How To Blend A Cigar
"The true art form that these gentlemen exhibit, day after day, is making a good blend, something that's a critical success, a commercial success, and doing that consistently. It's not like baking a cake. You can't simply follow a recipe. Cigar tobacco changes," said Savona, who continued to explain how blending, fermentation and seed growing also play a critical role.
After the introduction and overview, Seijas shared his personal philosophy on blending, stressing the importance of access to great tobacco from various countries, as well as proper aging. Both ensure the absence of "disagreeable elements" such as dryness and bitterness. "Once the blend is decided, then it becomes a job of immense discipline," said Seijas, who supervises the production of about 40 handmade brands at the largest premium-cigar factory in the world. Throughout his dissertation, he reiterated the importance of consistency.
Perez-Carrillo chimed in, mentioning the role of soil, which he believes determines much of the tobacco's taste, strength and aroma. The quality of tobacco from Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic, he added, is the best it has ever been.
"The first thing I do before I make a blend is try each tobacco separately, and then I try to think how this will blend with tobaccos I have now or tobaccos I might be interested in," said Carrillo. He is always on the lookout for tobacco that might make a compelling blend for the short term, or perhaps for a future cigar, the cigar maker added.
The presentation shifted to the immense variety of tobacco on the market today. "I think the industry has evolved a lot from the early days. We had fewer blends," observed Seijas. "The growers of today have presented blenders with far more options. This increased variety of tobacco allows blenders to be far more experimental, something that Seijas and Carrillo admitted to having fun with. When you see a good crop, you want to buy it all," said Carrillo.
When asked about the secrecy of cigar blends, Seijas responded that this information is usually confidential, but pointed out that even if one had all the right the tobaccos in front of them, it would still be very difficult to replicate any given cigar.
"You can have a strong cigar with bite and you may feel it in your throat," Perez-Carrillo added, "but you can also have a strong cigar that may seem smooth, but if you're sitting down smoking it, and you try to get up, you can't."
This statement was greeted by a roar of laughter and knowing nods of agreement from the smoky room. Carrillo and Seijas gladly answered questions at the end of their presentation. By this time most of the crowd had finished their first cigar, and some had even begun lighting up their second.
For many of the seminar's attendees, these blenders are like old friends whose artisanship and skill have spoken to them through perfectly tempered combinations of wrapper filler and binder.
Photos by Camilla Sjodin Hadowanetz
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