Sunday, July 4, 2010

Hand Rolled Cigars

As regular readers of this blog know, Flint and I are cigar smokers, and we have enjoyed many a fine cigar in Korea, thanks to the good folks at Maska's Cigar Shop, located in the lobby of the Marriott Hotel in Gangnam, Seoul.
This past Saturday, Maska's hosted a hand rolling event, which featured Alfredo, a roller from the H. Upmann Company. I took the opportunity to travel to Seoul on a hot and humid day with the threat of rain. It's a fairly quick trip to Seoul, though, and the hotel is conveniently located next to the terminal.
I arrived about 3:30. The event was scheduled to start at 4:00, but Alfredo was running a bit late. Each person signing up for the event was eligible for two cigars, so I signed up early.
Alfredo was rolling torpedoes, robusto's, Churchill's, and even double robusto's. I requested one of each of the latter two.
Alfredo set up on a table in the lobby. He had a cigar cutting machine, a wooden cutting board, and a couple of blades for trimming the tobacco leaves. Rolling cigars is almost an art form, and Alfredo is a master.

He starts be selecting the leaves that will become the outer wrapper. The leaf is folded in half, and the stem is taken out. The two halves are then trimmed for consistency, and then laid aside.

Alfredo begins assembling the leaves to be wrapped by bunching a variety from seperate piles into his hand, ripping off bits here and there, and making sure the bunch is a relatively standard length.
Once enough leaves have been put together, Alfredo begins rolling them in the outer wrapper. He makes it look so easy, and the finished product is so tightly wrapped, you wonder if the cigar will draw. Believe me, it does!

The only thing left to do after rolling up the cigar is to finish off the cap. It's sealed with wax, and topped off with a small piece of tobacco so that the one end is completely wrapped. The other end is left untrimmed, in a very rough condition.

The whole process takes about ten minutes to complete, and Vince (Maska's owner) made sure that Alfredo was happy by making sure a tumbler of scotch was always close to hand. Nice working conditions! I wish my boss was so considerate...
Vince says that these cigars are very good if smoked right away (I can attest to that). But after about a week, the cigar takes on a kind of "green" taste, and it's best to let them mature for about a year in order to get a good cigar taste.
After watching Alfredo for a while, and then receiving my cigars, I repaired to the smoking area for a puff. Complemented by tumbler after tumber of Glennfiddich, the double robusto was a magnificent smoke, lasting almost two hours. I was flying at the end of it.

I chatted with Vince for a while, and was lucky enough to be able to sign up for another cigar, this time a torpedo. I'm trying to decide if I should smoke it tonight, or try the Churchill.
Happy dilemma!

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