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The Bench

Bench to Box

Upon completion of the ageing process, tobacco leaves are ready for the making of a Habano.

Wrapper leaves are stripped of their central vein and aired on racks to remove any remaining moisture. Binder and filler leaves go through the same procedure before being sorted for various blends.

Master blenders arrive at warehouses with lists of desired tobacco. Here they select baled tobacco from a dizzying array of leaves assembled by flavor, size, age and origin.

Back at the factory, the blending department delivers the various leaves needed for Cuba's mythical rollers, known as torcedores or "twisters", to practice their time-honored trade. Torcedores fall into four categories, and only the most experienced rollers are permitted to craft the most complicated cigars.

With a wooden board, two cutters, a guillotine and vegetable gum, they begin their labor. The first torcedor forms a bunch using binder and filler leaves. The bunch is then placed on a wrapper leaf and rolled, with extremely sensitive hands assuring that the leaf is carefully stretched. Prolific torcedores can roll up to 150 cigars per day.

Cuban tradition dictates that a lector read newspapers or novels to torcedores while they roll. Occasionally, certain books have served as inspiration for certain brands, like The Count of Monte Cristo, for example.

Finished cigars are tied in bundles and labeled with the torcedor's name. A factory supervisor constantly checks their work, while cigar tasters test cigars for taste, draw, burn and aroma.

Factory color graders then select cigars based on color and shading. Wrapper leaves can naturally display up to 12 various colors and 72 different shades. Subsequently, a worker applies bands to the cigars before they are packaged in wooden boxes made entirely by hand.

To assure authenticity, each box receives a governmental warranty seal and a denomination of origin seal. Additionally, boxes are hot stamped with the words "Made in Cuba" and "Totally by Hand."

The Bench