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Production of Hand-Rolled Cigars

The Tobacco Process

Production of Hand-Rolled Cigars

The first step in the factory is conditioning the leaves which are separated and classified according to every type of leaf. Binder and filler leaves come in “arpilleras” or jute bales and wrappers in “tercios” or Royal Palm leaves, previously marked and coded indicating harvest year and source.

Wrapper must undergo a wetting process. With extreme care they are separated and then wet to recover the elasticity, and then placed at a specific temperature and humidity for 10 to 72 hours until they recover the smoothness needed for the rolling procedure. Unlike the wrapper, the filler do not require an additional wetting process.

After this process, the leaves are fumigated with an innocuous product that does not change the flavor or the odor, and prevents bugs and fungus formation. This procedure takes 45 days.

Now the leaves are ready for the quality control zone (el Rezagado). Leaves are separated depending on their size, color, etc. The master tobacconist manages the progress of each type of tobacco leaf, and only when perfection is reached are the leaves accepted into the blending department where tobacco experts assure the perfect flavor, aroma and the identity of each vitola.

At this time, leaves are ready for the rollers, who are the heart of every cigar factory. Their hands are the most essential tools, but they also use a knife called a “chaveta”, a guillotine, vegetable glue, a press and molds. They start by making the filler, which must be carefully done to ensure perfect burning. Once the filler is done, it is covered with the binder to create the “bonche” which is placed on the mold where the cigars obtain their shape. The molds are closed and pressed for a brief period.

Then comes the most delicate part of the process: affixing the wrapper (la pasada de la capa). Before this happens, rolling is interrupted and the molds are taken to a machine that checks the draw of the bonche by suction, to guarantee appropriate quality and combustibility. These machines were first introduced at the end of 2001 and are now widely used. Afterward the roller has to perfectly roll the wrapper, cut the leaf to make the “perilla” which is affixed with vegetable glue, and we have a perfect cigar.

The cigars are checked to ensure that size, shape, appearance and thickness are as indicated for each vitola. Then, they go to a room with perfect temperature (61º F to 64º F) and humidity (65% to 70%). This room, also known as the “escaparate”, has cedar-paneled walls. Here the cigars are left to rest, enabling them to lose all the excess humidity gained during the rolling process. They usually stay three weeks into the “escaparate” but the longer they settle the better.

The final procedures in the factory are dedicated to the perfect presentation of the cigars. Those cigars that have passed all quality controls and have been settled into the “escaparate” are taken to a table where they are chosen according to their tonality. There can be more than 67 subtle shades of color, and extreme care is taken to guarantee that all cigars in a box are exactly the same shade. The color graders or “escogedores” work in pairs to color-match the wrappers into the box. The first one sorts the cigars, separating them by colors and shades while the second one puts them into the box, ordering them, running from dark to light and from left to right across the box. This “escogedor” also chooses the frontal face of each cigar; the more attractive ones will face upwards in the box. Finally the bands are placed on the cigars very carefully. The “anilladoras” or banders follow the escogedor’s arrangement in every aspect: same face upwards with the band properly aligned, and the same order left to right.