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The Road to Perfection

Now the cigars are completed and have passed inspection by the quality controllers, they are taken to the Escaparate. After all the rigours of the rolling process, the first step in this new phase is to allow the leaves to settle.

Very strict temperature and humidity parameters (65-70% RH & 16-16 °C) are observed in the Escaparate to ensure the cigars do not dry out too quickly, or too slowly. This room is often referred to locally as the Treasury in recognition of the huge value of the stock holding. To stand among the row upon row of unbanded cigars bound in media ruedas (literally ‘half wheel’) of cigars is awe inspiring. The smell of several thousand very young cigars all sitting, unboxed, upon slatted wooden shelves is something that, once experienced, is never forgotten.

Once the cigars have sufficiently reduced in moisture they are taken back to the factory floor and passed on to the Escogedores (colour graders) to be sorted into piles of 25 or 50 cigars with precisely the same colour and shade of wrapper. This role requires an incredible eye for detail as there are over sixty distinct shades within the Habanos classification system. To watch these people work with vast piles of cigars in front of them, at a speed that can make the uninitiated dizzy will leave you in no doubt as to why they are among the most highly paid employees of the factory. Once again, any cigars that are deemed not up to the Habanos standard are rejected.

Not only does the Escogedore sort the cigars into colour and shade matched boxes, but a second Escadore then ensures the colour order runs from the darkest on the left to the lightest on the right of each box and pick the most attractive face of the cigar to wear the band and ‘show out’ when the box is opened.

The selected cigars are then handed over to an Anilladora (or ‘Bander’) who meticulously applies each band, by hand, following the Escogedor’s arrangement in every detail. They ensure the same running order of cigars, left to right, and the same face is on display. They then put them into the final dressed box that appears in shops the world over.

Once the cigars are placed in their final box, the box is stamped with the factory code and the date of production and stored ready for distribution or export. At last, several years after the first seed was sown the cigars are finally worthy of bearing the world famous Habanos logo.

This piece brings to an end my series of blogs on the production and manufacture of Habanos cigars. I hope you have enjoyed reading them as much as I have enjoyed writing them and that I have managed to convey something of my passion for Habanos, Cuba and the Cuban people during the series. My admiration for the skill, dedication and attention to detail that goes into producing every single Habanos grows with every trip I am fortunate enough to make to Cuba, a unique and wonderful country with a very special place in my heart.

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