Premium Cigars are among the few items that truly are “all natural”. There is no chemical treating, they are free of dyes, and no ripening accelerants are used. Those sweet and spicy flavors occur naturally in the tobacco leaves. Premium Cigar Manufacturers let nature take it’s course to produce the tobacco that will be expertly handled and rolled into a fine cigar. However, as we all know, Mother Nature can throw some curve balls. The master blender must be able to adjust and work effectively with crop variations. Each cigar maker will strive to produce a consistent product with the possibility of slight fluctuations created by weather.
Curious about what it takes before you are able to sit back and enjoy that premium cigar? On recent trips to renowned cigar facilities, we saw the entire production first hand. From start to finish, the components of a cigar will involve well over 200 pairs of hands throughout the process in order to deliver this exceptional handmade product to your humidor. Beginning with the planting of the seeds, to having the leaves harvested and hung in the curing barn, and then piled up for fermentation, each worker skillfully handles the tobacco.
Tobacco in the field. Note the spacing of the rows is wide enough to enable each plant to be tended to by hand daily.
Tobacco seeds are nurtured in a green house until the plant and root structure become viable enough to be transplanted into the fields.
Fully grown tobacco leaves are harvested by hand before being moved to the curing barns.
After harvesting, tobacco is hung in Curing Barns where the leaves are transformed from green to brown.
The piles are separated onto drying racks, are then repacked, and are stored for aging. The aged tobacco is unpacked after a few years, rehydrated and separated by color.
Tom in the LFD fields near Santiago, Dominican Republic.
Dave checks out tobacco in the LFD curing barn. Here tobacco changes from green to brown over a few weeks.
LFD tobacco samples in the rolling factory.
The condition of leaves is continually evaluated as the tobacco continues its long journey from the field to the finished product.
Notice the pits dug into the ground inside the curing barn. Temperature and humidity are monitored and charcoal fires are burned when needed.
Tobacco plants are “primed” several times while growing, meaning that lower leaves are removed so that the upper leaves get enough nutrients from the soil, sunlight and water.
The outer leaves used for the wrapper go through a de-stemming process and the filler leaves will have part of the stem removed. The proper proportions of the tobacco are distributed to the rollers where they will bunch and roll each cigar by hand according to the cigarmaker’s blend. The art of rolling the perfect cigar is one that takes years to master.
Cigars are hand-crafted and go through many quality-control checks before being boxed and shipped.
Fermentation occurs for up to 6 months after removal from the curing barns. Leaves are piled into bulks that need to be monitored and rotated. The pressure from the weight generates heat that needs to be carefully monitored as the tobacco continues to ripen.
LFD cigar makers use a scalpel to shape signature designs for specially-made cigars like those with a football sold in the weeks before the Super Bowl.
The finished product is sorted for color consistency and sent back to the aging room. Finally, the cigars are banded, boxed, and sent out.
Along the way, the cigars have also gone through numerous quality control steps, all completed by hand. This entire journey has been a hands-on process with dozens and dozens of skilled labor taking the proper care to ensure a consistent and satisfying smoke. So the next time you enjoy a cigar among friends, remember all the expertise that went into your hand-rolled premium cigar, from start to finish.
This is great video footage of a cigar roller placing the wrapper on a Perdomo cigar in the production room of the Perdomo Factory in Esteli, Nicaragua. Filler, binder and wrapper tobacco leaves of various types and regions are combined to create cigars with the distinct flavors and aromas that define a brand. The wrapper is the tobacco leaf that is on the outside of the cigar, covering the filler and binder bunch. You hear Nick in the video refer to the “chaveta” she is using – the traditional knife used to cut tobacco leaves.
Our tour was led by Nick Perdomo who explained every step of cigar-making over 3 days. Before reaching production, seeds were germinated in green-houses, the plants transplanted into fields once they are viable, harvested, cured in the curing barn, then fermented and aged for many months. The process is labor-intensive with every phase completed by hand.
Here are some great pictures that show the conditions in the facility. It is a large, clean well-lit area. Workers are seated at tables in pairs and production is non-stop. People are paid based on the number of cigars produced, not by the hour. The quality control process is constant and consistent as supervisors inspect the work being done. Also, every cigar goes through draw-testing to ensure that the amount of air that would flow through the cigar once lit is not too great (hot) or little (plugged). If the cigar fails the draw test, it goes back to the person who rolled it. Also, cigars are constantly ring gauge tested to ensure that each is the correct, uniform size and will fit properly in the boxes – made on-site in the box factory. The entire system is highly organized and efficient – a very impressive operation that was amazing to see.
Please feel free to post any comments or questions you might have!
The size and level of activity is impressive.
Look at those torpedos!!
A roller’s work-station.
The area is clean, comfortable and well-lit.
Pretty tough to not light one up!