There is a long history of cigar smoking around the world. Traditionally associated with wealth and power, cigars have come and gone in favor over the years. Currently cigar rolling and cigar smoking is very much in style with both men and women rolling cigars for their own consumption and having cigar tasting parties and gatherings. Cigar bars are very popular in major metropolitan areas and allow customers to try cigars from around the world.
Cigars have also been used traditionally for a variety of celebrations. This is likely due to their relatively high cost and scarcity throughout history. Cigars are used to celebrate the birth of a child, at a wedding or a major accomplishment or a graduation. In addition cigars are also associated with fine dining, wealth and social status. Although very traditionally only enjoyed by men, the modern hobby of cigar smoking and cigar making is enjoyed by men and women alike.
Small and large cigar making companies now import and export all over the world, although the United States still has a ban on cigars from Cuba. Many cigars are made completely by hand and cigars can range in price from just a few dollars each right through the incredible cost of $750 per cigar. The world`s most expensive cigar is Gurkha`s His Majesty`s Reserve, and is dipped in Louis XIII Cognac, one of the rarest and best cognac`s available. There are only a maximum of 100 boxes of these cigars produced per year, leading to an incredible demand for these very unusual cigars.
While you may not be interested in producing the most expensive cigar, rolling your own cigars is a true art and skill. It takes many years of practice to learn to bundle the filler and wrap the cigar so it is uniform, has a good flavor throughout and burns evenly and clean. If you can find an experienced cigar roller to mentor or study under it is highly recommended, however you can also practice on your own to develop the skills necessary to produce a great cigar.
Equipment and Supplies
The equipment required for the making of cigars is relatively inexpensive and easily available through cigar shops and tobacco retailers. The most important supplies are the types of tobacco themselves since these will form the taste of the cigars. Poor quality tobacco leaves will result in poor quality cigars, regardless of the skill of the roller.
Clean linen or cotton towels and a spritz bottle filled with distilled water will be essential to keep the tobacco leaves, particularly the wrappers, soft and pliable until use. Use only distilled water in the spray bottle and mist but don`t soak the towels around the leaves prior to use.
In addition to the tobacco leaves for the filler, binder leaves, which hold the filler in place, are also important. These leaves have to be slightly more elastic to provide the tight hold between the filler and the final wrapper. The wrapper, the external layer of the cigar, is the most important and needs to be free from any tears or holes but also a very high quality tobacco. In most cigars the wrapper provides almost as much of the flavor of the cigar as the filler, so choosing a good taste match with the interior filler is essential.
A cutter, which is similar to a tube shaped paper cutter, provides a very quick and precise way to create the foot of the cigar. You can use a very sharp knife but this can lead to pressing down or squeezing the end of the cigar, resulting in poor lighting and burning. A simple cutter is highly recommended with the blade maintained in top condition and sharpness for the most effective and clean cut possible.
Molds can be used to help to shape the cigars after rolling. These molds also help to compact the filler slightly, but it is the consistency of the rolling that is critical. Molds can hold larger or smaller numbers of cigars. If you don`t want to use a mold you can use a simple drying rack. It is important to allow the cigars to dry since they will be moist after rolling. If you don`t allow them to air dry they can begin to grow bacteria and actually spoil. In very humid climates or during the most humid months you may need to dry the cigars in the oven on a very low, just barely warm temperature to provide the curing time. Most cigars will be in the mold or the drying rack for up to a week depending on the humidity in the air and the ambient temperature.
Cigar smoking is considered a well honored practice and has a routine involved in the enjoyment of the cigar. This starts with the smoker rolling the cigar under the nose and inhaling the smell of the tobacco. He or she is also testing for consistency through the cigar to provide for an even burn.
After rolling the cigar gently and inhaling the scent, the cigar is then cut. Typically most cigars will come with one end blunt cut and the other end left wrapped in a cap, which protects the curved end. The cut is made above the top of the cap and needs to be straight and clean without dragging on the interior filler leaves. It is important to realize with hand rolled cigars that more than one filler can be used to give different flavors and strengths of tobacco as the cigar is smoked. This is always designed with the intent to be smoked from the flat cut end to the capped end, so having the cigar in the right orientation is essential to get the full effect.
Lighting is also a tradition. The foot, or the blunt cut part of the cigar, also the end farthest from the band, is light slowly and with an even flame. The cigar can be rolled either clockwise or counterclockwise to ensure the entire end is uniformly lit and provides an even burn. It is essential to avoid using any type of lighter other than butane since they can actually cause a taste to the tobacco. Wooden matches that are not treated with sulfur are another option but paper matches should be avoided because they do have chemicals that will alter the taste. Small, thin strips of cedar are often included in cigar tubes for lighting purposes. Any type of lighter can be used to ignite the cedar strip, then this is used to light the cigar. There is no transfer of chemicals or odors, making a perfect option that adds to the routine.
Smoking a cigar is much different than smoking a cigarette. The smoke is not taken deep into the lungs; rather it is held in the mouth and exhaled partially through the nose and mouth to allow the full flavor of the tobacco to develop. It is important to realize that, like cigarette smoke, there is a risk of cancer in smoking cigars even without inhalation. Because of the type of processing of the tobacco leaves there is actually more nicotine absorbed by the body in cigar smoking as compared to smoking cigarettes.
Finally the humidity at which the cigar is stored will have a great impact ton the taste and flavor as well as the clean burn of the cigar. Ideally the cigars should be stored in a humidor at about 64 degrees and 68-74 percent humidity. Home humidors are available at most cigar stores and are also available online that maintain just the correct humidity level. Humidors have to be filled only with distilled water or propylene glycol, depending on the model, and need to be cleaned regularly to prevent bacteria build-up. Typically the humidifiers within the humidors should be replaced every two to four years to prevent any possibility of bacteria developing on the cigars. If you make your own cigars a humidor will be essential after the initial curing period. Dry cigars burn very quickly and produce a very bitter taste. Wet cigars burn unevenly or not at all and the smoldering of the filler produces an acid like taste that is very distinct and unpleasant.
Cigar smoking and cigar rolling are hobbies that are enjoyed around the world by a wide range of both men and women. Rolling cigars takes time, practice and patience as well as a eye for detail and an willingness to learn time honored techniques. However, once mastered, those that know how to roll cigars correctly can produce a very high quality smoke at far less than the cost of buying cigars. Having the correct storage equipment both for the raw tobacco as well as for the finished cigars is perhaps the greatest cost, but with careful maintenance this equipment will last a significant amount of time.
Cigar smoking, like all types of tobacco use, does have significant health risks. Understanding these risks is important before deciding if this is a hobby you wish to pursue. Smoking cigars only in designated smoking areas or within your own home or property is also critical as many cities and urban areas now have strict regulations on tobacco use on public property.
Getting involved in a cigar club or in a social group that enjoys cigars, cigar rolling or cigar tasting can be a wonderful way to gain both experience and general knowledge. There are online groups and in person groups that meet, taste and evaluate cigars and provide ratings and rankings for the various cigar types. Becoming either a cigar producer at these events or as a tasting judge is a perfect way to expand your understanding of cigars and cigar production. Working with someone in the organization that has a lot of experience with cigars is a very good option when you are just starting out.