I didn’t know that! 7 crazy cigar facts that will probably blow your mind
I’m a collector. I collect all sorts of things. I collect cigars, board games, cocktails, music, films, instruments, and above all: I collect knowledge. From an early age I found information fascinating and loved discovering facts about things that interested me. Cigars are no different, so here are seven of my favourite cigar facts… so far.
Cigar Fact #1 – Step on it!
Straight out of the gate, I’m going to ask you a question: what is a cigar to you? Is it just an elegant bunch of tobacco leaves that you set fire to and enjoy for half an hour or so, or is it something more? For me, the time I spend with a cigar is a meditation where I am able to admire the time and effort that has gone into creating this hand-crafted product.
You might already be aware that it takes about 300 pairs of hands to craft the average cigar from seed to finished stick, but just what do all those pairs of hands do?
Nick Perdomo, the man behind the beautiful Perdomo cigars, took it upon himself to track exactly what went into taking the humble tobacco seed and turning it into the finished cigar that we all know and love.
From planting and nurturing the seeds to maturity, through harvesting, curing, fermenting and selecting the leaves for each part of every cigar blend, to bunching, draw testing, wrapping, inspecting, ageing, labelling and boxing each cigar, he counted a phenomenal 3,054 steps! If you want to know a bit more about these steps, check out this link.
Cigar Fact #2 – Barn storming
Have you ever seen a tobacco curing barn and wondered how just how many cigars all that tobacco would make?
According to a 2014 article in Cigar Journal, the average medium format cigar uses the equivalent of 2 or 3 leaves in a standard bonche that forms the filler, and half a leaf each for the binder and wrapper. Obviously though the actual number of leaves used varies from blend to blend and vitola to vitola, but this makes the equivalent of 3 or 4 tobacco leaves per cigar.
To make the maths a little easier lets assume an average of 3 leaves per cigar. Given that a single curing barn can hold up to 9,720,000 tobacco leaves, after one harvest a single barn will theoretically hold enough tobacco leaves to make approximately 3,240,000 cigars. Given that there are usually four harvests per year and more than one curing barn per farm, that’s a whole lot of cigars waiting to be smoked.
Anybody else think that they may need a bigger humidor?
Cigar Fact #3 – All the fun of the fair
We’ve all heard the phrase “close but no cigar”, but do you know where it came from?
I’m sure we’ve all had a go at winning an oversized cuddly toy at the shooting gallery or the duck fishing when the funfair is in town. For hundreds of years, cigars were associated with the working class. You could buy them for pennies and as a result they were very popular top prizes at carnival booths and shooting galleries. As a result it when someone just missed out on winning it was common to hear the carnival booth owner shout “Close, but no cigar!”
Cigar Fact #4 – Paging Indiana Jones
What’s the oldest cigar that you’ve ever smoked? For me it was a Jamavana Corona from Jamaica from around the 1950s-60s. I have another Jamaican cigar from the 1970s waiting for me, but I doubt I’ll ever light up anything older – unless of course I come into some serious cash.
It isn’t that rare to find cigars up to 100 years old or with a special pedigree (pre-embargo Cuban cigars and the like) coming up for auction. Non-surprisingly, they command prices that most of us wince at. Whether or not they are smokable all depends on how they have been kept by previous owners. Sometimes this doesn’t matter because the auction winner just wants to own that piece of history. But what about older cigars?
In April 2012 archaeologists from Tampa University uncovered sealed clay pots whilst working in Southeast Guatemala. Believed to be pre-Columbian, these jars contained 800 cigars. A closer examination of the cigars revealed that the conditions they had been stored in meant that they were still smokable and they ended up being sold at auction for a staggering $507,000.
Inflation adjusted, that is about £550,000 at the time of writing! And you thought that Cuban cigars were expensive.
Cigar Fact #5 – You gotta roll with it…
The official name for a person who makes cigars is a “Torcedor”. An experienced torcedor can roll between 7 and 9 cigars in an hour. Working on their own, this means that a single roller can make between 100 to 150 cigars a day. In many factories cigars are rolled by teams of two – one buncher and one roller. In this set up between 250 and 300 cigars can be made in a day, sometimes more if it is a smaller vitola.
Bunching isn’t just a case of grabbing leaves randomly, scrunching them into a tube shape and then enclosing them in a binder and wrapper. The combination of ligero, seco and volado leaves are key to the cigars taste and burn. Get this right and you have the perfect cigar. Get it wrong and you end up with all manner of problems ranging from taste, through to burn and draw issues.
Whilst most New World cigars are draw tested prior to the wrapper being applied, some tabacaleras trust their most experienced rollers so much that they don’t bother using a Drawmaster machine. Would you want that much trust being placed at your feet?
Cigar Fact #6 – Es ist erstaunlich
When it comes to countries that grow cigar tobacco you might immediately think of Cuba, Honduras, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and the like. You might also namecheck Cameroon, Java and even Italy. But did you know that Germany also produced cigar tobacco?
Tobacco was first grown in Germany back in 1573 as a medical product. In 2007 there were 450 tobacco growers in Germany farming approximately 1,200 hectares (that’s a little under 3,000 acres) of cigar tobacco. Alas, due to a drop in subsidies and various smoking bans, this agricultural crop that was once of vital importance to the economy of the Palatinate region of Germany has all but disappeared.
So next time you sit down to enjoy that cigar that you have been looking forward to, give yourself a pat on the back for supporting the economy of whatever country your cigar is from.
Cigar Fact #7 – Pass me my smoking mask!
I’m sure that you have heard of Winston Churchill and know what an avid cigar smoker he was. Apparently he would smoke up to 10 cigars a day, not to mention the quantities of champagne, Scotch and other spirits he would pair them with. There is even something known as the “Churchill Diet”, which I don’t recommend you try.
Did you know that during the Second World War he ordered the creation of an oxygen mask that would enable him to continue puffing away during air raids and when travelling by plane? Quite how this work is something I’ve been puzzling about but I think it would have been a good idea to figure out over the course of the pandemic!
How many of these tidbits did you know? Which was your favourite of these cigar facts, and what is your favourite piece of cigar related trivia? Let me know in the comments below.
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