Cigar Know-How in a nutshell
The best tobacco in the world is grown on the Caribbean island of Cuba, on plantations (Vegas) in the region known as Vuelta Abajo. After the harvest, the tobacco leaves are air-cured, as opposed to being dried in the sun (sun-cured). The fermentation which follows occurs in so-called Burros, which are piles of tobacco in which the tobacco gradually ripens. Handmade cigars consist of a filler (Spanisch: Tripa), a binder leaf (Capote) and an outer wrapper (Capa). The wrappers come in dozens of colors (approx. 60), such as Claro, Colorado, Maduro, Oscuro and many more. The particularly light wrappers are also known as AMS or American Market Selection. In contrast, the EMS, or English Market Selection, features dark wrappers. Often the outer wrappers originate from the State of Connecticut in the USA. In Cuba, the wrappers, as a rule, come from Corojo tobacco leaves – a special kind of wrapper is called Candela.
The filler strongly determines the taste of the cigar, which is why the blend is of the greatest importance. Cuban cigars, also known as Habanos, are always Puros, which mean they are comprised of 100% Cuban tobacco. A few of the tobacco varieties that are found in long-filler cigars are Criollo and Piloto Cubano. At the top of the tobacco plant grow the most sun-pampered and strongest leaves, the Ligero leaves, at the bottom the Volado leaves can be found.
Hand-made cigars, or in Spanish “hecho a mano”, are called English Long Fillers (spanish: Tripa Larga). There are various formats available. The first distinction can be made between Parejos (straight) and Figurados (those with an odd form), variations of which are the Perfecto, e.g. the Perfectos of Cuaba, the popular Robusto, e.g. the Cohiba Robusto, the Corona, the Petit Corona, the Belicoso, the Double Corona, the Lanceros, e.g. the Trinidad Lanceros, to name a few. The diameter of a cigar is called the ring, in Spanish often Vitola. The Chaveta (hand knife) plays an important role in the production of a cigar, with which the Torcedor (cigar roller) cuts the tobacco leaves into the proper shape for rolling. The scraps from the tobacco leaves which are left over, called Picadura, are used in the manufacturing of partially machine-made cigars (so-called Short Fillers – in Spanish: Tripa Corta). To finish, a cigar band is attached to complete the cigar.
A Premium cigar is optimally stored in a Humidor. By the way, the fine white dust which can occur during storage is a result of the natural fermentation process and is just a harmless mineral-salt residue, also called a bloom, which can simply be removed with a brush. Before a cigar can be enjoyed, however, it first must be cut at the foot end. The head, or cap, is the end which is placed in the smoker’s mouth. Cigars which have not been pre-cut at the factory have a closed cap and approximately 2 mm must be cut off the end preferably with a Guillotine cutter before enjoyment. A bullet style cutter is also a satisfactory alternative, which punches a small round piece of tobacco out of the mouth end.
In no case should a cigar be inhaled, but rather the smoke should be drawn slowly into the mouth, and it’s flavors thoroughly enjoyed before being leisurely released, whereby one’s nose should be included in appreciating the luxurious cloud of smoke.
A few words to the types of packaging available: there are many varieties, one of them the so-called 8-9-8, i.e. the Partagas 8-9-8 (a box of 25 cigars in three layers of eight, nine and eight cigars, respectively), another is called a cabinet, such as the Bolivar Belicosos Finos Cabinet (a glossy wood box with a sliding cover, English: Slide Lid Box), and then of course there is the common flat, multicolored 25-piece box, decorated with coats of arms and symbols, e.g. the Montecristo No. 4.