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Stogie Commentary: A New Appreciation for Cigars

6 Jul 2010

I like to think that I’m the kind of person who properly appreciates the time and talent that go into creating a fine handmade cigar, but sometimes it takes a firsthand experience to remind me just how detailed and rigorous the process is.

ptscigarsDuring my recent trip to the Dominican Republic I saw the entire process in detail. From the Guillermo León’s farm, to tasting pure grade tobacco with José Blanco, to the aging and, finally—but certainly not least—the expert bunching and rolling, you see the dozens of people necessary to create just one great cigar.

I even tried my own hand at making a cigar. After smoking five cigars made completely from one tobacco each, I selected three, proportioning them in a way that I thought (hoped?) would yield a interesting, complex, medium-bodied smoke. After making the blend, when I told León that my blend utilized 40% Dominican corojo tobacco with equal parts Nicaraguan and Brazilian bahia, he laughed and told me I had created a “bomb.” (So much for my smooth, medium-bodied smoke.)

The challenge really began when I had to bunch, bind, and wrap my cigar. Even though I used the Lieberman machine to apply the binder—many premium smokes are created completely by hand—it was a struggle to fit my cigars in the mold.

After the cigar was pressed for a few hours, I returned to apply the wrapper. Despite the experienced roller standing over my shoulder, making plenty of corrections and suggestions, the ten cigars I produced (pictured above) were decidedly sub-par. Maybe a few of them could pass for factory seconds.

As a reviewer who takes off points for faulty construction, it was a most humbling experience. Given the difficulty in the process, the consistency that even relatively inexpensive cigars have is very impressive.

And speaking of inexpensive, considering  how many hours of labor and years of skill go into every smoke, it is amazing that prices are as low as they are. If you are lucky enough to see it first hand, you’re unlikely to complain about the price of your smoke again, and you’ll certainly gain a new appreciation for cigars.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

7 Responses to “Stogie Commentary: A New Appreciation for Cigars”

  1. Dave in Ashburn Tuesday, July 6, 2010 at 2:47 am #

    Great post! How long did it take to roll those 10 cigars?

  2. Cigar Seeker Tuesday, July 6, 2010 at 2:59 am #

    Have you tried smoking any of the 10 you rolled? Is the blend indeed a bomb?

  3. Patrick S Tuesday, July 6, 2010 at 12:55 pm #

    @ Dave: Hard to remember exactly. Applying the wrapper probably took over 30 minutes. For me the bunching with the Lieberman took even longer and was more difficult to do in a way I felt OK about.

    @ Cigar Seeker: I'll light one up tonight and let you know how it is. But I would be surprised if Guillermo isn't correct. He knows his stuff.

  4. Patrick S Tuesday, July 6, 2010 at 4:49 pm #

    @ Cigar Seeker:

    Smoking the cigar now.

    Not sure it's a bomb but definitely not full bodied. I can taste all the components (Nicaraguan, Dom Corojo & Brazilian) but not much interplay. I'd smoke more even if I didn't have more to smoke. Maybe even pay a few dollars for them.

  5. Cigar Seeker Wednesday, July 7, 2010 at 2:13 am #

    Thanks for the followup. First cigar-rolling experience? I'm impressed. And if you let a few of these sit in your humidor, they might get even better!

  6. Howard T Wednesday, July 7, 2010 at 11:49 am #

    I had a very similar experience in the Dominican Republic. Was spending a week in Punta Cana and had the opportunity to tour Tabacalera de Garcia. It was like walking into a sepia photograph..the Dominican rollers, the tobacco, the machinery, the molds..all melted together into a scene directly out of a 1920's Life Magazine. A phenomenal sight to say the least. Each roller is expected to roll between 250-300 beautiful masterpieces each day, with few, if any mistakes. You are truly makes you appreciate the expertise that goes into the creation of each and every cigar. It remains a gentle reminder to me every time I light one up, that a real person with real talent and dedication is responsible for the masterpiece pursed to my lips, as I enjoy and hour or two of solitude and unadulterated pleasure.

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