Roll Your Own With Team La Gloria
It was Napoleon who said that an army marches on its stomach. In other words, a well-fed group of troops is a more efficient one. The same can probably be said about rolling cigars. On Sunday morning, some 500 well-fed cigar enthusiasts had just finished a hearty breakfast hosted by celebrity chef Charlie Palmer. But when they re-entered the conference room, they found that it had been transformed into a cigar rolling gallery. Each seat had a place setting consisting of a hard plastic mat, a razor blade, a wrapperless cigar, and a small cup of vegetable glue, or gomma.
"If you guys thought that little cup had a shot of Cuban coffee in it, I'm very sorry," joked Michael Giannini, General Cigar's director of Team La Gloria.
The entire setup is designed to emulate a cigar factory, while master roller Leo Peraza constructs his cigars up on stage. His skillful hands are projected onto large video screens as he works so the crowd can see how to stretch, cut and roll the wrapper leaf onto a cigar. Every roller is handed a piece of Ecuadoran Sumatra leaf.
Master cigar roller Leo Peraza shows his form.
There are two aspects to this seminar. Firstly, it is a hands-on tutorial on how to apply wrapper to a cigar, but, secondly it is a competition. At the end of the seminar, the one who has rolled the best cigar wins a La Gloria Cubana Serei R Limitada Humidor from 2006 filled with 30 cigars, as well as a trip to the factory in the Dominican Republic.
Giannini has been hosting this event for years, but this was first time that Ernesto Perez-Carrillo was not part of the program. The face of La Gloria Cubana for many years, Perez-Carrillo is no longer with General Cigar, but what Giannini did was to introduce Team La Gloria: "Papa" Leo Peraza, the roller Yuri Guillen, general manager; and Rick Rodriguez, billed as premium cigar apprentice.
"This is really a hard process to roll cigars," said Giannini, "and we're going to make fun of you."
One of the more creative takes on a cigar.
"If you roll you cigar with veins up instead of down," said Giannini, "it will look like you're wearing your pants inside out." Giannini found someone who made this fatal mistake and held up his cigar for ridicule. "This is what you don't want." Giannini found another wrinkly cigar to mock. The wrapper was almost falling off. "OK, what are we going to call this one? Elephant's leg or granny's panty hose?"
Laughter erupted in the room. Everyone seemed comfortable with the puritanical nature of the competition: if you roll well, you are rewarded, if you roll poorly you get a good zing from the stage.
Winner Dave Reid of Richmond, Virginia, with Team La Gloria.
But after the laughter subsided, the judges seriously evaluated all the submitted cigars and held up a near perfect smoke rolled by David Reed of Richmond, Virginia. He was presented with the humidor and will be going to the Dominican Republic to General Cigar's factory for a first-hand look at how the mythic brand is made.
As Giannini handed Reed his prize box of cigars he said "When this box was first released three years ago, it retailed for $705. Now that it's out of production? Priceless."
The audience applauded and each member was handed a certificate proclaiming them an honorary roller of La Gloria Cubana cigars. As the cigar rolling items were collected, four glasses were upturned at every setting. A new seminar was about to take place. One that involved Bourbon. Thankfully, the razor blades and vegetable gum were removed before the drinking started.
Photos by Sjodin Photography
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