2. Leaf Selection for Cigars

a. Wrapper
A wrapper is made from half of a stemmed leaf. So there will be roughly equal numbers of right-hand wrappers and left-hand wrappers. For a home-roller, that makes no difference, other than needing to practice wrapping from both directions. For a cigar factory, all the cigars in a single box are either right-hand or left-hand wrapped, just to increase the visual appeal of the box full of cigars. (Their bands are also applied at an identical distance from the head, for the same reason.)

The wrapper leaf selected should be sufficient for the length and girth of the planned cigar. Aligning the leaf half so that its secondary veins are perfectly horizontal (the leaf strip lies at an angle), the length of the required wrapper is at least the horizontal distance represented by the length of the planned cigar.

The width of the wrapper required for a cigar of a particular ring gauge is measured at a 90-degree angle to the secondary veins and must be greater than the circumference of the planned cigar since the wrapper will need to overlap itself while wrapping. Make these measurements of the selected wrapper leaf after any trimming of the outer and inner edges.

The wrapper is mostly what you taste with your tongue, even though it is contributing only a relatively small role in the cigar’s overall aroma. A very mild and tasty wrapper can render an otherwise overly strong filler more enjoyable.


b. Binder
A cigar binder serves two purposes. It is the binder that maintains the compression of the filler bunch, so it needs to have sufficient tensile strength, along with some degree of stretch, to accomplish this without tearing or “popping”. Secondly, the binder should serve as the primary barrier to air leaks through the sides of the cigar. If a selected binder has some small holes, but in wrapping around the filler, these holes will not overlap, then it can likely do that job.

The combination of a binder and a wrapper must, together, burn well. A slow-burning wrapper will burn well with an efficiently-burning binder or vice versa. If both burn well, that is not a problem, but if neither burns well, then the finished cigar will maintain a margin of black char at the start of the ash and is more likely to burn lopsided, down the side, or create a tunnel down the middle of the filler.

Cigar binder contributes very little to the tongue taste of a cigar and only contributes to the aroma in proportion to its mass.

Sometimes, a quick cigar can be adequately rolled using a nice, sturdy binder, and no wrapper at all.

c. Filler
There are no particular criteria for what tobacco qualifies for use as filler. Any variety of tobacco can be used, depending on your preferences. Leaf from any level of the stalk can be used, though its nicotine strength increases as you move up the stalk. Filler leaves can have tears and holes and missing pieces and still serve perfectly as cigar filler. Dissection of premium cigars has shown that “Long filler” may mean that each piece of filler leaf runs the entire length of the finished cigar. Another interpretation of “long filler” is apparently that it is merely a contrast to scrap or short filler, in which the bulk of the filler content consists of scraps of various lengths, or even entirely of tiny pieces or shreds.

Hand-rolling with long filler is easier than hand-rolling with short filler. The opposite is true of machines-they are much more efficient at using short filler than using long filler. It is a fact that the production of long-filler cigars (nearly always by hand) yields a bounty of shortcutting a scrap of fine cigar tobacco, and that scrap tobacco is used to make less expensive cigars.

The reputation issue with short-filler cigars is that they are not as enjoyable to smoke as long-filler cigars. In truth, if the leaf varieties are the same, if the cut or shred of the short filler is fairly uniform, if the binding of the bunch is properly calibrated, and if the blending is as carefully managed as that of long-filler cigars, short filler cigars-even machine-made ones-can be created to draw just as well, burn just as well, and taste just as enjoyable as a similar long-filler cigar. Those “ifs” are seldom met in commercial short-filler cigars.