All about cigars
Check the cigar first
Handmade cigars should be checked exactly before buying. Open the box first. The cigars should make a good overall impression. If the first impression is good, continue as follows:
• All rings should be in the same position.
• All wrapper should be rolled in the same direction.
• All cigars should have the same color, beginning with the bright tones to the right, ending with the darkest tones to the left of the box.
• Smell the two or three cigars, to test whether the bouquet pleases you. Take a cigar out of the box and smell at the gap that she has left. That's the best way to evaluate the bouquet.
• Then press two or three cigars gently between a finger and the thumb. If they are well made and properly stored, they should yield slightly and return then to their original shape. They should also feel smooth and a bit oily.
Check the box of cigars
Check whether the green-white Havana seal is on the box: Since 1912, it is unchanged in color and text.
Now look at the bottom of the box. Check the box if there is the black stamp with the information "Hecho en Cuba", " Totalemente a mano" , the Habanos stamp and / or the red and yellow Habanos logo.
Once you have decided yourself for certain cigars and know what assortment you want to keep at home, it is absolutely essential to find the correct storage method.
Because cigars are natural products, the aging and fermentation process usually continues with a good storage in the box. Carefully conditioned cigars are usually better, the longer this process takes.
Especially if you do not have a humidor, you have to ensure that your cigars are not exposed to extreme temperatures. In any case, you should keep your cigars in the coolest place of the house. Make sure that the cedar boxes are kept in an airtight container or in a closet. The storage place should have a humidity between 68-73% rel. and should be maintained by a temperature of about 18 to 21 degrees Celsius .
If you don’t have any appropriate storage possibilities, it is advisable to buy cigars only in relatively small amounts. Keep them in at a storage place, where you can place a a damp sponge (only with distilled water) into the container or cabinet . Regardless of the chosen method, the cigar should be checked regularly. It is absolutely essential that the cigars are not drying out. But also too moistly conditions harm them, because it can lead to mold and decay.
The best solution is to buy a humidor. The humidor should be filled only with distilled water. Also make sure that the humidor is at an appropriate place (not next to radiators). If you store the humidor in a very cold place for a longer time, it is advisable to raise the humidity. The cigars should also be protected from direct sunlight. Shift the cigars in the humidor from time to time. Most humidors include passive humidifiers which are average in quality. Here it is advisable to switch to an active humidifiers when needed.
The cigars can be affected by the tobacco bug (especially in hot climates). The bugs lay their eggs in the tobacco and they then eat the larvae, leave holes and therefore ruin the cigar. Proceed in this case as follows:
• Sort out the cigars which have obvious holes and destroy them.
• Take a paper sheet and tap all the other the cigars on it. Are there any fecal traces in the form of black dots seen, get rid of them as well.
• Pack the non affected cigars in a plastic bag and place them in the freezer. This guarantees, that the eggs will die. Wash the humidor carefully with a damp cloth. After 1-2 months, take the cigar out of the freezer and put them into the refrigerator. After 3 days, take them out and leave them outside of the humdior for 1 day. The cigars have to recover from the cold. Afterwards, you can put the cigars back into the humidor.
Revitalise parched cigars
Unfortunately it is very difficult, sometimes impossible, to revitalise parched cigars. The whole thing needs to be handled with patience. In theory, moisture that has leaked from the cigar, can be replaced again, although it is not expected that the flavor will ever be as good as previously.
You have to revitalise cigars very slowly, because the wrapper, the binder and the filler are soaking up the humidity differently. If a cigar is revitalised too quickly, there is a risk that they fall apart.
•One of the easiest methods is to grab the open cigar box into a large polythene bag which is partially closed - not totally, because the air should circulate.
•Now place a glass of distilled water or a damp sponge in the bag.
•Turn the cigars in the bag from time to time. With a little luck, the cigars should return to a adequate condition within about three weeks.
•It is also possible to revitalise cigars in the humidor. Start in putting the cigars as far as possible from the humidifier. Then place the cigars over several weeks gradually closer to the humidifier.
Carefully stored cigars develop if they are stored properly. But as tastes obviously is very different to everyone, it does not necessarily mean that they are better. But they have a considerable aging potential. Years ago, cigar retailers let their cigars age up to 10 years before they released them for sale.
Basically, the aging is classified into four periods.
The Sick Period
The sick period is the period where freshly rolled cigars still have the smell of ammonia. Before rolling, the raw tobacco is moistened. This moisturization accelerate the fermentation, which generates abundant ammonia.
Unlike bitter flavors or tannins, ammonia is perceived as unpleasant by everyone. The time period in which ammonia can be reduced, depends on the degree of fermentation, the packaging and storage of the cigars.
For the majority of cigars which are stored in the conventional way, about 90% of the ammonia can be reduced after a few months and 95% to 99% after one year. The rest of ammonia is almost totally gone by end of the second year. By the way: Cigars should not be smoked during sick period.
"Why does a fresh cigar taste better in Cuba?"
In Cuba, fresh rolled cigars taste very good, but once back home in the humidor, they don’t taste delicious anymore. One reason is that both, the raw tobacco and the fresh rolled cigars, are stored open air in Cuba. Fresh air and high temperatures allow the ammonia to evaporate very quickly. In Cuba the natural humidity and temperature allow to store the cigars open air.
"Does a cigar have to breathe?"
Fresh air evaporates not only the ammonia, it also supports an ongoing fermentation. A faster fermentation makes the cigars more aromatic in a short time. The fermentation causes the nice substances which give the cuban cigar its nice aroma. The other side of an artificially accelerated fermentation is a less good aging over time. Only fermentation provides the raw materials for the aging process. The longer this fermentation process takes, the longer the substances will be developed which are needed for the aging process. The chemicals have more time to react and to develop more complex aromas - and therefore it gives better results. Moreover, too much oxygen destroys the delicate aromas, similar to wine. Whether you aerate cigars occasionally, depends entirely on the period in which you want to enjoy your Havana. Do you prefer a wonderfully aged cigar and time does not matter, then you aerate the cigar as less as possible.
2. First aging period
The first aging period is the result of an ongoing fermentation after rolling the cigar.
Cigars develop pleasant aromas with an ongoing fermentation. Over time, these flavors are dense and concentrated. Bitter notes, probably the result of the nicotine taste, decrease, because the fermentation builds nicotine into simpler molecules.
As time goes by, the fermentation process is slowing down because fewer and fewer raw materials for the fermentation process can be supplied.
During the first aging period the cigar reveals the most flavors. Always assuming, bitter notes and tannins decreased to a level where it doesn’t affect the smoker in an unconvenient way anymore.
For the most mild cigars the first aging period takes about 2-3 years in normal boxes and around 4-5 years in Cabinet boxes. For medium-body cigars like Montecristo, H. Upmann, Romeo y Julieta, the of the first aging period takes about 5 years in normal cases and 6-8 years in Cabinet boxes.
Full-body cigars like Bolivar, Partagas or Vegas Robaina, etc. the first aging period takes 7-8 years in normal boxes and 10-15 years in Cabinet boxes.
The aging period of course depends on sizes packaging.
3. Second aging period
The second aging period is the result of decreased tannins and the resulted flavors of the fermentation.
All fresh cigars taste of tannin in varying degrees. Excessive tannins leave a "dry" taste in the mouth - analogous to a wine – and taste green and harsh. Over the time, the tannins break down into simpler molecules, and these molecules react again with other chemicals into further organic compounds. As a result, you get a whole range of pleasant flavors. For example, the important "woody sweetness" which often can be recognised.
Like a great wine, it may takes a long time until the hard tannins in a cuban cigar are smoother a little bit. Even for an experienced tongue, a cigar rich on tannin taste uncomfortable even after 15-25 years. Of course the taste of tannins is not consistently bad. For some cigar smokers they are even perceived as very pleasant. Like tannin in a tea, it is a part of the whole thing.
In general, the second aging period has been completed after 15-25 years. A cigar at the end of the second aging period tastes very very soft, extremely mild, complex, classical and elegant.
4. Third aging period
The third aging period resulting in a concentrated finesse, derived of a chemical reaction of the ingredients of a cigar.
This finesse begins to show itself after more than 20 years, like a great Bordeaux or Burgundy vine. The chemical process of this development may correspond to the aging process in a wine bottle.
The aroma is incredibly dense and complex. Not all cigars develop to this finesse in the third aging period. It requirs complex ingredients in the cigar and a first-class storage.
Machine-made cigars, for example, will never achieve these finesse of the third aging process, although the tobacco can be quite top notch. It remains a mystery of the handmade cigars.
"When does a cuban cigar reach its peak?"
Although a cigar is aging with time, it doesn’t mean that they please every cigar smoker.
A young cigar is harsh, a cigar after the first aging period aromatic, after the second aging period classically elegant and after the third aging period almost divine. These different periodes of development can not be compared with each other.
The bottom line sais: A Havana changes in taste when they age. What's better is a matter of personal taste. And when it comes to personal taste, it can also be that this can change over time.
Sometimes you will prefer a harsh cigar. After a heavy meal, for example, you might want an aromatic cigar. On another occasion you prefer a classic and elegant cigar.
Thus, there is a simple answer to the question of which cigar is best: There is no cigar in this sense.
Before the Aficionado can enjoy a handmade cigar, he has to do a little work.
Cut the cigar
First of all, it is necessary to cut the capa of the cigar. Cut the cigar is an essential smoking ritual. A professional cigar cutter or round cutter is absolutely needed. If you bite the capa of the cigar or use a sharp knife, there is a risk of damaging the wrapper.
Lighting the cigar
Here it is advisable to use a jet lighter with a blue flame whenever it is possible. Matches, candles and petrol lighters are not recommended because of their negative taste of sulfur, wax or gasoline. Make sure that the cigar is not getting too "burned". Roast or grill the cigar nicely. Swing the cigar from time to time while you lighting it. Never say to another person that they should light the cigar. A serious aficionado is always lighting his cigar himself.
Smoke the cigar
Don’t dip your cigar in spirits such as Cognac, Whisky or whatever. The delicious flavors of a cigar are going to be destroyed. Drink the spirit separately.
Don‘t strip the ash like with a cigarette. The ash should has kind of a cylindrical form (the more solid and regular, the better the quality of cigar). You will notice when the ash is ready to fall. Depending on the format and quality the ash is ready to strip when it is about 2cm long. Do not be a "macho" and put your ambition in obtaining a long ash, because it has no benefit. It may affect the draw. The best cigars are recognizable by their fire behavior. They leave a thinner ash at the burning end. They should burn slowly and evenly. Don’t smoke the the cigar like a cigarette. Enjoy it slowly and take your time. Try to circulate the wonderful flavors in your mouth before letting the smoke escape again. Take small breaks when you smoking it and make sure that it gets not too wet.
Relight the cigar
If the cigar is going out of fire, strip the ash gently. Blow gently through the cigar to ged rid of the stale smoke. Relight the cigar now in the same way as a new one. Even if you relight a cigar after hours, it still gives you a nice smoke.
The cigar is at her end
If you feel a harsh and strong flavor and the smoke is going to be even hotter, the time has come to let the cigar die. This normally is the case when the ash is around 2.5cm away from the cigar ring. Just put the cigar in the ashtray where it dies by itself after a short time. Do not push them out, please. The cigar is a handcrafted product and this would be an unworthy act for the Torcedor (cigar roller).
The color of the wrapper can tell you a lot about what a cigar will taste like. I’d like to say that there’s a general rule, but there are too many discrepancies and exceptions to say something like “darker = stronger.” Some Maduro smokes paled in comparison to some stronger Connecticuts. In an effort to clear up some of the misconceptions about wrapper shades and how they affect a cigar’s taste, here is a compiled a list of wrapper shades and what they tend to add to a cigar. Here it is, starting with the lighter ones:
Candela wrappers, sometimes called Double Claro, are somewhat uncommon; they have a recognizable green tint to them, and have a very fresh, leafy aroma. The green color is achieved by picking the tobacco leaves before the plant has fully matured and drying the leaves quickly. This ensures that the chlorophyll content of the leaves is retained, thereby giving the wrapper its distinguishing color. Tasting notes associated with Candela wrappers typically include grass, cedar, and pepper with a little bit of sweetness. Depending on what type of tobacco leaf is used, they can break out of the mild zone, but typically remain pretty smooth and manageable.
Connecticut wrappers, which are sometimes interchangeable with Claro wrappers, are shade-grown from Connecticut seed, usually either in the U.S. or in Ecuador. Shade-grown refers to the process of being grown under giant sheets of cheesecloth, which keeps the leaves from being exposed to too much sunlight; this ensures that they have a milder flavor. Depending on how long they are aged, their tasting notes can include grass, cream, butter, black or white pepper, coffee, cedar, and many others. Many Connecticut wrappers give a cigar a spicy, ammoniac aroma, and this is due to the fact that tobacco leaves naturally contain a lot of ammonia. The aging process removes some of this ammonia, though lighter wrappers generally tend to be a bit peppery. Connecticut wrappers tend to have a bit more of a “dry” taste than darker wrappers, as they usually don’t have very high sugar content.
Natural wrappers are also referred to as “English Market Selection.” The term English Market Selection is a term used in Cuban cigar manufacturing, which refers to the designated quality for the UK market. They are typically a bit darker than Connecticut wrappers due to the fact that they are more mature when picked, and are sometimes not shade grown. These tend to be just a bit sweeter with a fuller spice profile and some additional notes of cedar, coffee, bread, and sometimes earth. Identifying these by color can be tricky, as many other wrapper shades have a similar color. Additionally, some companies use Natural as a blanket term covering Connecticut, Claro, and sometimes many others.
And now for some of the middle-ground of wrapper shades—Corojo, Criollo, Sumatra, and Habano. This is for smokers who tend to like spicier cigars and are curious as to why they have that distinctive bite. Or on the other hand, if you can’t stand fuller-bodied smokes, it’s always good to know a bit about what you don’t like.
Corojo tobacco was originally grown in the Vuelta Abajo region of Cuba—since the mass exodus of tobacco farmers from the country in the 1970’s, Corojo tobacco is principally grown in the Jamastran region of Honduras. Due to the strain’s susceptibility to mold and disease, many disease-resistant hybrid Corojo strains have been engineered. Corojo leaves tend to have a spicy, robust taste with notes of black pepper, earth, leather, cocoa, and cedar. They tend to be very oily and have a distinctly reddish-brown color, though they can be dark enough to make it easy to mistake them for a Maduro. Generally, if you’re not a fan of fuller-bodied smokes, you’ll want to stay away from Corojo-wrapped cigars.
Criollo tobacco is one of the original tobaccos used in cigar making, and according to some, it dates back to the late 1400’s; the term itself means “native seed.” Like Corojo wrappers, they tend to be very susceptible to disease, so most Criollo-wrapped smokes you will find feature hybrid strains like Criollo 98. Criollo wrappers tend to be slightly milder than Corojo wrappers, but still have a bit of pepper in the flavor profile. Other notes include cocoa, cedar, bread, nuts, and a bit of sweetness.
Originally hailing from the Indonesian island of Sumatra, this tobacco tends to ere on the sweeter side. A lot of Sumatra tobacco is grown from Sumatran seed in Honduras and Ecuador. Many infused cigars (like Acid and Maker’s Mark) use a Sumatra wrapper because it’s mild enough not to “argue” with the flavor infusion. Tasting notes include cinnamon, earth, floral notes, and a slightly sweet aftertaste.
Habano wrappers tend to be a bit darker than the aforementioned three, and are by far the spiciest. Habano refers not only to the fact that it’s generally grown from Cuban seed, but also to the fact that its spice level is comparable to that of a Cuban cigar. They can be grown in several countries, though a popular choice is Nicaragua, as the soil content there is conducive to producing some very strong leaves. Tasting notes include bread, intense spice, leather, cocoa, espresso, and cedar. The nicotine blast you’ll get from a typical Habano-wrapped stogie might not be the best introduction to cigar smoking. As a general rule, Habano smokes are better for more experienced smokers.
All of the above wrappers have at some point been labeled as “natural”—this simply refers to their contrast with the darker Maduro cigars in a line.
Maduro means “mature” or “ripe” in Spanish, and that’s exactly what these dark brown leaves are. The process of making a true Maduro wrapper involves a great deal of time. After the leaves are picked, they’re stored in a curing barn for up to 45 days, until their color turns from green to a rich brown. They are then aged for years to achieve an even darker color. The aging process also brings out the natural sugars in the tobacco leaves, giving darker cigars their distinct caramel sweetness. The leaves used for Maduro wrappers must be significantly thicker than the others, as they undergo a lengthy fermentation process that could make thinner leaves simply disintegrate.
Unfortunately, some companies will take shortcuts with the aging process like heating the leaves or sometimes even dying them. Luckily, however, the vast majority of manufacturers stick to tradition and age their Maduro leaves the honest, old fashioned way. Maduro wrappers can boast a myriad of tasting notes, including dark chocolate, coffee, brown sugar, caramel, molasses, black pepper, dried fruit, black cherry, and sometimes even a boozy taste, depending on how they are aged. The common sweetness in Maduro-wrapped cigars often earns them the designation of nighttime or “dessert” smokes.
Sometimes known as Double Maduro or Maduro Maduro, Oscuro wrappers are the darkest of the dark. They’re fermented for longer than Maduro leaves, which gives them deeper sweetness and often a stronger, richer flavor. Tasting notes in Oscuro-wrapped cigars include many of the same ones as Maduro-wrapped, with a bit of added strength and sweetness.
It’s important to understand that the terms Double Maduro and Maduro Maduro are often used to mean different things. While they can mean “extra dark” or “extra ripe,” the terms can also refer to Maduro tobacco being used in multiple parts of the cigar. For example, a Double Maduro cigar can have Maduro wrapper and binder. For example Triple Maduro cigar uses Maduro wrapper, binder, and filler.
Cameroon wrappers, as their name would suggest, originate from Cameroon, and are sometimes grown in the Central African Republic. The grain of the leaves is very recognizable, and is often referred to as “toothy.” Cameroon wrappers tend to be somewhat delicate and are not very oily, which makes them unlikely candidates for Maduro fermentation. Cameroon-wrapped cigars tend to be very rich tasting while remaining smooth and manageable. Tasting notes include butter, black pepper, leather, and toast.
One of the more uncommon wrapper shades is Rosado, which translates to “rosy” or “pinkish” in Spanish. These wrappers have a distinct reddish hue and are extremely difficult to grow outside of Cuba, which means that only a handful of companies are lucky enough to have a supply of this leaf. This makes Rosado-wrapped cigars rare and highly sought after. Typically, these cigars are very spicy with notes of cedar, coffee, earth, and pepper.
A good cigar is not only clouded in aromatic smoke, but in a mass of legends that it has acquired over the long years of its existence. Less experienced cigar smokers often accept these myths at their face value, regarding them as signs of good taste or procedures that are essential to perform when smoking a cigar. Some of these myths we've tried today to lay to rest.
"A cigar should be warmed before smoking"
I have frequently had occasion to notice people spending a long time warming up their cigars before smoking them. Holding the cigar in the fingers of one hand, they run a lighted match along its lower length. And then they turn the cigar over, trying to warm the whole of its surface. Devotees of this process claim that preparatory warming enables them to savour the full taste and aroma of the cigar. Some believe that a warmed cigar provides a better and smoother smoke with a softer flavour.
It’s a rather nice myth, isn’t it? Because it all sounds very plausible. But warming a cigar improves neither its flavour nor its aroma; it doesn’t even make the smoke smoother. The only thing you do achieve by carefully warming each square centimetre of a cigar’s surface is – to spoil it. If the flame gets a millimetre closer than the permissible distance from the surface, the outer leaf will start to smoulder. The smouldering can be stopped easily enough, but the taste and aroma of the cigar will be spoilt. This myth, like any other, has a completely logical historical explanation.
A cigar is rolled by hand: the leaves are pressed tightly together and wrapped in a binder leaf, and only then are they rolled in the wrapper or outer, covering leaf. At one time they used to be glued with gum tragacanth dyed with chicory. These additives naturally spoiled the taste and aromatic qualities of the tobacco. To counter this and get rid of the unpleasant smell of the tragacanth, and to soften the glue, it used to be recommended to warm the cigar a little over a candle. Doing this a smoker ran the risk of spoiling the cigar by burning the wrapper leaves. But the game, in which the superb and completely unspoilt taste of the cigar was at stake, was worth the candle – in the very literal as well as the metaphorical sense. Today there are other techniques in use for rolling cigars, and the rollers only use glue on the cap. Furthermore, the gluing material has changed. In Cuba, for example, they use starch mixed with water and tobacco dust, while in Brazil a local plant is used as a basis for the glue. These substances are odourless and tasteless, so there is no need to warm the cigar before smoking it. Nevertheless, many smokers continue the tradition despite the risk of spoiling their cigars by continuing the myth that this procedure is necessary.
"If you dip the tip of a cigar in cognac, it becomes more aromatic"
"That's what Sir Winston Churchill used to do!", people, who believe this tradition, exclaim. They even find that there's something pleasant in the mixture of the cigar aroma and the flavour of cognac on the tip of the cigar. Why? Because they simply don't know that it's just another myth, and that Winston Churchill dipped the tip of his cigar in his cognac for a completely different reason – because he had to.
The fact was that Churchill practically never parted from his cigar. He lit his first cigar over coffee after breakfast, and left his last cigar in the ashtray as he switched off the light in his bedroom. Sir Winston could smoke up to twenty cigars a day – and they weren't small cigars either! Obviously, he derived not only an enormous amount of pleasure from this, but also an enormous number of problems. For example, Churchill suffered from permanent irritation of the lips, brought on by the oils and tars contained in the outer 'wrapper' leaves. This is a pleasant taste, and when you smoke two or three cigars a day, it doesn't last long. But if you practically never take the cigar out of your mouth, it can cause severe irritation. So in order to maintain the pleasure of smoking throughout the day, Sir Winston began wrapping the tip of the cigar in brown paper, the same colour as the cigar. He did this secretly so that no one should draw attention to this strange habit. But, in doing this, Churchill came up against another problem: the taste, which the brown paper left on his lips, was a good deal less pleasant than the usual taste of the tobacco leaves. The way round this problem lay in his glass of cognac. He dipped the tip of his cigar, now wrapped in brown paper, into the cognac with the result that he now tasted cognac on his lips – a far more pleasant business than tasting rough paper and suffering from permanent irritation. Knowing nothing of the reasons that made Churchill dip the tip of his cigar into his cognac, cigar devotees and admirers of that famous
Englishman began adopting his habit, on the grounds that it supposedly improved the taste of the cigar. In fact, a cigar should have no direct contact with any liquid at all. Even the most expensive cognac will only spoil the taste of a cigar, if the tip of the cigar is dipped into it. It is far more pleasant to drink the cognac and at the same time smoke the cigar. It is only in the mouth that the flavours and aromas of the cigar and the cognac should merge, if real pleasure is to be derived from blending the two.
"The finest cigars are rolled on the thighs of sultry mulatto women"
This is perhaps the most beautiful and the most widespread of all the cigar myths. Despite the legend, cigar rolling was traditionally a man's work. Rolling a cigar to the proper degree of tightness requires very strong wrists, which few women have. In Cuba, rolling was always done by men, and the first woman roller to work at the La Africana factory only started at the end of the 18th century. But apart from this, rolling requires a firm, even surface, and the thighs of a shapely mulatto woman have a completely different configuration. The originator of this myth is thought to be Prosper Merimee. When he began writing the novel Carmen, Merimee travelled to Spain to learn more about the Spanish and their way of life. Being a handsome and imposing man, Merimee began an affair with a young Spanish girl. At the time, in the 19th century, Spain was a deeply religious country, and severe punishments could be meted out for attachments out of wedlock, so the lovers were forced to hide their affections. Merimee rented a small flat for assignations with his ladylove, and they would arrive there at different times and depart at different times.
Extreme caution had to be shown, since the handsome Frenchman was the cynosure of all eyes. Merimee spent many hours in the tiny little room waiting for his inamorata to arrive and for an opportunity to leave after her departure. This would not have been a problem – the hours of waiting were well worth it for the time spent in amorous dalliance with the passionate Spanish girl – had Merimee not been an ardent smoker. He loved cigars and usually bought them every day. But spending so much time in the secret room, he was unable to supplement his stock. A solution to the problem was found by the resourceful Spanish girl. She bought tobacco leaves and, resting on the bed after their heated lovemaking, she would roll cigars for the tired Merimee on her thighs. This was a task at which she proved to be very talented – and the cigars were simply magnificent. Merimee would smoke a cigar that had just been rolled, and then be ready once more for the labours of love... This experience made such an impression on the writer that when he returned to Paris, he told all his friends about it. A few weeks later, it was the talk of the town that the finest cigars were those rolled on the beautiful bare thighs of sultry mulatto women. And it wasn't long before all reference to Merimee and his amorous adventures in Spain had been completely forgotten. But the myth remained.
Nevertheless, another practice at the cigar factories has only served to encourage this myth. One of the sections at the factory, called the despala, is the place where the main stem of the tobacco leaf is ripped out. At the base of the leaf, these stems can reach a thickness of several millimeters and under no circumstance may they be allowed to get into the cigar filler tobacco: the stem would prevent proper drawing and spoil the taste. As a rule it is women, called despalilladores, who work here. They straighten out the tobacco leaf on their knees and with one quick movement rip out the stem. Hence, perhaps, the myth that the cigars are rolled on the bare thighs of the women. But, sorry to say, they do not roll the cigars, but only tear out the stem. Nor do they do it on their bare thighs, since the tobacco leaves would absorb the sweat and do nothing to improve the aroma of the future cigar. The incident with Merimee must be considered an exception – a cigar, rolled on the thighs of the woman, he had just made love to, would for him have been an especially pleasant experience.
"The darker the wrapper, the stronger the cigar"
Many people believe that cigars with a dark outer leaf are stronger than those with a light wrapper. But, contrary to this widely held belief, this is not the case. The strength of a cigar in no way depends on the colour of its wrapper leaf. Experience shows that cigars with almost black outer leaves may be mild just as cigars with light wrappers may be very strong. The colour of a cigar depends upon the sort and the type of the outer leaf that was used to roll the cigar. The world traditionally distinguishes six or seven colours of wrapper leaf: from light green to almost black. But in Cuba, for instance, specialists recognize almost seventy shades. The sort of wrapper leaf used has little effect on the taste qualities and even less on the aroma. The strength of a cigar depends directly on the composition of the filler tobacco. However, a dark wrapper leaf contains far more oils and tar than a light one, and so greater quantities of various substances remain on the lips when it's being smoked, one of which is nicotine. For this reason, a cigar with this kind of wrapper is thought of as being stronger.
"The thickness and length of a cigar affect its strength"
There's a widespread belief that those, who like a mild cigar, should smoke long, thin ones. Actually, those, who like a mild taste and a subtle aroma, should choose a thicker cigar. A cigar with a wider diameter has a better chance of losing heat, thereby giving a much cooler smoke. Thin cigars lose heat more slowly making them seem hotter and fiercer. The length of a cigar has absolutely no effect on its strength. The length of a cigar only relates to the time taken to smoke it and, consequently, to the length of the pleasure we derive. And as we smoke, we notice that the nearer the hot tip gets to our lips, the hotter the cigar becomes. This is because the smoke has less distance to travel and, consequently, less chance to lose heat.