Roll Up, Roll Up
With the leaves now aged and the bales ready for use the Master Blender, or ‘Ligador’, makes the crucial selection of which leaves, in which quantities, are to be used to make up the future production quota for the factory. This vital process ensures the consistency and individuality of each vitola and brand produced under the Habanos name is maintained.
The subtle variations of flavour and character of the tobaccos within a single plantation, let alone a particular region, is truly mind boggling. Age, area of production, variety of plant and countless other factors must all be taken into account when drawing up the master blend. These top secret ‘recipes’ are then passed down to the blending department, known locally as ‘La Barajito’ – literally translated as ‘the pack of cards’, and when you witness the blenders dealing out the different leaves for production, like expert croupiers, you quickly begin to understand why. Individual cigar rollers (either Torcedores or Torcedoras depending on their gender) are then allocated specific quantities of each leaf for production of a particular cigar on a daily basis.
Finally then, more than three years after the first tobacco seed was planted, the leaves are placed in the skilled and experienced hands of the cigar roller to work their unique alchemy – to turn a pile of nondescript looking brown leaves into the finest cigars in the world.
The cigar rollers go about their work in the world famous Galleras. These vibrant and effervescent places can, to the untrained eye, seem a little chaotic at times. But, rest assured, everyone knows exactly what their job is and, as people at the very pinnacle of their profession, they carry no passengers. The very top rollers can produce well over one hundred cigars in a single day – all to the exactingly high standards as laid out by Habanos and do not do so by wasting time.
Anyone who has watched a cigar roller at close quarters cannot help but be impressed by the skill and dexterity on display. Using the three sun grown leaves to form the ‘bunch’ they take great care to fold the leaves in such a way as to allow a smooth passage of air to pass through them when smoked and blend the different leaves to ensure the flavour is balanced throughout and the cigar burns evenly from start to finish.
The leaves that form the ‘bunch’ are the ‘Volado’, taken from the bottom of the plant and favoured for its combustibility, the Seco, included for its flavour and aromatic qualities, and finally, the Ligero, taken from the top of the plant these leaves are included to provide strength and depth of flavour. The leaves are then rolled in the binder leaf (usually a Volado) with the lighter-flavoured tips of the leaves at the foot of the cigar and the more robust ‘root’ of the leaf at the head. This is done to ensure the cigar’s flavour builds and develops, rather than diminishes, during the smoke.
The rough looking cigar is cut to the correct size with the guillotine and then placed in a mould for around 30 minutes to set their shape. Once they are ‘set’ in the shape the thin, shade-grown, wrapper leaf is expertly applied and a cap is placed over the head of the cigar. It is guillotined one final time to the exact size required and then placed to one side – finished!
Even though the cigar now looks like the finished article it still has a long way to go before it is worthy of bearing the Habanos stamp of quality…