Cigars have long been associated with wealth and success and for many years the exclusive purview of rich white men but nothing could be further from the truth
History says that the first cigars were smoked in loose leaf format by the natives of the islands in the Caribbean and that the tobacco leaf was brought back to Europe early 15th century CE by explorers, other says that it was the Mayans and recent discoveries show them smoking a form of cigar as far back as the 10th century CE
No one really knows when the first commercial cigars were made but the oldest company still making hand made cigars is Por Larrañaga in Cuba, founded in 1834. A more popular cigar still in existence is Punch who were founded in 1840
Today cigars are smoked in nearly every country in the world and by men and women of all ages and wealth. Handmade cigars are still considered to be the best but machine made cigars make up the bulk of cigars smoked in the world today, mainly because of their low cost
The US smokes over 53% of the cigars produced in the world every year, but they still cannot buy Cuban cigars.
A cigar is made up of three major parts: wrapper, binder and filler and each have a part to platy in making each cigar a unique flavour
The wrapper is the visible outer cover leaf. It’s also the most expensive component per pound, as these tobacco leaves need to be pristine in appearance, as well as flavorful. If the leaf is too veiny, rough in texture or has any blemishes, it’s no longer categorized as wrapper.
The binder can be considered a wrapper leaf that was not good enough to be a wrapper. It’s often the same tobacco as the wrapper, only not as smooth in appearance, and it doesn’t have to be as you don’t see it. Binder is the leaf of tobacco directly underneath the wrapper and holds the filler tobacco in place, hence the name. How the binder burns is critical, as a good-burning binder will often help the filler to burn more evenly, especially if the filler contains more oily tobaccos that do not burn as easily.
The filler is where the cigarmaker or blender can be most creative, as he can use several different types of tobacco from various countries and several different types of tobacco for desired flavor, strength and complexity. In most handmade cigars these are long-filler or full size tobacco leaves that have been cut down that are put into place to burn slowly yet offer a pleasant smoke. Different leaves can be placed at different parts of the cigar in different quantities to change how the cigar tastes, or develops, as it is smoked
It is estimated that over 200 sets of hands will have touched the tobacco in your cigar by the time you come to smoke it - from the planting and harvesting, to the drying and fermenting and then the rolling and sorting of the cigar. That's a lot of labour to create something for you to enjoy
The tobacco parts of a cigar
Every cigar as the same elements to it - a head, or cap, the body (or barrel) and the foot and usually a band
The foot is the end that you light. How you light it is entirely up to you but in most cases it is now with a butane lighter. Be careful how you light the cigar, normally at an angle to make sure you are not just burning in to the middle of the cigar and getting what is called tunneling - an easy way to spoil a cigar. Do not use petrol lighters as the flavour of the petrol can get in to the cigar though the flame. Similarly do not use a candle as you can get wax in to the cigar which will spoil the taste and make it hard to keep it alight
The cap is the other end of the cigar and then end that you cut. The design of the cap and how tidy it is can often indicate the quality of the cigar. You need to make a hole in the cap so you can smoke the cigar which can be done by cutting a small part of it off with a guillotine cutter, part of it off with a v-cutter or a small round hole using a punch. Unlike in the movies it is not normally a good idea to bite the end of the cigar off as you will probably take the whole cap off and it is this that prevents the wrapper from coming undone
The body of the cigar is what you are smoking. There are a number of different sizes and styles of cigars and everyone has their preferences, The barrel, or body, normally comes with a manufacturers label, sometimes 2. You can leave this on or take it off but most people leave it on until the ash gets close as this helps weaken the vegetable glue used to close it and makes it easier to take off. Holding the cigar by the band whilst smoking it can also prevent oils from your skin getting on to the body and affecting how it burns and helps prevent your finger from getting too hot when the cigar is shorter