Blend a Cigar in Five (Not So) Simple Steps
Blending and rolling is both art and science – we all know that – but the detail and care required likely exceeds your imagination. I've sat at a rolling table (briefly, on two occasions) and have a new appreciation for what goes into this task. When I sat in a conference room at the La Aurora factory in Santiago, Dominican Republic, though, I got a feel for the role of choice in constructing a cigar. And, to be honest, I was terrified. Making a great cigar doesn't start with the rollers: it begins with the arbiters of taste.
How do they do it? Here are five steps that may look easy on your screen, but they are terribly difficult in practice (especially with my palate).
1. Cleanse your palate
Other cigars, coffee and even a bottle of the local Presidente beer can influence the decision you make early in the cigar blending process. For me, this wasn't a huge deal. After all, I was only rolling 10 cigars. They guys creating entire lines, however, have a completely different situation. Imagine what a single cup of coffee can do! Tens of thousands of cigars could wind up tasting funky. Drink some club soda to make sure your mouth is free and clear of previous tastes.
2. Spend some time with the grays
There's nothing fun about smoking "pure grades." They look like cigars, and they feel like cigars. The hidden secret only becomes known when you light up and puff. A pure grade is comprised entirely of one type of tobacco. You smoke it to get a clear and distinct sense of what that particular cigar has to offer. All the style and complexity you enjoy in your daily stick ... well, you won't find it in the pure grays. Use these "cigars" to take notes on specific strengths and flavors.
3. Make your choices
Based on what you've tasted with the pure graes, you'll pick the tobaccos to include in your cigar (and the proportions. If you're developing a major line, you may have to go through this a few times, as the combinations might not meet your expectations. Remember: it can take three years or longer for a cigar to go from seed to ash. If you aren't patient, you're in the wrong line of business.
Gallery: A Blogger Rolls Cigars at La Aurora
4. Bunch and roll
The "limited line" I blended at La Aurora consists of the following: 50 percent Dominican corolla, 30 percent Nicaraguan ligero and 20 percent of some Brazilian leaf I can't remember (to be honest, I was quickly in over my head). Once you pick your leaves from the table, it's time to sit at a rolling station and get to work.
5. Wait a month, then two, then three
Jose Blanco, who ran 150 tasting seminars last year for La Aurora and plays a major role in the company's operation, suggested that those of us going through the rolling class smoke a cigar a month from now, another a month after that and then a third at the 90-day mark to note the changes. Having tasted cigars with him at these milestones (from a line that La Aurora was working on), I'm inclined to wait the 90 days – or more. Going too soon can send your hard work up in smoke!
Disclosure: I was a guest of La Aurora and Miami Cigar in the Dominican Republic for CigarReader.com, my cigar blog. They picked up the tab. They only influence my coverage by making this story available to me. If I had paid for this trip myself, the story wouldn't have been any different.