Cigar enthusiasts often buy a cigar and let it sit, much like wine, where the storage distributes the acidity in the tobacco and gives the cigar a more nuanced personality. It is worth noting that it can store a cigar for decades in the right temperature and humidity. A cigar that has been dehydrated cannot be brought back to total quality.
There are a lot of processes that take place before you can cut, light and smoke your favorite cigar. Conversely, the cigar world is full of diverse options, sometimes conflicting messages and even more opinions about what makes a good cigar and what doesn’t. All of this can be confusing, even for cigar enthusiasts. The American cigar magazine Cigar Aficionado has compiled ten things that all cigar enthusiasts should know. The discussion here is based on the paper’s review and makes the cigar smoking experience even better.
Cigars are a natural product that requires careful craftsmanship.
Using words like natural and artisanal is so popular that the terms can quickly be devalued. It is not the case with cigars, however, because they are both handmade and natural. Can rightly the words for this premium product. All good cigars are made from one ingredient, tobacco, and no chemical mixing occurs. Few consumer products can be considered natural because no flavoring agents are added to cigars. The flavors that consumers experience and the color of the cigars are created through different cultivation methods and an organic process. Cigars contain no preservatives or sweeteners, unlike cigarettes and mass-produced mini cigars.
As for the craft, a particular art is involved in hand-rolling a cigar. It takes professionals several years to get the job right, as mixing tobacco is as much an art as it is a science. Tobacco is subject to the whims of nature, and the craftsman needs to have the qualities to work with a different product year after year, just like in a delicate winemaking process. Like wine, some vintages are better than others. Still, cigar-making professionals do what they can to ensure consistent quality and harmony. As with other handcrafted products, no two cigars are precisely the same. The finest cigars are a natural expression of the maker’s craft and the soil in which the tobacco was grown.
Two hundred touches
It can assume that before the cigar lands in your cigar box, about 200 people, maybe more, have come to make it. So every time you light a cigar, you can think that numerous people with diverse skills and knowledge of the product have contributed to you enjoying the experience that cigar smoking brings.
First, you have to choose the suitable soil and plant the seeds (usually in a greenhouse), which are then taken out to the field when the plant has reached the correct size. The leaves are picked by hand and then hung to dry, where they then change color and turn brown. In this way, several people have come to the type before the tobacco plant leaves the place where it is grown.
The tobacco is then packed and piled up for fermentation. When fermentation is complete, the tobacco in a pile is spread on drying racks. Then it is loaded again and stored for aging. After a few years, the older tobacco is picked up, dried in a particular fog room, and sorted by color. There is even more craftsmanship. The outer wrapping leaves are subsequently worked as the vein is dried from the leaf. It is usually done with bare hands but sometimes with machines.
Then it’s time to wrap, which involves a careful process where workers handle the right proportion of tobacco leaves about age and quality. All of this is done with bare hands and involves even more handling. The composition of the cigar is exact and gives each type a special touch.
Finished cigars are sorted by color and sent to a particular aging room. Finally, they are packed and shipped from the manufacturer. It is the timeline that describes how cigars are made. Along with this process, various quality tests are carried out, and manufacturers follow different work processes. Still, all cigars have the characteristic of being made by hand. Behind each cigar is, therefore, a vast number of arrests that require significant knowledge on all levels.
Tobacco in the fermentation process
Just like wine, the tobacco plant needs to ferment. So-called induction fermentation rids the tobacco of unwanted qualities such as bitterness through a combination of pressure, water, moisture, and natural heat. The only reason tobacco goes through fermentation is because it makes the tobacco taste better, as the fermentation process affects the taste and smell of the tobacco, taking the bitterness out of it and creating a sweeter taste.
Fermentation is quite simple. After the tobacco has been arranged in a barn to dry, the leaves are arranged in large piles (in South America are called piles). Water is added in batches, but the weight of the piles produces pressure. In contrast, the enzyme and microbial dispersion have heat. This process is checked daily, and the temperature is closely monitored. When the temperature is sufficient, the pile is removed, turned over, and re-stacked at a certain point. The process depends to some extent on the size of the plants. The tobacco leaves ferment at different rates, but we try to make each grape as uniform as possible. The purpose is to naturally change the tobacco taste from raw and bitter to something that can smoke. There is often a strong aftertaste of unfermented tobacco, which can smell like ammonia. This process cannot be rushed or skipped and is essential in the world of premium cigars.
The tobacco age is significant before and after the cigar is made. Not only is the leaf aged before it is wrapped in a cigar, but in most cases, a new cigar is sent back to an aging room where its humidity equalizes. In the past, the leaves have been packed into tight bundles where natural metabolism brings out the desired properties of the tobacco, as discussed here. As in life itself, older age brings maturity and refinement and rids the smoking of its vegetable taste and smell. The perfect taste is not just about what taste you can find, but what taste you can’t see. If tobacco tastes like freshly cut grass or raw green beans, the tobacco have not matured before use.
There is also specific aging that occurs in the consumer himself. Cigar enthusiasts often buy a cigar and let it sit, much like wine, where the storage distributes the acidity in the tobacco and gives the cigar a more nuanced personality. It is worth noting that it can store a cigar for decades in the right temperature and humidity. A cigar that has been dehydrated cannot be brought back to total quality.
Composition of the cigar
A cigar consists of three main components: wrapper, binder, and filler. The packaging is the visible outer cover sheet. It is also the most expensive part, as these tobacco leaves must be clean-looking and flavorful. If the leaf is too veined, rough in texture, or has blemishes, it is not used for packaging.
The binder may be a cover sheet that did not consider good enough to be a wrapper, is not as soft to the touch, and is not needed as it is not visible. The binder keeps the tobacco in place. Burning the binder is essential, as it helps the filler burn more evenly.
In the filler, each producer can play around and let their creativity rule the roost. The filler can be composed of tobacco from different regions – even different countries – and diverse types of tobacco to bring out a particular taste, strength, and variety. As with packaging and binders, the filler is meant to burn slowly.
One cigar end is called the foot, where the filler is usually visible. The other end is the head and is generally closed with a cap, which helps keep the packaging in place. The way the leader finishes the hat says a lot about the skill of the person who wrapped the cigar. The better and more beautiful it is done, the greater the talent.
Good construction, on the other hand, is key to making a cigar. A cigar that doesn’t burn properly will spoil the experience and flavor, regardless of how good the filler is.
Cutting and lighting like a pro
Hand-rolled cigars are not ready-to-use, as their heads need to be carefully trimmed. People may choose different lighters and cigar cutters, but some universal principles exist. For example, you must not cut off too much of the head of the cigar. If the wrap comes off during the cut, you have cut too much. On better cigars, there is usually a thin line at the lid, called a shoulder, and it is good to get used to cutting at that line – but not below.
In the case of torpedo and pyramid cigars, which have a narrower head than other cigars, they must take care to cut in the right place. The reason for narrower heads is practical and aesthetic; they fit better in the corners of the mouth and look good. It is more complicated to wrap cigars this way, requiring knowledge, experience, and skill simultaneously. The work on those cigars is more, and they are also more expensive. So cutting them in the wrong place is a colossal waste; it reduces the quality and the experience – besides, it doesn’t look good. However, if you cut too little, tar can form at the head because the airflow is too little, and we want to avoid that. You can immediately tell if you have cut too short, but it is better to cut too short than too much – because you can always cut a little more.
Lighting a cigar can be likened to grilling a puff of sugar. Must take care to keep the contact of the flame to a minimum, but too much contact can overheat the cigar and spoil its flavor. If lighting a cigar outdoors, ensure the wind does not give the flame too much oxygen, which will also overheat the cigar. Remember that we are shining a cigar that needs to burn steadily, not trying to create a New Year’s burn.
Smoking with discretion
Cigars are meant to be enjoyed, and there is no reason to rush to finish a cigar. Some people pull too much of the cigar, which spoils the experience. Just take your time and enjoy smoking the cigar.
If one draws too much of the cigar, one is likely to overheat. Then it loses its taste and becomes bitter. It is almost impossible to get the flavor back even if you slow down.
A well-wrapped cigar burns evenly and gives off the right flavor characteristics. There are no rules for how long a cigar should last, but a rule of thumb is that a five-inch cigar (about 13 cm) should last at least 45 minutes. If you finish such a cigar in ten minutes, you are smoking it like a cigarette, which is a big mistake. A light pulls every 30 seconds is adequate.
Then there is the other thing that smoking the cigar too slowly can also have negative consequences. Then there is a risk that the flame in the cigar will go out, and it will have to be lit again – even more than once. Having to burn the same cigar repeatedly can also damage its flavor characteristics and make it taste not very pleasant. There’s nothing wrong with occasionally needing to relight a cigar, but not frequently.
It is also an excellent idea to let the ash hang on the cigar as long as possible. The ash plays a role; it balances the heat in the cigar and minimizes the contact of burning tobacco with oxygen. Quality cigars are composed of whole leaves, not cut tobacco, and those leaves are built so that the ash can hang around longer than you think.
Choose your cigar carefully.
It is good to know the strength or flavor characteristics when choosing cigars. You don’t need to see every type of tobacco to make an informed decision about choosing a cigar. Still, knowing the basics about the cigar you want to buy is good.
Most people know whether they want a strong, medium, or mild cigar. Taste and strength do not always go together, however. For example, it is possible to prefer a flavorful cigar without it being solid and vice versa. But just as some people want strong coffee in espresso shots, some want strong cigars. The basic rule is that darker tobacco is more robust (though not necessarily tastier), but the color of the tobacco is all determined by cultivation, location, and handling.
It is, therefore, usually possible to assess the strength of the cigars based on their appearance, especially their color, but this is not universal. However, getting the information you need is straightforward; most retailers have that information, or it is available online.
Cubans are not necessarily the best.
Enthusiasts have long – and will continue to – argue about which cigars are the best. Of course, there is no way to determine that, as it depends on each person’s taste.
Most of the time, however, the debate revolves around whether Cuban cigars are the best or not. Some want to see nothing else, while others may find Cuban cigars overrated. It’s safe to say that Cuban cigars are great, but they’re not the only cigars that sit on that pedestal. Numerous cigars from Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, and Honduras score highly in the rating of cigar enthusiasts, often leaving the Cuban one behind. In general, these are high-quality cigars, each in its way.
Price and quality
It is not a given that more expensive cigars imply higher quality. In blind tests, cheaper cigars often score higher than more expensive ones. Still, as with the country of origin discussed in the last point, it depends on individual taste.
However, a hand-rolled cigar made from high-quality materials, carefully cultivated, and by experienced people should not be cheap. On the other hand, other factors can affect prices, both downward and upward, such as the extent of tobacco cultivation in each region. Tobacco plants differ from region to region, and their quality varies. Similarly, tobacco plants grow at different rates, and their fermentation rates may vary. Storing tobacco plants for a long time involves costs, naturally, on the product.
There are cases where the high price of cigars is explained by other arbitrary factors, for example, where a particular brand has been exalted through advertising or influencers. It is frowned upon by lovers of high-quality cigars. There must be valid reasons for the high price of cigars, which usually exist. Appearance, burning, smell, and taste can have an effect. Still, in most cases, the price is explained by production factors or methods.
As mentioned before, there is no way to decide which type of cigar is best for others. The best way to find your favorite cigar is to try enough. Those who do not want to spend money on such an expedition can quickly find a cigar that suits them both in terms of experience and price. However, it is possible to spend money on many other and more foolish things than this great high-quality product that includes relaxation and a good experience.