Cuban cigars are widely regarded as being some of the best, if not the best, in the world, but what makes Cuban cigars special? Here is a quick guide to what you need to know.
The main reason Cuban cigars are special is the fact that they’re made with pure Cuban tobacco. Cuban tobacco is special because it is grown from outstanding seeds in the perfect climate. Additionally, the highest level of craft is used to transform Cuban tobacco into Cuban cigars. The process consists of around 200 stages.
Having outstanding seeds and the perfect climate is only a starting point. If you really want to grow the world’s best tobacco, you need to apply the world’s best growing methods. For example, you need to select your seeds and coax them into germination. You then need to nourish and protect them until they can be harvested.
Unlike many other crops, tobacco for cigars is usually harvested by hand. Workers are given time to harvest the leaves gently. After the harvest, the tobacco is cured, fermented, dried, aged, rehydrated and sorted for colour. This entire process literally takes years and requires a combination of science, skill and human judgement.
On its own, even the very best tobacco isn’t enough to guarantee a great cigar. This was demonstrated back in the 1990s when Cuba experimented with cranking up its cigar output. The quality of Cuban cigars dropped dramatically. Fortunately, Cuba (relatively) quickly realized the error of its ways and reverted to its traditional production methods.
The basic process for creating a Cuban cigar is essentially the same as the basic process for creating any other cigar. What differs is the materials used and the level of quality control. Possibly most importantly of all, Cuban cigar manufacturers take the process of filling a cigar very seriously.
Cuban cigars blend three kinds of filler, namely ligero, seco and volado. Ligero and seco determine the strength of flavour and the aroma respectively. Volado determines how well a cigar burns.
In the modern world, even premium cigar makers often roll filler by machine but not in Cuba. Cuban cigars are always rolled by hand and the cigar rollers truly are incredibly skilled artisans. They learn how to fold each leaf to achieve the perfect level of airflow. This is a key part of what delivers the ultimate smoking experience.
The wrapper plays a huge role in establishing the flavour of a cigar. In fact, it’s often the most expensive part of a cigar. Leaves intended for use as wrappers are grown separately from leaves intended for filler and binder. After they are harvested, they go through a distinct maturing process.
Because it’s so difficult to create perfect wrappers, some cigar manufacturers will tolerate slight imperfections. This helps to keep their production costs down and hence allows them to lower their prices and/or increase their profits. In Cuba, however, only perfection is accepted.
Binder is, literally, what holds a cigar together. It only makes a small contribution to the flavour and aroma of a cigar. It is, however, important to its overall construction quality. Even Cuban cigar manufacturers do not insist that binder leaf is completely flawless. They do, however, insist that it is of a very high standard and that it is used in exactly the right way.