What makes a great, hand rolled cigar.

Many new cigar enthusiasts often don’t understand what goes into a good, hand rolled cigar. Nor do they realize that almost 90% of all store bought cigars in the world are either partially or completely machine made.

Let’s look at what makes a great, hand rolled cigar.

The true process of hand rolling a cigar by a Master Roller is an individual art form, accomplished through years of training.

The Master Roller begins his training as an apprentice. The length of this apprenticeship period will be dependent upon the skill level of the young roller. If this apprentice shows skill and talent and successfully navigates the first two years of training, he will then become a production roller, accomplishing various skill levels over the next six years. Following this second stage of training the roller will begin to move to more difficult tasks and possibly even management positions. The achievement and recognition as a Master Roller can take as long a twenty years.

There are two primary elements in the production of a hand rolled cigar; the tools and the tobacco. The tools used in the original hand rolling process consist of a rolling board or table, the chaveta “knife”, a guillotine, wood presses and vegetable glue. For the Master Rollers at Payne/Mason, the tools used today are the same as they always have been. This is not a place for technology, but tradition..

The construction of the cigar is comprised of three basic components; the filler, the binder and the wrapper. The filler tobacco will represent greater than 50% of the cigar flavor, with the balance coming from the wrapper. The filler is gathered in the hand of the roller in an accordion fashion, with the purpose of creating passages for airflow, producing a nice, even draw. Difficulty drawing air and smoke through the cigar is often evidence of a machine made cigar, and takes away from the enjoyment of the cigar. Often multiple tobacco types are used in the filler, blending the flavors and characteristics of each to create the desired flavor of the cigar. The binder leaf then surrounds the filler. The binder has a practical purpose, but contributes little to the flavor of the cigar. Once the filler is rolled within the binder, it is placed into the traditional wooden mold.

The next process and most critical is the pressing. The cigar is placed into a wooden mold for a short time (less than an hour) under precise pressure, forming the cigar shape. During this initial mold press period, the cigars are turned regularly to ensure proper, even shaping. The second phase of the pressing period takes an additional 24 hours. This time consuming pressing process is often compromised in mass produced, name brand cigars. The precision and quality of this pressing process is the signature of a Master Roller.

Selecting and applying the wrapper is the final stage of construction. This is a very crucial stage and largely dependent upon the knowledge, skill, and experience of the Master Roller. Selecting the wrapper is done with great care, for the visual presentation of the cigar is affected greatly by the flawless, smooth texture of the wrapper tobacco, as well as its brightness and color.

Once the wrapper leaf has been selected and prepared, the Master Roller will cut and remove only the center cut of the leaf, emphasizing the more flavorful part of the leaf and eliminating the exterior heavier veined areas. Tobacco trimmings are never used in the construction of high quality, hand rolled cigar.

The Master Roller will now place the trimmed wrapper leaf on the board at the specific angle to assure a tight and straight roll. Vegetable glue is placed at the beginning of the roll, between the pressed cigar and the wrapper, adhering the wrapper to the cigar. Once the wrapper is rolled to a smooth and tight finish around the pressed cigar, it is ready for the cap. A Master Roller will create the cap from the original wrapper end. The cap of the cigar is cut to a desired shape and size and precisely applied by wrapping from the side and over the top and then held into place by vegetable glue.

No Payne/Mason cigar is ever machine made. All are created by the craftsman’s hand, using our carefully selected aged tobacco, to the highest Cuban tradition and standards.

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