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2013 Big Smoke Sunday Seminars—Roll Your Own Cigar

G. Clay Whittaker
Posted: November 14, 2013

The Roll Your Own Cigar seminar always stands apart during the Big Smoke Las Vegas weekend. While other panels invite you to listen to masters and sample their products, occasionally asking questions, La Gloria Cubana and Michael Giannini get your hands dirty from the moment you walk in the hall. From that moment on, the audience of some 500 cigar lovers realize right away that making a cigar by hand is difficult indeed, and a few uniquely talented individuals rise to the top.

As each attendee entered the seminar hall this year they were handed a freshly moistened wrapper leaf of Ecuadoran Sumatra by one of the La Glora team members. At their seats they found a sharp razor blade, a small cup of vegetable glue, and a cigar bunch (the collection of filler and binder leaves) already created for them to wrap. They were also handed a La Gloria Cubana Wavell to smoke as they worked.

As Giannini took the stage and introduced his team, the demonstration began, giving each person in the audience a tutorial on how to make their cigars look professional.


Click Image to Enlarge


Michael Giannini supervises the 500 cigar aficionados learning the difficult art of rolling a cigar by hand at the Big Smoke Las Vegas.

Photos by David Becker/Getty Images


Talented cigarmaker Leo "The Pope" Peraza patiently rolled cigars on stage under the eye of the camera to show the audience just how it's done.


Craig Morris lights up a cigar to prepare himself for rolling his own personal La Gloria Cubana.


Michael Giannini, who has more than 30 years of experience in the cigar industry, led the La Gloria Cubana Super Roll seminar.


Keith Strassburger (center, in orange shirt) needed help from his friends to carry out all the goodies he earned by rolling the best cigar in the La Gloria Cubana Super Roll seminar.

Participants were asked to stretch their wrappers taught in preparation for the first steps of the rolling process, and so it began. First, Giannini had them make a small cut along the outer edge of the smoothed wrapper leaf to shape the edge that would define the wrapper's seams later on. "Start at the small point of the wrapper, and just trim around," he said. He wandered the crowd, as did many of the team members, checking on progress and offering advice where they could. "Okay you guys look like you're doing really good here so far," said Giannini. "All you want to do is take an eighth of an inch off of it."

A few minutes later it seemed that it might be time to go to the second cut. "Okay," shouted Giannini, "everybody there?" A resounding, desperate "No!" erupted, slowing Giannini from pushing forward on the process.

The crowd was silent for much of the seminar, moving (or fumbling) very deliberately with the tasks at hand. Their second cut was much more specific, taking out a large section of leaf to form a half moon that would eventually wrap the cigar perfectly—if done well.

After that step was completed, Leo "The Pope" Peraza, working onstage at a rolling table, demonstrated over and over again how to stretch and roll the wrapper leaf around the bunch dozens of times, rolling, unrolling, and rerolling so that everyone could see the pattern.

The final step was to twist the excess wrapper into a pigtail and trim the excess. The pigtail cap is easier to teach than a proper cap. "We don't have four hours," joked Giannini.

After that it was time to judge a wide variety of results, from well-made to terrible, and from precise to "creative."

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Comments   1 comment(s)

MA Hoffman November 14, 2013 10:10pm ET

Aw, c'mon — we want to see both the winning cigar and the prizes the winner took home!

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