Cigar Reviews info on 19 Oct 2010
Hello again everybody. After a short period of silence, mostly due to technical issues, here is part 3 of our small series about Cuban cigars. This time we will go a little bit more into detail when it comes to curing and fermentation.
Air curing is usually a process where the newly harvested leaves intended for filler and binder are simply sewn into pairs and hung over poles in the curing barn for a certain period of time. During this period moisture slowly escapes the leaves, turning them gradually from green to brown. The longer the leaves spend in the barn, the higher their pole is lifted, always placing the fresher leaves closer to the bottom. When it comes to wrapper leaves however, the last few decades have seen quite a bit of technological influence. The wrappers as such are crucial for the look of the cigar and also have the highest price of all leaves (as mentioned before); thus they are cured in special barns that simulate optimum conditions 24/7. After the curing period is finished, the leaves then travel on to their next stage towards becoming a hand rolled cigar: the fermentation.
With the help of the natural moisture within the leaves, the tobacco is fermented stage by stage, firstly rolled into bunches (gavillas). These bunches have a similar effect on the leaves like the sauna has on the human body. Within them the tobacco “sweats”, slowly releasing its impurities, making it suitable for smoking. The fermentation period affects the color of the leaves and rids them of excessive acidity and nicotine. The higher a leaf was growing on the plant, the more oils it has developed and the longer it takes to ferment. After the first fermentation the leaves are classified, following strict guidelines. Filler leaves are divided into the usual three categories, Volado, Seco and Ligero. The Ligeros that fail quality control will be used for cigarettes or cigarillos. The biggest Volado leaves are then used as binders, while wrapper leaves are naturally most closely inspected. All leaves that do not pass the minimal requirements will not be accepted as wrappers. Since wrappers usually only need to undergo one fermentation stage, they are now tied into bales (tercias) and sent off to be aged. As for the fillers and binders, their path is another one…