History of the cigar

The first modern observation of the cigar occurred with the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the New World. On October 28, 1492 Columbus noted in his log reports that the natives of San Salvador burned and inhaled the leaves of a local plant. Rodrigo de Xeres, a lieutenant on Columbus’s expedition became the first European to smoke the Indian’s form of a cigar. Rodrigo smoked on every subsequent day of the expedition.

The Indians in South and Central America did not smoke cigars as we know them today. The natives smoked tobacco wrapped in maize, palm or other native vegetation. The Spanish created the cigar industry, and are given credit for creating the modern cigar.

The Origin of the word cigar comes from the native language of the ancient Mayans. The Mayans called the cigar a “Ciq-Sigan” which the Spanish word “Cigarro” is derived from. The New English Dictionary of 1735 called the cigar a “seegar”, and was later adapted into the modern word “cigar”.

Cigar ring gauge guide

A cigar’s ring gauge is the diameter of the cigar and is measured in 64ths of an inch. The chart below will help you visualize common cigar ring gauges used in manufacturing.

Manufacturing process of the cigar

The tobacco that is rolled into cigars is primarily grown in the tropical regions of the world. Africa, Brazil, the Canary Islands, Connecticut, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Sumatra are world renown in growing the quality tobacco that is used in the various components of a cigar.

Tobacco is planted in late September and generally takes two months to reach maturity. Harvesting begins before the plants flower and can take several months as the leaves are harvested in different phases.

Once the tobacco is harvested the leaves are sent to “tobacco barns” where the tobacco is dried. Leaves are tied in pairs and hung for the curing process. The tobacco barn faces from west so that the sun hits one side in the morning and one side at night. The doors at either side can be opened or closed to keep the temperature constant. The tobacco is kept in the barn for approximately 2 months while the leaves change color from green to yellow to brown.

After the leaves are dried, they are carefully laid into large piles for fermentation, where they are kept for several months. The piles are moistened and covered in cloth and are watched closely as the temperature can rise and harm the tobacco. The fermentation reduces natural resins, ammonia and nicotine present in the tobacco leaves.

The fermented tobacco is taken to warehouses, stored in large bales and allowed to slowly mature. The aging process can last from several months to many years depending on the quality desired.

Once the aged tobacco reaches the factory, the leaves are graded according to size, color, and quality. Leaves that are torn or have holes are set aside and used primarily as filler. Finally the leaves are de-veined by removing the center vein from the leaf.

There are three basic components that make up a cigar.

  1. The filler.
  2. The binder.
  3. The wrapper.

Handmade cigars are composed of filler tobacco bunched together with a binder leave and finally covered with the wrapper leaf. Cigars with long leaves bunched together as filler are called “long filler” cigars. Cigars with short, fragmented leaves bunched together as filler are called “short filler” cigars. The binder holds the bunch together and is enclosed with the wrapper leaf in an aesthetically pleasing manner.

Machine made cigars are generally produced using short filler. A processed tobacco binder which resembles brown paper is used as the binder, and in most cases a natural wrapper is used to complete the cigar.