Cigars are classified as mild, medium, or full bodied. The body refers to the impact the smoke is supposed to have inside the mouth. It is difficult to measure because it is a subjective perception, which is the reason why cigars are often rated “mild to medium” or “medium to full”. Cigar makers know what type of tobaccos they have to use to achieve the desired level of impact. The difficulty lies in blending them to get a pleasant balance between taste and aroma.
Cigars are measured by diameter and by length. Diameter size, called ring gauge, is measured by 64th of one inch. Length is measured by inches. A 50×5 cigar has a ring gauge of 50 times 1/64 inch and is 5 inches long. Sometimes you”ll see 5×50, which is the same, do not think that the cigar is 50 inches long! If the cigar is not a cylinder, the ring gauge shown is generally the bigger one. For a torpedo (pyramidal), the smallest and the largest diameters of the truncated segment can be mentioned as 36-54, for example. Cigars have been named according to their size: Churchill, Robusto, Corona, Panatela, etc., but these are not strict definitions. Each one is in a range of length and diameter. A Robusto is classically a 50×5, but the ring gauge can vary in a 48-54 range and the length between 4 1/2 and 5 1/2 inches.
Before premium cigars are packed inside the box, they are classified by color so that all the cigars in the box look alike. It is a very difficult operation and few people are able to make such a sharp sorting. A good “shader” goes up to 72 different colors or tones, including criteria for brightness and shine. It is absolutely fascinating to see how fast they can do it, too.
When making cigars, fillers are handled dry (about 16% humidity) and they are quite stiff. However, to make the bunch, the binder has to be moistened in order to be flexible enough to wrap around, and so does the wrapper. So, the binder gives water to the fillers and the bunch becomes too soft to be wrapped. The pressing time helps to dry it enough for wrapping. Likewise, the moistened wrapper is going to transmit water to the rest of the cigar. Once again, a drying period is necessary to reach the proper moisture content in the cigar. Generally, the time to go through the quality control is long enough for the cigars to be ready to be stored in the humidor.
Once made, the bunch goes into a mold of 12 to 20 chambers. When the mold is full, it goes to a press. The bunches will dry during the pressing time. It is a necessary operation before wrapping. After 20-25 minutes under press, the molds are open and the cigar maker turns the bunches 90º to avoid having prominent lines where the both parts of the mold are joining. Another 20-25 minutes under press, and bunches are ready to be wrapped.
The Bunching Machine
The Natural Way to Smoke
If you have only a few tobacco leaves and your two hands, without any tools or accessories, the only way to smoke your tobacco is to roll a cigar. Of course, you’ll need fire to light up your cigar! But remember that human beings have domesticated fire for a long time and you should not have problem to get it.
Hand Made or Machine Made?
Cigars are either hand-made or machine-made. In both cases, they can be long fillers or short fillers. Premiums are supposed to be hand-made long fillers cigars.
Handmade Long Filler Bunch
There are two methods for setting the tobacco leaves in a bunch. The wrong one is to stack the leaves and to roll them together. This is called the book method, which does not provide enough channels for air and can give a heavy draw. The right method is to fold each leaf in accordion style and place them side by side. The air can pass through and the smoke is pleasant.
Handmade Long Filler Cigars
A long filler cigar contains two to six full leaves, depending on the size. They are folded accordion-style and wrapped in a binder. Tobacco leaves are oval. To get a cylindrical shape with a uniform compactness is not that easy. Often, wrapping that has something spectacular fascinates people, but making the bunch requires much more skill.
Machine Made Short Filler Little Cigars
Imagine a roll of homogenized tobacco binder, natural wrappers cut out in advance and put on an unwoven material bobbin, a short filler dispenser. All of them are installed on a machine that is going to produce more than 20 cigars per minute. One worker is able to supervise 5 or 6 machines, refilling with new rolls and bobbins, checking the finished cigars. More than 6,000 cigars in one single working hour ! Meanwhile, a cigar roller is going to make by hand some 15-30 premium cigars.