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Fine Cigars and Accessories
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CIGARS:101 Fillers The majority of a cigar is made up of fillers, wrapped-up bunches of leaves inside the wrapper. Fillers of various strengths are usually blended to produce desired cigar flavors. In the cigar industry this is referred to as a “blend”. Many cigar manufacturers pride themselves in constructing the perfect blend(s) that will give the smoker the most enjoyment. The more oils present in the tobacco leaf, the stronger (less dry) the filler. Types range from the minimally flavored Volado taken from the bottom of the plant, through the light-flavored Seco (dry) taken from the middle of the plant, to the strong Ligero from the upper leaves exposed to the most sunlight. Fatter cigars of larger gauge hold more filler, with greater potential to provide a full body and complex flavor. However, this effect can be diminished because of the generally poorer burn characteristics of thicker cigars (greater than 50 ring gauge), and the fact that these cigars burn cooler. This can prevent the full spectrum of flavors from being easily detectable. When used, Ligero is always folded into the middle of the filler because it burns slowly. Fillers can be either long or short; long filler uses whole leaves and is of a better quality, while short filler, also called “mixed”, uses chopped leaves, stems, and other bits. Recently some manufacturers have created what they term “medium filler” cigars. They use larger pieces of leaf than short filler without stems, and are of better quality than short filler cigars. Short filler cigars are easy to identify when smoked since they often burn hotter and tend to release bits of leaf into the smoker’s mouth. Long filled cigars of high quality should burn evenly and consistently. Also available is a filler called “sandwich” (sometimes “Cuban sandwich”) which is a cigar made by rolling short leaf inside long outer leaf. If a cigar is completely constructed (filler, binder and wrapper) of tobacco from only one country, it is referred to in the cigar industry as a “puro” which in Spanish means “pure.” Binders Binders are elastic leaves used to hold together the bunches of fillers. Essentially, binders are wrappers that are rejected because of holes, blemishes, discoloration, or excess veins. Wrappers A cigar’s outermost leaves, or wrapper, come from the widest part of the plant. The wrapper determines much of the cigar’s character and flavor, and as such its color is often used to describe the cigar as a whole. Over 100 wrapper shades are identified by manufacturers, but the seven most common classifications are as follows, from lightest to darkest: Cigar Wrapper Color Chart In general, dark wrappers add a touch of sweetness, while light ones add a hint of dryness to the taste
History Of Cigars Long before Columbus landed in America, the Mayan Indians of Central America smoked tobacco for pleasure and as part of their religious rituals. Their word for smoking, sikar, would one day become the Spanish noun cigarro, from which we get cigar.. On October 28, 1492, Columbus arrived off the coast of Cuba, and once ashore, found the natives smoking tobacco in what was most likely rolled plant leaves. Over the next several years, Columbus and other explorers would gradually colonize the New World, and they discovered tribes from Mexico to North America also puffing away as part of daily life. These explorers would bring tobacco back to the Old World, and smoking it soon became a pastime among the French, Spanish, Portuguese and eventually the British. It was the Spanish who, in keeping with the Taino Indians, first smoked what we know as cigars. Back in the New World, farmers found that demand for tobacco meant they could earn massive amounts of money by growing it, and plantations flourished from Virginia to the Caribbean. In 1762, the British tried to wrest Cuba from the Spanish, and they failed. However, one of the invading soldiers, Israel Putnam, brought Cuban tobacco seed to New England, jump-starting the illustrious history of Connecticut-grown leaf. Following the American Revolution, dozens of cigar factories popped up in the newly formed United States, and by the 19th century cigars had become immensely popular. Icons such as Ulysses S. Grant identified themselves by their ever-present cigar and Mark Twain praised fine smokes in print. Some of the best cigars, however, came from Cuba, which after an 1821 decree by King Ferdinand VII began rolling its own cigars. The island’s close relationship with tobacco goes back to before Columbus, so it was only appropriate that, when Cuban revolutionary José Martí became desperate to throw off the Spanish yoke at the end of the 19th century, the order to attack was smuggled inside a cigar. The world’s love of cigars continued strongly into the 20th century. The introduction of machine-made cigars in 1920 caused a precipitous fall in handmade production, which by 1950 had declined from 90 percent to 2 percent. Cigar smoking in the U.S. saw another major change in early 1962 when President John F. Kennedy, one of the century’s most iconic smokers, imposed the embargo on Cuba, which was led by Fidel Castro–another famous puffer. Ever since Castro seized power in the 1959 revolution and embraced the Soviet Union as a sponsor, relations between the two countries soured to the verge of outright war. Before Kennedy signed the order on February 7, however, he ordered his press secretary, Pierre Salinger, on a treasure hunt around Washington D.C. for every H. Upmann petit corona he could find. After Salinger rounded up 1,200 of them Kennedy put the embargo into effect. The embargo has stayed in place to this day, sending U.S. citizens to discover smokes from the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, and other nations. Many of Cuba’s cigar makers, exiled by Castro, found their way to these countries, where they resumed their craft using their old skills. The mid-1990s saw a resurgence in cigars, which in turn led to a collection of high- end cigar magazines hitting the nation’s newsstands, as well as other mainstream media attention.
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