Cigars at your wedding? Curate a cigar menu instead of using a roller.

When it comes to cigars, freshness is usually not a good thing

Cigars for groomsmen
Having a cigar roller at your event might add novelty at the expense of quality. Nicolás Antonio Jiménez

Here's a scenario that might sound familiar. You show up to your best friend’s wedding, it’s a gorgeous day outside, and the bride and groom are the perfect couple who’ve just committed to a lifetime of happiness. It’s time for the reception to begin and you stroll out into the courtyard, where a winemaker is crushing grapes and fermenting them right there before your very eyes. The fresh crushed juice goes into a great big barrel and you line up with your fellow party goers, glass in hand, to get a taste of the fresh made wine.

No? No fresh wine? What about the fresh whisky distiller? You must have seen the oh-so-popular whisky distiller at the wedding reception shtick: heat some grain, make a mash, pour it through the still and into the magic barrel, and you line up with your fellow party goers, tumbler in hand, to get a taste of the fresh made whisky.

No? No fresh whisky? Why is that, I wonder? Why haven’t we ever seen the fresh wine winemaker and the fresh whisky station at a wedding reception? Well, it’s simple. It’s impossible (unless, of course, you’re having a 4-18 year-long wedding reception). The only way crushed grapes become wine is through the proper processes, requiring proper time (for example, the time and process involved in aging wines in oak barrels). And yet, so often, we stroll out to the courtyard of our best friend’s wedding reception, line up with our fellow party goers, and approach the table of a torcedor, who’s bunching filler tobaccos into a binder and applying wrappers to the bunches, all to the amazement of guests.

And just as the cap gets applied and the cigar is placed on the top of the rolling table, it’s snatched by the guy in front of you and fired up, all with just nine seconds of aging.

Editor's note: Wrapper tobacco is the outermost layer of a cigar. Use these links to learn more about, binder and filler tobaccos.

Premium cigars — like wine, whisky, and other such products — require much more time after the wrapper is applied before they should be enjoyed. First, the tobacco used to make premium cigars must be very moist in order for the leaves to be flexible and elastic enough to withstand the technique of bunching, stretching, and applying the binder around the filler leaves, pressing the bunch in a mold and rotating the bunch 90 degrees every 20-30 minutes before carefully applying the delicate wrapper leaf around the bunch. Even the resin, used to apply and hold the cap in place, is wet.

Second, as cigars are made in a premium cigar factory, they’re also inspected.  Regularly, bundles of 25 or 50 cigars are weighed to look for consistency; individual cigars are often weighed as well. A two- or three-grams difference  could indicate, for instance, the presence of absence of a half-leaf of tobacco that could not only alter flavor, but significantly affect the draw and the combustion of a cigar.

Third, once these initial quality control steps have been passed, the cigar must rest and go into aging. This process is critical for two reasons. The first is to allow the blend to marry. If you were making soup from scratch, you would first add water.

Then you would add your onions, carrots, celery, garlic and whatever other ingredients you use. But, once all of the ingredients are in the water, if you put a spoon in and immediately tasted the liquid, it would taste like water. Taste the “water” six hours later, however, and it tastes like all of the ingredients combined. This is a crude illustration of aging. Each of the different tobaccos offers a different flavor and characteristic. When smoked “fresh” (that is, immediately after rolling), these flavors come across very “separate,” or “individual.” There is aggressiveness to the way the flavors hit the palate. Aging allows the essential oils from each different leaf to marry with each other, helping you experience the cohesive, balanced flavor of the cigar rather than the flavor of each specific tobacco.

The second function of aging is to dry the cigar. As previously mentioned, cigars are made “wet,” in order for the tobaccos to maintain elasticity so that they don’t crack as they’re being manipulated and formed into a cigar. Wet leaves, however, don’t burn. The aging process slowly reduces the moisture of a cigar’s tobaccos, which will permit the them to combust slowly and evenly at the conclusion of the aging process, producing cool smoke on the palate. Typically, the cigars sold in a premium tobacconist have a minimum of four to six months of age by the time you purchase them.

So, if you really want to make an impression on your guests and you’re excited to share your passion of cigars with your friends, offer a cigar bar instead. I recommend working with a local tobacconist. Best case scenario, you can hire a tobacconist to be on-hand in order to explain the selection of cigars, make the appropriate recommendation for each guest, and cut and light the cigar appropriately for each person. As an alternative, you can print table tents with the name and description of each cigar next to each box to make it easy for guests to select the best cigar for them. If you’re offering a signature cocktail, step up your offering with a cigar pairing curated to be enjoyed with the cocktail of the day.

I do believe in the importance of sharing and showcasing the art of premium cigar making, but it’s a shame that, so often, the cigar being lit in honor of such a special occasion is not truly ready to be smoked. If you are set in your ways of having a cigar roller, I would recommend having a selection of premium cigars on-hand to offer to guests while they watch the roller work. But insist to the roller that the cigars not be given to guests and instead, ask for all of the cigars at the conclusion of your event and keep them in your own humidor for a year or two to allow them to age properly. Then, as occasions arise to select a special cigar to commemorate a special moment, you’ll have a collection of premium cigars that were hand-rolled on your special day to cut, light, and celebrate with for years to come.

 

Michael Herklots is the vice president of retail and brand development at Nat Sherman. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.