I know I have written about this before but I thought it important to once again discuss the importance of the inside of a cigar. It’s all about the bunch. It is the Rodney Dangerfield of the cigar. When I use the term ‘bunch’ I am referring to the inside leaves which consist of the filler leaves wrapped in a very utilitarian looking binder leaf. When it comes to cigars, it’s the wrapper leaf that is the recipient of most of the love and it is understandable why. The wrapper is expensive, beautiful and high maintenance, the supermodel of the tobacco world. But as with beautiful ladies walking down runways, the cigar would not exist without the support of the many hard workers behind the scenes.
In the case of the cigar, the hard worker behind the scene is the bunchero or buncher. Most factories today have their cigars made by two people working in teams, the roller and buncher. The roller is responsible for putting the wrapper leaf on the cigar, while the buncher is solely responsible for its internal construction. If the buncher gets it wrong then the cigar will not burn properly.
So how does the bunch get assembled? Well, it seems quite easy as I explain it but try it yourself and you will see just how difficult it is. First the filler leaves along with binder leaves are given to the buncher and he/she organizes then on their table. They then take each filler leaf and form them in their hands using one of three methods: entubado, accordion, or booking. I will describe the entubado process as it is the most difficult but preferred method. The filler leaves are rolled into little tubes and stacked on each other. They are then torn at the end to make the cigar more uniform in size. Based on the feel of the bunch more parts of leaves are added to the foot and head to make sure there are no soft spots in final product. This is very difficult to do, it is a skill developed from lots of repetition. It’s also important to remember that the leaves also have to be correctly positioned as different primings burn at different rates. Ever had a cigar that burned unevenly? Either it was lit incorrectly or the buncher messed up. My money is on the person lighting the cigar.
After the buncher gets the leaves feeling right in his/her hand then it is time to encase the whole thing in a binder leaf. This leaf isn’t as pretty as the wrapper and in fact it is often wrapper quality in everything but appearance. The bunch is placed in a mold and this mold in then placed inside a press. The pressure forces the cigar into shape and gives the roller a solid product to apply the wrapper to.
I have done both jobs, neither very well, but I have found that bunching is much more difficult. Even though your finished work doesn’t have to be pretty, the construction must be flawless. I have much respect for these people who work so hard knowing that no one will ever see their work. Well, we may not be able to see it at least it smokes perfectly.
Chris Gwaltney, ABC Fine Wine & Spirits Senior Category Manager: Premium Cigars & Craft Beer
Follow me on Twitter @abccigarchris