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Cigar 101

Cigar Bunching Methods

J. Bennett Alexander Alexander's picture

J. Bennett Alexander

Some cigar smokers just want to know that what they’re smoking tastes good. Others want a good value. More and more, I find, aficionados are interested in what tobaccos go into the cigars, where the leaf is grown, how the curing process occurs and, also how the cigar is made. Most know that premium cigars are made by hand. In truth, a cigar is made by many hands. We extoll the torcedor, the roller who puts the beautiful (we hope) wrapper leaf onto the tube of tobacco leaves – filler and binder. Just before the roller gets that tube, the leaves undergo a process called bunching.

What is Cigar Bunching?

Bunching is pretty much what it sounds like. In short, it is the process of putting together the filler leaves, usually long-filler in the case of premium cigars, into a bunch and then encasing that bunch inside a binder leaf or two. This is done by a bonchero, or buncher, and it is vital to ensuring that your cigar has a good draw.

Bunching a Cigar                                                                     

The bunchers do not simply grab a handful of cured tobacco leaves and make a wad of them.  They follow a recipe for the blend that has been designed for the particular cigar they’re working on. Each blend has its own distinctive flavor, or should, and all the bunchers give the bunched leaves to the rollers. Each roller must get the same blend of tobacco leaves so that the cigars come out the same. The bunchers, who sometimes double as the rollers, take each bunch of leaves and place the filler leaves inside the binder. There are four widely used methods to bunch cigars.

Cigar Bunching Methods

The Lieberman Machine: Once the buncher has arranged the binder and filler leaves to the correct ratio, they are placed on a machine that forms the bunch. The Lieberman machine has a steel frame and a rubber mat onto which the leaves are placed, then, using levers to control the rolling, the leaves are formed into a reasonably tight tube. Highly experienced craftsmen eschew the machine and do everything by hand. They generally use one of the following three methods.
Entubado: This challenging bunching method calls for rolling each filler leaf into a scroll and then putting all the scrolls together inside the binder. The idea is to create a tight roll which will allow liberal air flow carrying more of the aromatics to your taste buds. This is considered the most sophisticated method of rolling and is not generally used in large-scale production. Arturo Fuente and My Father are excellent examples of premium brands that use this method exclusively.

A sort of spinoff of this method is called the Lazy Entubado, or Estrujado, which translates to squeeze or press. In this style, a tobacco leaf – the base – is wrapped around the filler before the binder is applied. This is common in Liga Privada cigars from Drew Estate.

Accordion: The name says it all. The outer sides of the filler leaves are folded inward, one at a time. All the leaves are then placed atop one another. This creates excellent air flow.

Book Bunch: This is the fastest and most popular method used for premium cigars today. The filler leaves are stacked, then folded like a book and rolled in the binder.

Bunching Figurado Cigars

The figurado, or shaped, cigar is the most difficult to roll and only the best rollers do it. The bunching for these cigars, be they Torpedos or Perfectos, often uses a combination of methods to create an excellent draw in each cigar.

The Farmer’s Bunch

A relatively simple method of bunching is one I’ve seen on farms in Cuba where the farmer is making his own criollo cigars. The filler leaves are simply scrolled together to form the bunch, then the binder is applied. My experience with these cigars is that they’re great if the buncher/roller knows what they’re doing. Often, though, the draw on these personal smokes is extraordinarily easy and way too much smoke comes through the tube. This is not a method I’ve seen used in premium cigars made for the general market.

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