How Are Cigars Made: An In-Depth Look at a Rigorous Manufacturing Process

Jeff Miller
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Cigar Design

Cigars are highly regulated by the BATF and FDA. To be considered a true cigar, a cigar must be made with tobacco leaves. Other regulation in the production of cigars includes:

No two cigars can be identical in shape or tobacco.

The tobacco leaves used to construct the cigar must come from the same plant.

The cigar should be rolled using the “triple cap” effect, which includes a foot band than wraps three times around the foot of the cigar.

The cigar must be contained in tobacco leaves which are tied with delicate lace.

Cigars must be aged for at least a year.

The Basic Manufacturing Process of a Cigar

The production of a cigar is a long process with many steps in manufacturing. The different stages of cigar production include:

  • Tobacco selection
  • Bunching & Stemming
  • Fermentation
  • Drying & Blending
  • Injection Molding
  • Cigar Wrapping
  • Aging & Conditioning

Cigar Making Materials

The tobacco used to make your cigar is the most important factor in the final product. After all, this very plant is the reason that cigars were created in the first place! In order to give you the best, most satisfying smoking experience possible, manufacturers choose their tobacco carefully.

The most critical tobacco components are the leaves, or filler. They are mixed into the blend to give your cigar the density and burn rate that you want. Long-filler leaves are used for premium cigars and include some of the leaves from the cap, or head, of the tobacco plant. Several short-filler leaves are bound together, then placed into the long-filler layers to give your premium cigar additional aroma and taste. The length of a cigar’s filler is a good indicator of the manufacturing skill and craftsmanship of the cigar maker. Longer fillers result in a lighter and more even burn throughout your smoke.

Wrapper leaves come from the tobacco plant’s exterior. The four tobaccos that are commonly used for wrappers are Connecticut, Brazilian, Indonesian and Mexican. The wrapper leaves, which can be the same or different for each cigar, provides the outer wrapper of a premium cigar, giving it a classic look.

Manufacturing Process

Any company that manufactures cigars today must follow the same federal laws that were enacted years ago to ensure the quality and safety of cigars. Any company that is following federal law must first undergo a federal inspection before they are able to sell their cigars, regardless of where they are being sold.

But what exactly is the inspection? How does it run? And what does the Tobacco Inspection Act look for? While there are four principal manufacturing processes, each factory must have a plan for inspection that includes one of the principal manufacturing processes.

The principal manufacturing processes are:

  • “Handmade-rolled” (a process known as “open end” for non-cigarette industry)
  • “Wrapped-rolled”
  • Plug” or “constructed-rolled”
  • Hand-made fine-cut and other hand-made products

The tobacco and paper used for cigar wrappers and binders comes from various countries, but there are several countries that have a stringent inspection system in place to ensure the quality of their tobacco and paper production. The cigar manufacturers generally use tobacco and paper from the same country for their cigars, to ensure maximal quality.

Curing the Tobacco

Rolling cigars is an art form and one of the last manufacturing processes to be done by hand. After all the plants are harvested, dried and distributed to the factories, the tobacco is considered to be raw. Most manufacturers will use 3 to 5 types of tobacco in each cigar, each one grown in a different country – Cuba, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Nicaragua and other countries in the Caribbean. Each piece has its own characteristics, color and strength. The tobacco is mixed and blended together so that the finished product is something harmonious and consistent. Before the cigar production begins, the tobacco must be cured.

The tobacco is kept in its bales for about 90 days to cure. Prior to this, the leaves were kept moist, but they must be allowed to dry out a bit before they are distributed to the cigar manufacturers. There are three different ways to cure the tobacco. Each one will alter the flavor and strength of the end product.

Some manufacturers utilize a technique called “sweating”, whereby an employee must hand pick the bales, and amass them in a warehouse-like space. The curing process can vary in time from three to thirty days. This will extend the life of the tobacco, and result in a stronger, stale flavor.

Fermentation

From the Havana Valley to the Dominican, Nicaraguan, and Honduran tobacco plantations, the fermentation stage is a special time in the cigar making process. The fermented tobacco releases ammonia, which has the effect of rubbing the leaves to loosen up the leaves’ nodes.

Manual and Mechanical Preparation

Cigars begin their rigorous journey in the hands of the tobacco leaf cultivator. After years of experience, these tobacco farmers can tell when the sun needs to shine on their farms a little longer, and when the humidity needs to be a bit higher. Other than yearly climactic changes, tobacco farmers are also constantly experimenting with new crops, strains, and seedlings.

As a cigar’s ingredients are chosen and cultivated, cigar manufacturers are choosing materials that will be used in the cigar’s finishing process. For example, some cigar manufacturers use Moresco leaves from Nicaragua while others use tobacco from the Dominican Republic. Obviously, the manufacturer who uses Nicaraguan tobacco will use a different kind of wrapper than the manufacturer who uses tobacco from the Dominican Republic. They also source their natural cork and tubing materials from their home country.

When the leaves and materials arrive at the cigar manufacturer’s factory, final decisions are made about how the cigars will be finished. Some heavier binders are chosen for a stronger and heavier smoke, while others are lighter for a smoother smoke. Once the choice of wrapper and binder is made, it’s time to roll and to cut.

Rolling by Hand

A cigar begins as a simple string of tobacco. Traditionally, a long string of tobacco was held together in the cigar roller’s mouth. As the string was held in the mouth, the other end was rolled repeatedly onto a table to create a solid roll. This process is called “sensory” because the person rolling the cigar is involved with using his or her sense of touch.

In the late 19th century, the manual cigar roller was replaced by a machine that rolled cigars “on the spot.” The process was greatly improved by a machine that rolled cigars from long rods of tobacco. The machine could roll a cigar in about five seconds.

Today, most machines can be operated by a single person and can produce more cigars in less time than a person would be able to produce by hand. Some machines can even be operated with very little skill and minimal training. However, just as with cigars rolled by hand, the machine can often produce a high-quality cigar.

Machine Rolled

Vs. Hand Rolled

The manufacturing process of cigars is quite rigorous and includes a number of steps from planting the seed to the final product. It is also a relatively long process, the beginning of which takes a year.

A typical cigar goes through seven stages until it is completed; each stage in the manufacturing process can take up to an hour. The first stage, of course, as the rolling and filler, which is the combination of tobacco surrounding the binder. The following stages are the rolling of the wrapper and the guillotine, the rolling of the cigar, the tying and the painting, which is the final step before the cigars go through the drying phase.

Rolling is a labor intensive process and it takes a good amount of time to complete. The type of cigars depends on the number of leaves it uses to make one cigar. Higher the number of leaves, more the amount of time and effort the cigar maker has to put in for it to turn out great.

The rolling of the cigar has undergone a number of changes with the passing of time. It was started as a manual process where the cigar maker used to make a cigar from scratch by having a single leaf with him and then slowly turned it into the machine rolled cigars, where mass production and productivity are the focus, and hand rolled cigars, where the cigar maker hand rolls each cigar with meticulous care and attention.

What are cigars made of?

What cigar sizes are available?

Where do the wrappers for cigars come from?

What does cigar ash taste like?

The manufacture and construction of cigars has been refined and honed to a fine point over the years, making it an industry with a healthy demand for the highest quality of materials. As a result, manufacturers have to follow a strict process of guidelines laid out by cigar makers all over the world.

Are Cigars Better for You than Cigarettes?

Cigars are better for you than cigarettes, right? Well, despite the significant differences in how cigars and cigarettes are manufactured, the short answer is “it really depends.” Studies have shown that the smoke from cigars contains more chemicals and toxins than cigarette smoke, and those chemicals can lead to serious health consequences.

However, cigars and cigarettes are quite different, and if you smoke cigars moderately the negative effects of tobacco smoke may not be as life-threatening as the health problems associated with smoking a pack or more of cigarettes a day.

Cigars vs. Cigarettes

Cigarettes typically measure about 6 inches long and are wrapped in cigarette paper. Cigars come in many different sizes, including one or two inches long and nine inches or more, and are wrapped in either tobacco leaves or some other kind of paper. Some cigars come with filters, while most cigarettes do not.

How Cigars Are Made

To make cigars, tobacco leaves are cured, fermented, and then hand-rolled. Cigarette paper is not needed for cigars, but is sometimes used.

How Can I Cut a Cigar Without Ruining it?

Everyone who has ever smoked a cigar can appreciate how difficult it is to cut a cigar without ruining its purchase. When the wrapper is damaged, the cigar is affected. Sometimes it results in a bad burn or it not lighting/burning at all. Other times, it causes an inconsistent draw, which can result in uneven smoke and an unpleasant smoking experience. That’s not to mention the risk of the cigar unraveling and the tobacco spilling out all over your lap and the table.

The most affordable way to cut a cigar is, of course, with a cigar cutter. A cigar cutter designed for your cigar can guarantee a nice, clean cut without compromising the wrapper. Cutters come in two varieties “ one that looks like scissors and one that is simply a pointed cutting tool with a hole in the middle of it. The thing to look out for here is how big the hole in the cigar cutter is. Many cutters have a hole that’s so big, it brings your cigar to thickness, which is almost as bad as cutting it in half.

Why Do People Smoke Cigars?

Cigars are kind of a big deal in the world of men’s fashion. Filtered cigarettes have fallen out of favor and cigars have become all the rage because they’re an elegant accessory that many people find desirable. Of course, vaping has become a popular alternative, but cigars still get much love from those who smoke.

One of the reasons why people love cigars is because they aren’t really that bad for you. Well, they don’t cause cancer, at least. They do have their detractors. They’re called stogies. They’re sometimes mistakenly called toros. People will argue that they’re sometimes dry and bland, making them nothing but an expensive indulgence. You’ll find your fair share of naysayers. Most of the criticism, however, stems from false information and misunderstanding.

Even though cigars are popular, many people don’t understand how they’re made. Believe it or not, it’s actually quite fascinating. And when you know how cigars come together, it’s easier to appreciate them for what they are – an elegant afternoon blend that many people enjoy.

Final Thoughts

Whether you smoke cigars to relax or to socialize, cigars impart a certain persona and style on a person. That’s why cigar smokers feel more comfortable in the company of other cigar smokers. Cigars bridge gaps between cultures and people. They speak the universal language of fire, tobacco, and relaxation.

As you begin to make cigars a part of your lifestyle, you’ll soon discover that the harvesting, curing, storing, rolling, and aging of tobacco is nothing short of an art. There are many steps involved and many different factors can affect the final product. Whether it’s the quality of the tobacco’s wrapper, how tightly it’s rolled, the fermentation process, or even the cigar’s box, it’s easy to see how a cigar’s flavor can vary from one brand to the next.

We live in exciting times, surrounded by cigar accessory innovations, new brands, and new blends. One of the most intriguing developments in cigars, however, is the way in which the historic and cultural artisanal process has been adapted to deliver cigars straight to our doors.