Cigars are either made by hand, where the tobacco leaves are picked, sorted and bundled manually, before the cigar itself is formed by a skilled cigar roller, or they are machine produced.
Machine made cigars
A machine made cigar is basically a bundle of tobacco rolled into a tubular shape. The process for making this type of cigar is highly automated.
The filler is made from machine chopped or shredded pieces of tobacco. In high quality cigars, these pieces are relatively uniform in size, texture and grade, while in some lower grade machine made cigars this chopped tobacco may vary in quality. Only in very low grade cigars might you find pieces of tobacco stems or stalks in the filler.
The binder holds the filler together and in high quality cigars a tobacco leaf is used for this purpose. Lower quality and cheaper machine made cigars use a homogenized tobacco leaf as a binder. This leaf is usually made from tobacco scraps that are ground up, mixed with combustible agents and water, then stretched and rolled in a large sheet like paper.
The wrapper is the tobacco leaf that forms the outer skin and gives the cigar its appearance. Machine made cigars are made with dry wrappers, which means that they will not develop into oily, smooth ‘grand cigars’ like some hand made cigars.
Hand made cigars
Making cigars by hand is a painstaking process, requiring great skill and a high degree of attention to quality control. The filler is prepared by folding each individual tobacco leaf onto itself so that it burns evenly. It is then surrounded by a coarse binder leaf which holds it together. Once the filler is properly shaped, the bunch is placed into a plastic or cedar mould, where it will remain for 30 to 45 minutes.
After a close inspection of the leaf, the best part is picked and carefully cut into the optimum shape for wrapping the cigar. With the cigar wrapped, a small amount of vegetable glue (pectin) is applied, to keep the wrapper secure. Next a circle shape is cut out of the wrapper leaf to make a cap and this is applied to the head of the cigar. Finally, using a little more vegetable glue, the cigar band is added to complete the hand made cigar.