking.

Question 2: True or False: A ring gauge refers to the length of a cigar?

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

Ring gauge refers to the width of the cigar.

Question 3: About how many cigars can a professional artisan roll in a single shift?

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

Depending on a number of factors, a professional cigar roller can craft around 100 cigars during a regular work day.

Question 4: True or False: Perfectos are perfectly straight and cylindrical cigars

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

Perfectos come to a rounded point at both ends and have a slight bulge in the middle.


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Previous 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.

Next Article: 6: Aging Tobacco

By modern standards, cigars are time-intensive products. It can take years for master blenders to transform tobacco seeds into premium cigars. Indeed, multiple stages of the cultivation process require serious patience. It takes months to grow the seedlings, months to harvest the plant, months to cure the tobacco leaves, and months to ferment them. And after all that, cigars need at least one month to simply “rest” before they’re shipped to retailers.

However, aging is a critical component of cigar production. You can’t “rush” tobacco development, and certain cigars – like Maduros – simply require lots of time to achieve their desired color, texture, and flavor.

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  • Member Avatar
    (2 years ago)

    CAO 60 Torque sounds like a beast of a smoke!

  • Member Avatar
    (2 years ago)

    Adding a CAO 60 Torque to my cigars to look for!