The Craft of Cuban Cigar Manufacturing

Seed to barn

Barn to bench

Bench to box

Cuban cigar batches

The anilladora

Useful Cuban cigar tips

Selecting a Cuban cigar

Cuban cigar colour range

Storing and aging Cuban cigars


A proper cut

Lighting Cuban cigars

Enjoing Cuban cigars

Savouring Cuban cigars

Useful terms to describe a Cuban cigar

Calibrating a Humidor

Seed to barn

The duration from seed planting to harvesting is 17 weeks for shade grown or wrapper leaf plants and 16 weeks for sun-grown or filler and binder leaves. Fields are planted at different times to spread the burden of crop caring.

Animal traction is still carefully used for field ploughing so as to properly loosen and aerate the soil.

Shade grown, or, wrapper leaf plants demand extraordinary labor as these are entirely covered by muslin cloth canopies and individually strung to the frame.

The plants are ready for harvesting 40 days into the process and one plant can take up to 30 days to harvest, as only two to three leaves can be picked at one time.

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Barn To Bench

Filler leaves undergo:
50 days of air curing in the Barn and 25-30 days of fermentation in the Sorting House. The leaves are then taken to the Stripping House to be moistened and hand-stripped of their center vein. A second fermentation then takes place of at least 45-90 days. A third fermentation is reserved for exceptional cigars, such as Edición Limitadas and Cohibas to further develop and enhance the flavours and aromas.

Wrappers or Shade-grown leaves undergo:
25 days of air curing, a minimum of 30 days fermentation and at least 6 months of ageing.

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Bench To Box

Each torcedor, or roller, specializes in one particular size and only the most experienced torcedor is permitted to roll the larger sized cigars.
To begin, there are three leaves integral to the composition of a Habanos.

The Filler Leaf: The calculated blend of these three filler leaves depends entirely on the varying House flavors.

  • Ligero - Full-flavored leaves from the top of the plant.
  • Seco - Medium flavored leaves from the centre of the plant.
  • Volado - Milder flavors from the bottom of the plant.

The Binder Leaf: This leaf encases the filler leaves to form a 'bunch', which is then placed into a wooden mould to further set their shape.

The Wrapper Leaf: This leaf always remains a little moist to ensure a perfect stretch around the filler and binder leaves.
The cap is cut separately and wound around the head of the cigar to close off the open end and secure the wrapper.
Finally, using vegetable gum, a small disc of tobacco is secured to the head of the cigar, which is then guillotined to length.

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Cigar Batches

Each batch of cigars is labelled with the torcedor's number, the type of cigar and the date of manufacture to facilitate a strict quality control. cigars are tested for combustion, color, rolling quality, dimensions and the finish of the cap. Torcedors are paid per cigar.
Cuban cigar Color Classifications
Cigar wrappers naturally display around 12 different colors and up to 72 different shades. Ensuring that each box is consistent in color is a great task accomplished in by the Escojedores (choosers) who work in pairs to color-match the wrappers.

The Anilladora

The anilladora or bander manually applies the band to each and every cigar making sure the bands line up perfectly within the box , which is also entirely hand-crafted

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Selecting a Cuban cigar

Three of your five senses are involved when selecting a Cuban cigar. Sight, touch and smell!

1. Sight:

The cigar wrapper must appeal to the eye. While some might prefer a lighter, or Claro color, others might choose a dark chocolate or Maduro wrapper. Similar to winetasting, Cuban cigar flavors are subjective and purely a matter of personal taste.

The range in color of a Cuban cigar depends on:
How the plant was grown, as shaded plants have lighter colors, while fully exposed plants are darker.
The section of the plant the leaf came from, as bottom and middle leaves are lighter and the top leaves tend to be darker (more sun exposure).
The fermentation period, as longer fermentation leads to darker leaves.

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The Color Range of Cuban cigars is as Follows

  • Double Claro- Green to Greenish Brown
  • Claro- Light Tan
  • Colorado Claro- Tawny, Mid-Brown
  • Colorado Reddish- Dark Brown
  • Colorado Maduro- Dark Brown to Very Dark Brown
  • Oscuro- Very Dark Brown Almost Black

2. Touch: Your Cuban cigar should feel firm but cushiony to the touch.

3. Smell: Rich aromas should emerge from both the cigar box and the foot of the Cuban cigar.

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Storing and aging Cuban cigars

As the aromas and flavours of a wine develop with age so do those of exceptional Cuban cigars, provided, of course, they are stored at proper temperatures.

Any Cuban cigar aficionado, with plans to keep Cuban cigars over a period of time, should have access to a humidor.

Temperature for your Cuban cigars

Temperatures within the humidor should be maintained at 16-18°C (60-64°F) and humidity levels for your Cuban cigars should be kept anywhere between 65 to 70 %. These levels are crucial to maintaining the perfect environment for your Cuban cigar, as a dry cigar can be unduly harsh and an overly moist Cuban cigar can be a tough light.

A Proper Cut for a Cuban cigar

A Cuban cigar should be cut above the cap line, just before the curved end of the Cuban cigar begins to straighten.

The objective is to create an aperture without damaging the overall structure.
A double or single bladed cutter, a special Cuban cigar scissor or a punch cutter with a circular blade are all different types of cigar cutters.

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Lighting a Cuban Cigar

Lighting a Cuban cigar is a ritual in itself.

To begin, always use a butane lighter or a cedar or wooden matchstick to light your Cuban cigars. Petrol lighters, candles and wax matches all impart unpleasant odors that a Cuban cigar is quick to absorb.

Always remember that a Cuban cigar must be lit with patience and tranquillity. A poorly lit Cuban Habano can quickly spoil the overall experience.

Hold your cigar at a 90° angle above the flame of your lighter. Patiently twist the Cuban cigar until all parts of the foot are evenly charred. With the flame still under the foot, place the Cuban cigar to your lips puffing gently until the flames jump up. Continue rotating your Cuban cigar while occasionally blowing on the foot to ensure an even burn.

Allowing the ashes to gently fall and rolling these off onto the edge of the ashtray, are both perfectly acceptable.

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Enjoying a Cuban Cigar

Connaisseurs of Cuban cigars often note that one must be very mindful when savoring a great cigar. A Habano should be smoked slowly to ensure a harmonious marriage of the rich and savoury aromas, simply relax and enjoy the moment.

Savouring a Cuban Cigar

While savoring your Cuban cigar, notice the subtle differences in taste, colour, smell and sight.
Ascribing personalized scents and colours is similar to savouring a berry-filled Bordeaux or a Gerwüstraminer exploding with tropical fruit.
Identifying the various flavors of a Cuban cigar is a learned trait that develops through practice, practice and practice.
Your enjoyment of a Cuban cigar is entirely subjective and should always be open to personal interpretations and references.

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List of useful terms used to describe a Cuban cigar:

Cuban cigars in the hand: Pliable, soft, delicate, supple, tender, thick, rough, tight, sticky, oily, silky, compact, dry.

Cuban cigars on the nose: Young leather, tanned leather, animal, spicy, piquant, sharp, bean (vanilla, cocoa, coffee), appealing, persistent, woody, floral, fruity, subtle, weak, short-lived, green.

Cuban cigars in the mouth: Tangy, piquant, tannic, strong, exotic, peppery, spicy, hot; burning, fruity, oily, sweet, sugary, butterscotch, caramel, toffee, woodsy, floral, grassy, blunt, flat, coffee, liquorice, cedary, nutty, cherry, orange-peel, citrus, nutty, almond, chestnut.

Cuban cigars to the eyes: From light to dark: Double Claro, Claro, Colorado Claro, Colorado, Colorado Maduro, Maduro, Oscuro.

Cuban cigar sensations: Persistent, promising, discreet, hard-hitting, distant, generous, full, opulent, rich muscular, understated, linear.

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Calibrating your cigar humidor

There is a very simple way to calibrate your hygrometer, doing it yourself will asure you that it marks the correct humidity for your Cuban cigars.

Take a wet towel (not dripping wet, but wet enough) and wrap it completely around your hygrometer. Wait about half an hour, the reading should be of 98% or more, if this is so, your hygrometer is calibrated and you do not need to re-calibrate.

If the reading is off, turn the screw on the back of the hygrometer until it reads 98%. You have properly calibrated the hygrometer for your Cuban cigars.

It is recomended that you calibrate your hygrometer at least once a year, twice a year is ideal. Also, never use tap water instead of distilled water in your humidifier as tap water contains residue and minerals which can be deposited inside the hygrometer, causing bad odors and unpleasant tastes on your Cuban cigars.

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