Once harvested, the cut tobacco leaves are tied to cujes and hung in large, aluminum barns for curing. Inside the curing barn, the cigar tobacco will spend up to a month drying and aging.
This process allows for the slow oxidation and degredation of carotenoids (organic pigments that naturally occur in plants and other photosynthetic organisms) in the leaf. Through this process, the leaves lose their green color and turn dark brown. Once cured, the leaves are moved to the fermentation facility, where they are sorted into grades and prepared for the next step – fermentation.
Cigar FermentationAfter curing, the tobacco is taken to a fermentation warehouse where the leaves are sorted based upon type of tobacco and priming. The leaves are sprayed with water, or in some cases, a special fermentation solution, and then bound by string at one end. At Tabacalera Fernandez, the tobacco is sprayed with a fermentation solution created by A.J. Fernandez’s grandfather and passed down generation to generation. The recipe for the solution is a closely guarded secret known only to the Fernandez family and according to the master blend himself, the solution is one of the most important ingredients in the creation of his cigars.
Once doused in the fermentation solution, the heads – the tobacco leaves bound by string – are laid out on palates, forming large, waist high piles called bulks. The great pressure created by thousands of pounds of tobacco generates heat which fuels the fermentation process. As the inner-most tobacco ferments, the heads are rotated from the outer layers to the center layers so that all of the tobacco ferments evenly. The process releases ammonia, which creates an extremely pungent air within the fermentation facility. The process of properly fermenting the tobacco for cigars and knowing when the leaves are finished with the process is an art.
Learn more about “The Life of a Cigar” and Tobacco Aging