A premium hand rolled cigar is the finest form of tobacco, similar to fine wines and single malt scotches. They are produced in relatively small batches compared to machine made cigars.
The Cigar Rolling Process
It is often said a cigar passes through several hundred hands before it makes it to the consumer. The process to make premium hand rolled cigars is mostly organic with natural fertilizers and starts with seeds planted in trays in a greenhouse. The tobacco plants are transferred to the fields when they are very small and grow from there for several months before they are harvested. After the harvest, the tobacco leaves are sorted by hand and taken to curing barns to be hung and cured. From here, the leaves are sorted again and stacked in bails to ferment further. The leaves are now ready to be rolled into cigars.
Anatomy of a premium hand rolled cigar
There are three main parts to a premium hand rolled cigar. The main parts are the wrapper, binder and filler. All of these contribute to the characteristics of the cigar and will influence the appearance, taste, burn and overall experience of the cigar.
The wrapper of a premium hand rolled cigar refers to the large tobacco leaf used to bind the cigar together. For a tobacco leaf to be used as a wrapper, it should be free of holes and, usually, free of blemishes as well. The wrapper contributes a great deal to the overall flavor of the cigar. Wrappers are organized according to their shade, and while cigar manufacturers recognize over 100 different shades. The color of the wrapper is often used to describe the cigar as a whole. You will often hear a cigar referred to as a claro or a maduro meaning light or dark. For the most part the lighter wrappers have a dry taste, and the dark wrappers have a sweet taste and sometimes an oily appearance.
The filler of a premium hand rolled cigar refers to the bunched-up tobacco inside the cigar, and makes up most of the cigar’s mass. Less expensive cigars tend to use short filler. Short filler tobacco is chopped up bits of tobacco sometimes containing bits of tobacco stems. Short filler usually burns hotter, and leaves bits of tobacco in the smoker’s mouth. Higher quality cigars contain long filler tobacco, or large sections of tobacco leaf, which provides the best smoking experience. Depending on where on the tobacco plant the filler leaf is taken from, it can be dry or sweet, bitter or smooth, minimally flavorful or strong. The overall composition of a cigar’s filler is referred to as the blend.
The binder of a premium hand rolled cigar comes between the wrapper and the filler. Usually a leaf used as a binder has some imperfection (such as a hole or a visible blemish) that prevents it from being used as a wrapper, but can still contribute substantially to the flavor of the cigar. Some high quality cigars, or cigars intended to have a strong or complex taste, use a wrapper leaf as a binder.
A premium hand rolled cigar is a complex, flavorful luxury to be enjoyed while relaxing or spending time with friends. It is not a habit or addiction like some other forms of tobacco but something to be appreciated and savored.