Welcome to the fascinating world of cigars, a centuries-old pastime fuelled by pleasure. As with fine wines, your enjoyment is often enhanced by learning more about what goes into crafting a fine cigar. But at the end of the day, a good cigar is the one you enjoy smoking, simple as that.
Ingredients of a Cigar
One way to judge the quality of a cigar is by assessing its raw materials. All but the slimmest cigars will include these three basic elements:
1. Filler tobacco: This is what goes in the center and each cigar brand will have a slightly different blend. The amount of "ligero" leaves determine the power of the cigar, "seco" leaves are mixed in for a milder flavour and "volado" leaves are blended for an even burn. Within these types, filler tobacco comes in short or long as well.
2. Binder leaf: This is what holds the filler together.
3. Outer wrapper: A carefully selected, perfect tobacco leaf chosen to be rolled around the binder and filler.
What's best: handmade, hand-rolled or machine-made cigars?
Handmade: In handmade cigars, a master cigar roller combines the three basic elements manually in a time and labour-intensive process. These traditional-style cigars often use tobacco leaves that run the length of the cigar, known as "long filler" tobacco.
Machine made: A lot of the expense of cigars is in the specialised labour required. Machine-made cigars are less expensive to manufacture using high-speed machinery but often utilise less expensive materials such as "short filler" tobacco, which are another way of saying scraps of the more expensive "long filler". The natural tobacco leaves used for binders and wrappers are often too delicate for the machines, so they are replaced by a homogenized tobacco product that's stronger and can be produced in different textures, strengths and flavours as required.
Hand rolled: Several brands use a combination or both techniques, employing machine-bunching of long filler tobacco, or sometimes a blend of long and short filler tobacco, before hand rolling the wrapper.