I’m a very lucky guy. I’ve worked in the cigar industry for over 7 years and I have been so fortunate enough to visit the DR, Honduras and Nicaragua a couple of times each. Before my first time, my boss told me quite emphatically that my life would change forever. I kind of laughed it off until I arrived at the General Cigar facility in Santiago in the Dominican. Yep, just one trip to a cigar factory and the change was monumental.
Now there are some tremendous cigar tours out there – Drew Estate’s Cigar Safari, Nick Perdomo’s facility, and even Rocky Patel’s – and if you love cigars, this will change the way you feel about your infatuation. Let’s just say you’ll become a heck of a lot more infatuated. Why? Well, let me explain. And for those of you who have done it already, make sure you comment below the article because I KNOW that you feel the same exact way!
What you’ll do is take part in just about every aspect of the business which is actually mind blowing. What will impress you is how many pairs of hands actually end up touching the cigar you are smoking. You’ll visit the fields where the tobacco is growing and then you’ll walk through the curing barns where the tobacco leaves dry as they hang from the rafters. Inside the factory you’ll see how the leaves are washed and then separated by color into piles, and then you’ll watch the veins being stripped out.
When you go through the fermenting rooms the smell of ammonia will knock you on your culo and it’ll by far be the briefest amount of time you’ll spend anywhere. Trust me on this one as your eyes water and your throat and nasal passages start to burn. The tobacco is then put in bails in the factory as the leaf ferments longer as a thermometer in the middle of the pile tells when the bail needs to be rotated – top to the bottom, middle to top, etc until all the leaf is equally fermented at the same temperature. Different tobaccos take longer or shorter amounts of time depending on the color or strength that is desired.
Depending on the factory and the brand, you should also see barrel aging, in which every brand sits for different periods of time. So, after the allotted time, the bails will be wrapped in canvas and shelved generally anywhere from 2 – 5 years. That room is just huge, and you won’t believe how many bails have been sitting there for a number of years, with dates written on them. And when they reach their prime, the fun begins.
In the rolling rooms at General a person called a buncher sits next to the torcedor (the roller). The buncher picks the different leaves from the blend of that particular cigar and hands them to the roller to begin. The roller places the finished smokes on a ledge at their table for an inspector to check each cigar as well as separate into 4-5 colors. Each color will be placed into the same box so it all looks alike. Hey, It’s a live product, right? And hey, let’s not forget that the cigars get put into draw testing machines. If the cigar doesn’t pass, it’s taken apart and re-rolled.
Next, the rolled cigars are sent into a deep freeze to make sure that any eggs, bugs, or mold is destroyed. After they’re brought back to life, bands are placed, they’re put into cello, and then into their boxes. Let me note that I visited the box making factory which is truly incredible as humungous sheets of wood are milled down to size and put together like it’s Santa’s workshop. The boxes are then painted and labeled and sealed and it is just an amazing part of the process.
Lastly, when you do a tour like Drew or Perdomo, you will be treated like a 5-star guest as you eat and smoke like a king each night. Like I said, this will not only change the way you feel about the cigar industry, you’ll wonder how your precious smokes don’t cost 5 times as much! Hey, I’d love to hear your comments in the section below!
THIS MONTH’S SWEEPSTAKES GIVEAWAY!
This month, cigar maker Alec Bradley is giving away 3 amazing prizes worth $205 in value!
3 GRAND PRIZE WINNERS will be chosen to WIN the following…
Alec Bradley Burner Lighter – $49.99 in value
Alec Bradley Firkin Humidor – $74.95 in value
Alec Bradley MEGA Burner Lighter $79.99 in value
It’s running ‘til the end of the month and all you’ve got to do is put your email address in the form and you are officially in the running!