5 Interesting Facts on How Cigars are Made

First, what exactly is a cigar? Well, since the 1900’s, most cigars contain three basic components, the filler, which is comprised of dried and fermented tobacco leaves, the binder leaf, which holds the filler together, and finally, the wrapper leaf, tying it all together with a solid outer layer.

Next, where is cigar tobacco grown? The most popular regions for growing cigar tobacco include Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Indonesia, Italy, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and the eastern United States. 

Those are the basics about cigars, but here are a few interesting facts about the making of cigars you may not know. 

1. Although the actual origin of cigar smoking remains unknown, a 10th century ceramic pot from Guatemala was discovered displaying images of string-bound Mayan smoking tobacco leaves, resembling cigars, so perhaps it all began there. Additionally, the term ‘cigar’ derives from the Mayan word, sikar, which means, ‘to smoke rolled tobacco leaves.’ 

2. Did you know that the aforementioned wrapper, the outermost layer of a cigar, is actually the most expensive part? The wrapper leaf, which needs to look and feel smooth and pristine, is the most costly partly because it is the component that contains the unique flavor, color, character, and basically ‘essence’ of the cigar, and also because wrapper leaves require a bit more maintenance than the rest of the tobacco. They are fermented separately and are often grown under massive gauze canopies as to diffuse direct sunlight for optimal quality. 

3. It takes a several-month-long process to prepare the tobacco leaves used for cigar filler. After already spending months growing to maturity in the fields, the leaves are then sorted and chosen by color for the different parts of the cigar. Then, they are gathered, bundled in clusters, and hung in rows from the ceilings of tobacco-drying shacks for at least four months. Once fully dry, they are then marinated in a ‘secret’ concoction of liquids and flavorings that revive the natural fragrance of the leaves, and then dried once again.

4. A cheveta is a crescent-shaped knife specially designed for the production of cigars. Chevetas are used to carefully cut and form the binder and wrapper leaves that encase the filler tobacco. Once assembled, the cigars are usually placed in wooden storage cases to dry where they can sit in the aging process for decades. Optimal conditions for cigar storage are 70 degrees Fahrenheit (or 20 degrees Celsius) and 70 percent humidity, as well as a specially designed wooden box called a humidor. Tobacco shops often house entire rooms devoted to humidor storage. 

5. The classic movie Titanic portrayed cigars as symbols of male dominance in the early 20th century aristocracy, as well as icons of achievement and success. Men of importance and wealth would gather in the early 1900’s for cigar parties where they would engage in cigar smoking, libations, and lively discussions. Some have even called smoking a cigar a kind of “social sonar.” Countless other films, television, and music media have also utilized cigars as symbols of wealth, power, and status, including ScarfaceThe GodfatherThe Good, the Bad, and the UglyGolden EyeThe SimpsonsThe SopranosMad Men, Jay-Z in his album cover art, and of course, Charlie Chaplin. 

Additionally, the magazine, The Cigar Aficionado, which began in 1992, has helped maintain the cigar’s prevalence, popularity, and success as a representation of class, sophistication, and status in today’s society. 

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