Cigars: The Art and Craft of Making Them

By CoolMen

Published on 25/01/2022

You have probably seen it with your celebrities or even politicians like Fidel Castro, Winston Churchill, Che Guevara and wondered what is the big deal? 

The Cigar.

The Cigar is just tobacco. 

But there is a specialized way to grow it so that you achieve the highest potency. 

It starts in greenhouses. Greenhouses are created to get the highest seed genetics on the highest quality of soil compound, under controlled optimum temperature; all grown at the same time, so the same quality is maintained across board.

So, you have sterile ash and you spread the tobacco seeds in the container carrying these two components. When shaken, the ash is spread onto the soil and rice husks are put on top of the seeds to ensure the humidity is intact.

In ten days, you will see sprouts, and in 21 days the sprouts are transplanted to a different tray which has more soil with even more fertilizer. The leaves will grow fast as a result and must be cut off so that all the nutrients go to the root and not the leaves. You cannot get into the greenhouse with shoes on, you cannot smoke in there, you cannot talk in there, the air is sterilized so that these leaves do not get any infection, and thus get traumatized. 

In 45 days, roots are plucked from the soil, and are taken outside and planted on the farms.

Just like in any commercial farming situation, research is conducted on the soil prior to the planting, to ensure the chemical composition, PH, the weather, and sound pollution for the tobacco are sorted.

In two weeks, the tobacco will grow as tall as a 5’6 human being. The tobacco has 16 leaves divided into four.


The first four components are the first leaves and are called the Bolero, followed by the Seco, then the Visus and finally the Ligero. The leaves at the lower side of a stem are the Ligero, going all the way up to the Bolaro.

These leaves are classified like that as you cannot and I mean CANNOT mix a bolero leaf with a seco, or a seco with a visus to make one stick of a cigar.

If even a single leaf from a different component gets into the others, it will alter the taste exponentially and habitual cigar smokers will pick it up immediately.

So, the four leaves from the bolero must be in the same cigar, secos in the same cigar, visus in the same cigar and this applies to ligero. How do you distinguish them? The bolero up there is the strongest and the strength diminishes all the way to the Ligero, which is the lightest.

The Bolero is a cigar that you take one puff, and your head starts spinning immediately.


How do you know that a leaf is ready to be harvested? The greenness starts to fade into a yellow. They also start drooping toward the soil, like a woman who likes you, it will not resist to be taken, when you pick it, it will crack, if not it will be a struggle and will tear.

After harvesting the leaves, they are taken into curing, at this point they look like banana leaves, the leaves are sewn BY HAND into each other and hung in closed silos where the temperatures and moisture levels are controlled, the leaves are allowed to lose their moisture gradually in order to dry up. If this process is interfered with, the taste of the cigar will change exponentially because the leaves will have been traumatized.

The humidity has to be at about 80 to 85 and temperatures of 80 F and this cannot change whatsoever.


When the tobacco is fully cured, which means all the moisture in it is gone and its now totally brown, it is moved to the next stage which is the fermentation warehouse.

At the fermentation house, they are stacked upon each other, and covered with canvas to create moisture and heat. This is going to naturally ferment them; they will be flipped regularly by hand, so the bottom leaves don’t get more heat than the top ones.

The fermentation will take TWO years, the leaves are sweating out elements like carbs, nicotine, acidity, proteins, and alcohol and reducing the harsh elements so that if you smoke it, it is only about its authentic aroma and taste.

When the fermenting process is over, the tobacco leaf is now taken for aging.


At this point, each leaf will be sorted not by eyes but by texture, women touch them and categorize them according to which one is soft and which one is rough. They are then arranged and categorized based on these qualities. Remember you have not mixed the leaves, the secos are still together, the ligeros, together but now we go deeper and, in their categories, still sort them out.

Next, the vein is removed from the leaf and mark you, again, by hand, leaf by leaf.

They are then sorted according to size and quality leaf by leaf and BY HAND.


They now go to the wrapper.

From the day the tobacco is harvested, only women are allowed to handle the leaves, the explanation is women are gentle and will not traumatize the leaves, they are also patient and meticulous to have the precision needed to produce quality. The cigar leaves are also like food and since it is done by hand start to finish, women tend to be more hygiene oriented.

After they are sorted, they are packed in wooden boxes waiting for orders still as leaves.


Once an order comes in, it could be ‘We need 1,000 stacks of Secos, dark’. 

The blender goes to the warehouse and picks out of the stored boxes that will match the order.

The selected leaves are taken to a process called rolling –Rolling of the cigar is again done BY HAND, the dry leaves will be mixed whole and rolled by hand.

The biggest leaf is the outer cover and is also called a wrapper, it will be used to wrap the other leaves and vegetable glue applied on it to hold the contents together, this is glue with no taste, no smell.

The outer covering you see on a cigar IS A LEAF, not paper-like cigarettes. So, a cigar as you see it is not made of anything but pure tobacco leaves.

The rollers make about 52 cigars an hour, basically a cigar a minute. The cigar will go through various quality controls of 7 men to ensure the diameters are the same, the length is the same, the filling so it’s not full and not too empty as this will affect how it burns.

It takes 10 years of experience for you to roll a cigar in organizations like Davidoff, they are then put in a box then left to rest for two months, thereafter ladies have to pick 25 cigars per box that look the exact same color which means rolled from the same leaf, you will find that some leaves will dry up and be dark and others light brown. It is a common assumption that dark cigar is inferior to the lighter cigar. But that’s a lie.  That’s just one leaf that was used to wrap it otherwise the quality is the same.

The cigars will then go to be given a band with the brand name depending on farm, then will be shipped to you.

Fun Fact

A tobacco plant that was planted today will become a cigar earliest in 2027. It takes 5 to 13 years for all these processes.

The difference between a Cigar and Cigarette

  1. You puff a cigar and swirl it in your mouth and let it go, you don’t swallow – A cigarette you inhale.

2. A cigar is 100% tobacco leaves including the wrapper – A cigarette is wrapped using paper, so you inhale paper

3. A cigar is pure tobacco- in the cigarette are tobacco chips, mixed with filters, additives, and chemicals.

4. A cigar is taken as a luxury item, only on occasion – A cigarette is a daily tool, a smoker can take a packet a day.

5. A cigar is handmade – A cigarette is machine made.

6. A cigar has no withdrawal symptoms because the nicotine is mild – A cigarette is addictive, and users always suffer withdrawal symptoms.

7. A cigar is bespoke, it is like scotch whisky. It is about aroma flavors and layers. A cigarette is like Vodka, has no flavor, flat punch, and gets you high real fast.

8. The average cost of a good cigar should be Kshs.5,000 a stick, so if you are buying a packet of say 12, it will set you back about Kshs.60,000. There are packets of 9,12, and 25. The average cost of a good cigarette packet should be Kshs.200.


You are now a cigar expert.

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