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5 Things you need to know about... how cigars are rolled.

Steph Chaney

I am sure every cigar smoker has been curious at some point as to how their cigar became so beautifully finished and the process behind creating such a masterpiece. I know I was! There are a lot of steps and processes to creating the perfect cigar. So, I am going to present the five steps which explain how the perfect smoke is rolled!

The Factories

In most of the cigar making factories, the premium cigars are rolled by teams of two. These teams are best known as a buncher (bunchero) and a roller (rolero). When the rollers start their new job in the factory, they start at the back, in the last row. As their rolling skills steadily improve, they move up the rows. This process can take many years. The overall goal is to reach the front row (where only the best rollers sit). So, as you can imagine, the front row is highly sought after! The rollers and bunchers can sit together, they do not have to sit apart.

Rollers and Bunchers

That being said, you may think the rollers job is the most important. This is untrue. The bunchers job is just as important in the process of creating such a beautiful smoke. The buncher is responsible for creating the "bunch". This consists of the binder and filler leaves part of the blend. The leaves are usually folded or broken to create the correct size and shape for the cigar they are preparing. This also creates an evenly packed cigar and helps eliminate any soft spots. When you hear the term "Long filler cigar" you may assume that the leaves are the same size. This is also untrue. The buncher has the difficult task of ensuring the air flows freely through the length of the cigar. Once the buncher is satisfied with their work, this is then placed into a mould for 30 minutes. Then depending on the factory, they are either turned 180 degrees for an additional 30 minutes, or they are turned 90 degrees every 15 minutes.

Once the cigars have finished their time in the mould, they are draw tested on a special machine called a Drawmaster. This machine will suck air through every single cigar to check the draw is in the correct range. Some factories do not use this machine and rely solely on the experience of their rollers. If a cigar fails this test, they are rejected. Finished cigars that vary too much in colour or have spots are sold as factory seconds. Finished cigars whose wrappers are either too light or dark are also sold on as factory seconds. The unfinished cigar is then passed onto the rollers to apply the wrappers.

During the earlier process, the leaves that will be used to complete the cigar, better known as the wrapper leaves, have been sorted by their colour. This job is usually reserved for women, as they are able to identify different variations of colour more efficiently than men. The wrapper leaves are also kept wet, to stop them from drying out and to keep them flexible and supple. The bunches are then brought over to the rollers who will have a pile of Wrapper leaves ready to finish of the cigar. The wrapper is placed onto the rolling table and laid out flat. Using a special knife, a Chaveta, they slice away any remaining veins on the edge of the wrapper. The leaf must be cut in a specific way so when it is wrapped it will form the beautiful spiral effect we all have seen and love on our cigars. The roller starts at the foot of the bunch, it gets rolled into the wrapper and at the same time, they must stretch the leaf so they do not wrinkle the leaf in the process. The partially rolled cigar is then pulled back towards themselves with their left hand, whilst the right hand stretches the leaf by pulling in the opposite direction. Roller glue is applied in varying spots. Once this is done, you are left with a cigar which looks smooth and oily. This sounds like a lengthy process, but a master roller can roll virtually any shape cigar in about 30 seconds.

Applying the cap

The last stage in this magical process is to make and apply the cap. This is a small bit of tobacco which covers the head of the cigar. This is always taken from the wrapper leaf to avoid any varying colour from the body of the cigar. The most favourited cap, is the Cuban Triple Cap. If you happen to see this cap on a cigar, you know you are about to smoke a very well-made cigar!

So, the next time you decide to smoke a cigar, pay some great attention to the detail of the stick. Admire the spiral effect that was so delicately put together, take time to notice how the colour of the cap and the body match. When you light it, and draw in the wonderful flavours, take a second to think how it passed the draw test. Take a second to really appreciate and admire the work behind this wonderful handmade item. From the wrapper leaves that hold the wonderful cigar together to the rollers who had to make their way up the rows. Trust me, you will enjoy the smoke tenfold once you have appreciated all the hard work someone has done for your enjoyment.

We have a great video below of when we were visited by a cigar roller.