Cuban Cigars – on the Comeback (03.07.16)
As the US Government tears down the 54-year-old trade embargo barriers to Cuba and opens up a hundred and ten daily flights into ten different destinations, Cuba’s cigar industry is on standby for an unprecedented upturn in profits.
Nothing beats a good Cuban cigar. Whether hand-rolled by torcedors or machine-made, they are renowned the world over as superior to any other cigar. Blessed with a perfect climate, Cuba supplies every element: fillers, binders and wrappers all come from different parts of the island. To this day they remain one of Cuba’s most successful exports, despite the five decade-old US trade sanctions.
Even if you do not smoke, visiting the local tobacco plantations, cigar factories and shops can be fun, particularly in the stunning region of Vinales, with its rich soils and impressive steep-sided jungle-clad hill tops. Indeed while enjoying this backdrop of impressive mountain scenery one can visit traditional tobacco farms with never-ending fields of green leaf, punctuated by bulging tobacco racks and thatched roofed drying houses.
We love including visits to the spectacular Cuban cigar regions for Nomadic Thoughts’ clients. The process of making a traditional Cuban cigar comes to life before your very eyes as you witness each stage. Quickly growing from seeds into 6-8 inch high plants, they are re-planted in the highly fertile tobacco furrows. Spaced a foot apart they grow up to 3 feet high in as many weeks, which turns the tobacco field into a distinctive lush green sea of leaves.
On the basis that the nicotine levels are stronger the higher up the plant, the pickers harvest the lower leaves first, then middle and finally the top. After which they are hung and dried over the next four months, in the curling barns adjacent to the plantation fields. Facing west to east, the barns allow the morning sunshine, as well as evening light, to maximise their drying facility.
Walking through the drying houses with a knowledgeable local you soon come to understand why the middle plant leaves make the best wrappers, and the darker top leaves make the darker cigars. Once dried they are taken, in their golden brown colour, to their second fermentation stage before finally being transported to the cigar factories in Havana where they will be hung, moistened, classified, weighed and designated a specific cigar brand.
The rollers in the factory rolling rooms, Las Galeras, finally turn the perfect leaves into hand-made, artistically designed cigars. Each hand roller produces up to a hundred Cubans a day, with each cigar loaded into a mould, then pressed and turned every hour to give each one rounded equal sides.
Wrapped tip-finished and end-cut by hand, the cigars are ready and waiting.
Take your time though… as Mark Twain advised “I never smoke to excess, I smoke on moderation, only one cigar at a time.”