Origin of tobacco
The homeland of tobacco is the Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico. People owe the popularization of tobacco to Christopher Columbus and the sailors who spread it around the world.
Popularity of cigars
Tobacco smoking became popular among wealthy people, then spread to other segments of the population. It was the cigar that attracted those interested in smoking, and which made its way across the world and across broad sections of the population as those rich and famous people enjoying cigars were imitated by others. Thomas Marshall (Woodrow Wilson’s Vice President) declared before the United States Senate in 1919, “What this country needs is a really good five-cent cigar.”
The Cigar as a symbol
The cigar has become a symbol of success, power and relaxation. A great cigar and a great drink create not only a wonderful atmosphere, but they can also inspire and spark new ideas!
The common green plant “Nicotiana tabacum” can create something that fascinates the whole world, something that embodies power, success, well-being and relaxation at the same time. The leaves of this plant are used to make a cigar. The leaves are used as cigar filler. The leaves from the top to the middle are usually used as a wrapper and the leaves from the bottom of the plant to the middle are used as a binder.
The human eye and cigar selection
Apart from touch and smell, the human eye influences the selection in particular. The wrapper determines the appearance and color of the cigar (i.e., its attractiveness). It also influences its taste and aroma. This is the most important and often the most expensive part of a cigar. Cigars with a darker wrapper are stronger and sweeter because they contain more sugar. The lighter the leaf, the weaker and milder the cigar flavor. The choice of leaf for the filler (including the binder) and wrapper affects the flavor and strength of the cigar, respectively. This is classified in several categories, mild, followed by mild to medium, medium to fuller and very strong to full-bodied.
The leaves from the top of the plant are called ligero, they are the darkest ones, featuring the strongest flavor and the most distinctive texture. These leaves take at least two years to mature. After they mature they are used in cigar production. The leaves from the middle part are called seco and are lighter and feature a medium flavor. They usually mature for 18 months, which is the normal maturing period for the leaves used as wrappers. The leaves from the lower part of the plant are called volado and are characterized by a weaker flavor. They are left to mature for 9 months before being used in the cigar production process.
Colors and flavors of the wrapper
Some plants are grown in shade, which affects the color of the wrappers. These leaves are divided by color into ligero (pale, light), viso (glossy), amarillo (yellow), medio tempo (so-called halftime – with an undistinctive texture) and quebrado (with a broken pattern). If the plants are grown in full sun, the wrappers are divided into volado, seco, ligero and medio tempo. 60 to 65 color shades of cigars can be distinguished according to the color of the wrapper. Seven color shades are considered basic, ranging from the lightest (claro) to the darkest (oscuro). These color shades are subdivided into oscuro (an almost black leaf with a very strong flavor), maduro (a very dark brown to black leaf with a very strong flavor) and colorado maduro (a dark brown leaf with a medium flavor, more aromatic than maduro), colorado (reddish brown to brown leaf with a varied flavor and a subtle aroma), colorado claro (medium dark to dark brown leaf with a very light flavor), claro (light, creamy to brown leaf with a neutral flavor) and double claro (greenish wrapper featuring a very weak or even bland flavor).
Apart from the care of the Nicotiana tabacum plant, the most important thing affecting the quality of cigars is the tobacco fermenting process. The harvested leaves are bundled together, in groups of 50. These bundles are hung on horizontally stretched perches and slowly dried in large and long barns. The drying process takes 45 to 60 days. Once they are dry, the leaves are taken off and sorted according to size, texture and color. The sorted leaves are made into bundles of about 20. The bundles are then piled into heaps about 1 meter high and covered, usually with jute fiber sheets. They are left like this for about 3 months. At this stage, the temperature must be kept below 33 °C. The individual heaps are divided into pieces, the leaves are moistened with water and divided into the future covering (wrappers) and binding (binders) leaves and the filling leaves (fillers). They are sorted according to size, color and quality. The leaves then are returned to the fermentation process. They are stacked about 2 meters high, tightly compressed and stored in dark rooms. This fermentation process takes from 2 to 6 months, depending on whether the darkest leaves, have acquired the necessary color shade. During this period, the temperature must not exceed 43 °C. The leaf bales are rearranged to maintain the temperature required in the course of this process. Once completed the leaves are sorted again, packed into square bales and taken to a storage area, where they ripen for two years. The ripening process can take three to seven years some cases.
Basic types and sizes of cigars
In addition to several different of color shades of cigars, there are many cigar shapes (types) and sizes. Shapes and sizes are dependent on the manufacturer and country of origin. The basic types of cigars are: Churchill, Torpedo, Corona and Robusto. These basic types are subdivided according to size, e.g., Petit Corona, Petit Robusto, double Corona, Toro or Pyramid (similar to a Torpedo), etc.
Packing of cigars
Today, it is standard to pack cigars in cedar wood boxes. Cardboard (paper) boxes, aluminum and plastic tubes are used. These tubes are usually lined with a slice of cedar wood. The boxes used are a combination of cedar wood and cardboard, where the cedar wood is wrapped with cardboard.
Cedar wood is ideal for cigars, it slows down the cigar drying process and promotes the cigar’s ripening process. Cedar wood boxes feature a pleasant fragrance and this combination of cigar aroma and cedar wood creates a perfect harmony of nature.
Cigars also include a cigar ring. These rings were meant to protect the white gloves of wealthy smokers from getting dirty. That is why Dutch cigar maker Gustave Bock came up with the idea and introduced cigar rings. Originally, they were made of plain white paper. There use soon became widespread, as did their decorative design. As a result, cigar rings also became an object of interest for collectors. Some cigar smokers, such as the British King Edward VII or the German Reich Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, even wore their personal portrait rings on their cigars. Sometimes the ring serves as a boundary limit to which the smokers smoke their cigars. If smokers want to take off the cigar ring, they should do so only after a few minutes of smoking, when the heat softens the glue of the ring, otherwise there is a risk of damaging the wrapper by removing the ring in the cold condition.