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The Materials And Construction Of A Premium Cigar - Articles Surfing
Cigars can come in any shape or size - it's the ingredients, and the way those ingredients are handled, that makes them good or bad.
Almost all cigars (except extremely thin models) are made up of three components: the filler, the tobacco at the center which is the most important ingredient; the binder, an elastic leaf that holds the filler in the center; and the outer wrapper, which contains and holds together the binder.
Perhaps the most important difference among cigars is the difference among fillers. Handmade cigars, considered the highest-quality kind, use entire tobacco leaves; this is called a "long filler." Machine-made cigars will combine scraps of various tobacco leaves into a homogenized tobacco product called "short filler," which can be rolled quickly into many cigars, with a corresponding loss of individual tastes and textures. Cigar aficiandos generally prefer long-filler tobacco. However, long-filler cigars can still vary in terms of the quality of tobacco used and the blend among different kinds of tobacco leaves.
Most fillers are made up of a blend of powerful ligero leaves (from the upper part of the plant, where they received the most sunlight), which are folded into the middle of the filler to ensure a long burn; milder-flavored seco leaves (from the middle of the plant); and faint-flavored, fast-burning volado leaves (from the bottom). These leaves, and the proportions in which they're mixed, determine the quality of the smoking experience.
Tobacco leaves, to be rendered smokable, go through two processes known as curing and fermentation, the combined result of which is to reduce the sugar and water content of the leaf without incurring rotting. "Curing" takes 25-45 days and helps to determine the color of the leaf. During fermentation, the leaf is assisted in, essentially, dying as gracefully as possible, so that it becomes ready to smoke without disintegrating (and thus losing flavor).
This controlled death of the leaf, if done right, brings out its essential flavor and aroma. After this dual aging process, the leaves are sorted - the best are used for filler, the rest for wrappers. Wrappers, however, influence the cigar's final flavor greatly as well, and their color will be used to describe the cigar in general.
Their colors run along a scale from light-greenish double claro (very light) to tan claro wrappers to natural (light brown), Colorado claro (slightly darker brown), Colorado (reddish-brown), Colorado Maduro (dark brown), maduro (dark brown) and oscuro (blackish). Color, for cigars, generally means the opposite of what it would mean for beer: lighter cigars tend to taste dry, while darker wrappers lend a sweet tinge to any cigar.
Hand-rollers then use a crescent-shaped knife, the chaveta, to roll the filler and wrapper together, being careful to ensure that the leaves remain slightly moist at all times, then store the freshly-rolled cigars in wooden forms, which give them that distinctive curved shape as they dry.
The ends are cut down to uniform size. At this point, the cigar is essentially complete; now its real journey begins, as the manufacturer ages it to taste (cigars can keep for decades if left undisturbed at close to seventy degrees farenheit and 70% relative humidity).
When the cigar is finally sold, the buyer is well-advised to keep it in a wooden box known as a humidor until it's ready to be smoked; these specially-designed boxes (which are often extremely visually attractive as well) help to prevent cigars from drying out.
Cigar manufacture is a laborious process requiring constant vigilance. For many years, for that reason, handmade cigar factories would employ a lector (reader) to keep the rollers alert and entertained by reading books to them. Audio books have partly eliminated this phenomenon, but some factories still use a lector - perhaps the best symbol of the constant alertness necessary to produce world-class cigars.
Copyright © 1995 - Photius Coutsoukis (All Rights Reserved).
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