For many smokers, the difference between premium hand-rolled cigars and machine-rolled cigars is something of a mystery.
Does how a cigar is rolled really make a difference in how it smokes?
Are hand-rolled cigars inherently better, or are they just more expensive?
Here’s what you need to know about the differences between these two categories of cigars and why handmade cigars really are superior to machine-rolled sticks.
Machine-Rolled Vs. Hand-Rolled: What’s the Difference?
Needless to say, the key difference between these two types of cigars is that one is hand-rolled by experienced cigar makers and the other is created by a rolling machine. This distinction results in some very important differences that smokers should be aware of. To begin with, handmade cigars use long filler leaves that contribute to flavor, strength and the quality of the burn. Machine-rolled cigars, by contrast, are made with fillers consisting of lower-quality chopped tobacco. In this regard, machine-rolled cigars resemble cigarettes more than traditional hand-rolled cigars.
The differences don’t stop at the fillers, though. The binders and wrappers of machine-rolled cigars are also fundamentally different from those used in a handmade cigar. In order to make machine rolling possible, the binder leaves used in traditional cigars are replaced with a combination of ground tobacco and adhesive. Machine-rolled cigar wrappers are usually not made entirely from natural tobacco leaves, robbing these cigars of the flavor and texture you’d find in a more premium smoke.
Finally, machine-rolled cigars often include chemical additives and preservatives that you would never find in a handmade cigar. As any cigar aficionado will tell you, a great cigar is all about the natural flavor of premium tobacco leaves. With the addition of synthetic chemicals, machine-rolled cigars lose a great deal of their natural flavor.
Put together, these factors create a considerable difference between machine-rolled and hand-rolled cigars. In terms of flavor and quality, handmade cigars are almost universally superior to their machine-rolled cousins.
How to Tell if a Cigar Is Machine-Rolled
There are a number of ways to tell the difference between a machine-rolled cigar and a premium hand-rolled cigar. The first and most obvious difference between the two is price. Machine-rolled cigars are typically very inexpensive and can often be found at discount smoking shops and even at gas stations. Hand-rolled premium cigars, by contrast, will cost a bit more and are almost never sold at a facility without a proper cabinet or walk-in humidor.
Looking at a cigar will also give you some tell-tale signs as to how it was made. The wrapper on a hand-rolled cigar should be tightly stretched and firm, while machine-rolled sticks are often a bit less precise. The pure, natural tobacco leaf used to wrap a hand-rolled cigar should also be soft to the touch and slightly reflective under direct light as the result of the leaf’s natural oils. Because these oils aren’t as concentrated in the wrappers used on machine-rolled cigars, the cigars will appear dull and feel a bit more dry.
If price and appearance aren’t enough, you’ll likely know a machine-rolled cigar when you light it up. Between chemical impurities and less oily wrappers, machine-rolled cigars burn more quickly and tend to get hotter than handmade cigars. This leads to a harsher, less flavorful smoke.
Overall, a premium hand-rolled cigars is a better tobacco product than a machine-rolled stick. With that said, machine-rolled cigars have the advantage in terms of price, making them an affordable option if you’re a daily smoker or just want some cheaper selections to put in your humidor. When you’re looking for a better cigar, though, handmade is always the way to go.
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