Cigars: Quality Control

Quality Control ItemsQuality control on cigars concerns the construction, appearance, taste and suction(draw). Once it is done, it is not finished. Quality control has to be exercised on all packaging material and, then, on the full box to check the shading of the cigars before closing it. That seems simple. In fact, for hand made cigars, it is a tough problem. Not to do it, but to set up the criteria of acceptance and to respect them.Construction ControlA Premium cigar is supposed to have a perfect shape at the proper size (length and ring gauge). The body must be straight and, when examined by feeling, the compactness must be even from one end to the other, not too soft, not too hard. The head must be properly closed. The foot must be cut straight, perpendicular to the lengthwise axis. All that does not guarantee that the cigar will smoke correctly because it does not tell you how fillers are organized inside the bunch (See suction control).Suction Control(1)Traditionally, a hand made cigar with a good construction was supposed to have a good draw. As long as there was no suction machine, there was no alternative for checking it. In fact, it worked, but not 100%. Forget the very hard cigar that probably has a heavy draw. Forget the too soft cigar that has probably a too easy draw. A well constructed cigar can have twisted fillers inside that obstructs the air flow. Nobody can feel that before lighting the cigar up. Drawing test machines, running in the machine-made cigar industry, have been adapted for the handmade cigars manufacturers. To control the suction on a finished cigar, you can smoke it but then you have destroyed it! There are two kinds of drawing test machines for finished cigars. With one, you cut the head for measurement and you destroy your cigar too.Suction Control(2)The second method works with a needle making a hole in the head for measuring and you repair the cigar afterward. If the draw is bad, you send back the cigar to the production department to remake it or throw it away. You lose at least the wrapper, which is very expensive or you lose the whole cigar. Today, thanks to a new machine, the best way is to check the draw on the bunch before wrapping. If the draw is out of the acceptable range, you can easily remake the bunch, avoiding extra cost on wrapper.Appearance Control(1)A Premium cigar smoker likes to have a beautiful product: an even and clean color, and no breakage or hole in the wrapper. But the cigar is hand made (“errare humanun est”), and the wrapper is a natural product. Thus, there are many ways to have defects in cigars. Even if these defects do not affect the taste, the consumer does not like to see them. At each step of the production process , from the leaf department to the quality control, the undesirable wrapper leaves and cigars are rejected.Appearance Control(2)Wrapper leaves are responsible for the cigar’s appearance. Defects are naturally numerous. They are spots, stains, two-tone or three-tone colors, off-color veins, shine. Shine is a sign of a healthy wrapper. Off-color veins are a bad sign: tobacco has suffered in the field or has been improperly cured. Multi-tone colors can just be ugly, some stains too. But one green spot on a Cuban wrapper or few small white spots on a Cameroon one are like a signature: they show that the wrapper leaf is just right and there is no reason to reject the cigar.

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