Cigars, what you should know (continuation)


Stages of Cigar Making


Cuban cigars are made from specially selected tobaccos for the filling, strapping, and the cover sheet.

Firstly, the quality of the raw material needs to be improved. The tobacco needs to obtain the correct ratio of nicotine and resin to give a tangible flavour-aromatic property during tasting. The cigars acquire a unique bouquet, fragrance.

Under a cold temperature (2-3º) the leaves for the filling undergo fermentation. They are removed from the bags, inspected, and placed in oak barrels to evaporate any excess moisture. The raw material is aged until and then it is sent to the twisting room.


Manual labour is used in the factory. The leaves are cleaned of debris, insects and dirt. The defective, damaged or deformed raw material is also rejected. They are sorted according to density, size, shade, and vein thickness.

The tobacco is made wet to remove the central vein. It is then graded. The coats must be textured, elastic, and without defects. Master craftsmen work with the material softly, gently picking tobacco from the stacks.

Blending – creating tobacco blends

This is the most delicate, complex and painstaking phase, only endured by a master craftsman. For this role, they need to have the skill of tasting aromas. They then classify the tobacco according to the type of aromatic oils.

The main types of tobacco leaves for flavour formation are-

Volado is low in strength. Seco has a medium strength and aroma and lastly Ligero is full-bodied and has a distinctive flavour.

Shaping and labelling

Using pre-pressed materials a Capote binder is used to shape the cigar. The next stage is coating. This is the most expensive stage, a kind of cigar cloth, is taken. The finished product is then labelled and boxed.


Some interesting facts about cigars

The phrase, “Close, but no cigar,” originated in the day when a cigar was a popular carnival game prize.

In preparation for his first high-altitude aeroplane flight, Winston Churchill ordered the creation of an oxygen mask that would accommodate cigar smoking.

A highly skilled or specifically trained cigar roller is referred to as a torcedor, with them able to produce at least 200 cigars a day!

The tobacco plant belongs to the potato and tomato plant family know as Solanaceae.

1000 tobacco seeds can fit inside a thimble.

Legendary writer Mark Twain used to smoke 300 cigars a month. At one point he quit the habit, however, he ended up suffering from writers block. He then resumed his cigar habit and wrote a book in three months.


How to be a cigar connoisseur 

Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your cigar experience. 

Don’t let the cigar burn out – it’s best to inhale every 30-60 seconds. Also, unlike cigarettes, cigar ash is not actively shaken off – it will fall away on its own if you need to brush it off, just gently place the cigar on the edge of the ashtray.

When you have finished tasting a cigar, do not put it out like a cigarette – it is considered bad manners and it will also give off an unpleasant smell. Simply leave it in the ashtray and the cigar will put out by itself. If you leave a cigar in the ashtray for hours and then decide to light it, be prepared that it will be bitter and not as flavourful. Experienced aficionados do not light a cigar a second time.

To light your cigar hold the flame an inch or two away from the foot of your cigar. If you bury your cigar in the flame, it won’t burn evenly and you’ll taste a nasty mix of butane fuel and charred tobacco in the first puffs. Rotate your cigar over the flames taking a few puffs as you go. Once big blow the end until you have an orange glow over the whole base

Professionals advise to not take the band off the cigar until you are about an inch or two away from it. The heat from the cigar naturally loosens the band so you won’t tear the cigar removing the label 

It seen as good smoking etiquette to keep few spare cigars to give as handouts

Although there are obvious health problems linked to smoking today smoking a well-made cigar still has strong connotations with being well admired and quietly confident.

Cigars, what you should know



The history of the cigar dates back to the 10th century. Historians believe that cigars were created by the ancient Mayans, who wrapped tobacco in palm or plantain leaves. This story is supported by an ancient Mayan pot that dates back to the 10th century, on this, there is an image of a man smoking a cigar shaped object! 

The first recorded Westerners to encounter tobacco were the Christopher Columbus team in 1492 when they arrived in Cuba. On initial arrival to the ‘new world’ Columbus was reported to be disappointed as he thought there was no ‘treasure’ to be found there. However, through trade, the local Indians introduced Cohiba (tobacco) to his team. They showed the eager spectators how to burn and inhale the leaves for pleasure. The men enjoyed this new sensation, in particular one lieutenant who was so taken with the new vice that he smoked it every day on their epic journey back home.

In Spain and Portugal cigar smoking started to catch on. The French ambassador to Portugal, Jean Nicot, made cigar smoking popular back in his home country. You can see how much influence when you realise that the name nicotine is derived from his name.

Next cigars hit the rest of Europe, but it was the Spanish who developed the use of specialised papers instead of leaves to contain the tobacco. Tobacco started to be grown for customer consumption. Initially, the tobacco was grown in Spain until procurers discovered that the climate of Cuba was more suited for most productive growth. 

Other popular places for growing tobacco were Key West in Florida, New York, and the Philippines.


Let us look a little more at the different elements of cigars.


The Mayan Indians created the most commonly shaped cigar the Parejo. There are many subcategories of Parejo cigars, such as the Toro, Corona, and Carlota. 

A good marketing ploy used by the manufacturers was to name their cigars after those in the media spotlight who smoked them examples of this are the Churchill, Rothschild, and Lonsdale.

In the 1800s the irregular shape of the Figurado made them popular. Narrowed on both sides, the Figurado initially gives off only the flavor of the coating and binding leaves, and the true flavour of the blend is revealed only when the smoker reaches the widest part of the cigar. They were considered high end at the time and nowadays are seen as collectors’ items. Examples of these are the Presidente, Torpedo, and Toscano.

Other popular shapes of the cigar are Robusto, Torpedo and Viola. 


How many hours is a person willing to devote to smoking? It’s not an easy question to answer today because time “costs” much more than it did in Columbus’ day. That’s why shorter formats of the Robusto cigar are recently gaining in popularity. Small cigars are deemed popular as they also hold have less tax.

The flavour intensity of a cigar is influenced by its length. The longer a cigar is in the mouth, the longer the resins and ethers dissolve in saliva and the more the essential oils evaporate, so the smoker gets a better sensation so experienced smokers prefer larger formats.

A 60-ring-gauge Cohiba cigar also known by its factory name, Grandioso, is 7 inches long and is extremely rare. As part of the Cohiba 50th anniversary, 50 humidor were made, each containing 50 cigars, for a total global run of 2,500 cigars. The No. 1 humidor was auctioned at the 2016 Festival del Habanos for approximately $350,000. The other 49 humidors were auctioned to the main Habanos distributors around the world, with a base price of $227,000. Others have been know to sell for even more.


Remember – the thicker the cigar, the better it tastes and the cooler the smoke. Because a thicker cigar has more tobacco, more flavour, and also more space to cool the smoke. Thin cigars, which have fewer leaves, are simpler and more even in flavour. They are virtually devoid of the flavour dynamics inherent in more powerful and full-bodied cigars.

To be continued…

History of Champagne: how the English helped birth bubbly

Champagne, a drink we all associate with the raising of a toast at a special or festive occasion. But what do we really know about its history? Firstly, like a lot of popular inventions, it too was discovered by chance.

In France, the Champagne region has been producing wines for hundreds of years. Some claim as far back as the Gallo-Roman period. ‘Champenois’, locals from the region, produced pale, pink-hued, still wines made primarily from Pinot Noir grapes. 

The winemakers would distill their wine, but due to the cold temperature found in the North, the fermentation process would sometimes be interrupted. The consequence must be praised though, as it became the bubbly liquid that we are all so fond of today! During the freeze, the undigested sugars and yeast formed carbon dioxide and made an explosive bubbly mix.

In the late 17th Century, the ‘vin mousseux’ (sparkling wine) in the bottles that survived the pressure, started to become popular with French royalty, and shortly after Parisian socialites. The drink was considered rare and only accessible to the affluent. 

By the 18th century Moët & Chandon, Taittinger, and Louis Roederer were all found in the Champagne region. They all competed to supply their produce at the most elegant and regal affairs. 

The trend hit London, and they too decided that they wanted to recreate the bubbly liquid. Many historians believe that the thick bottle and cork synonyms with the champagne bottle today, was in fact, invented by the English and not the French in the early 17th Century. Next, the bottled sparkles began to spread through Europe.

Another popular misconception is that Benedictine monk Dom Pérignon, invented champagne. The monk did indeed make wine, he was a cellar master at Huntvillers Abbey, but he was in fact trying to remove the bubbles, not create them. The myth of him inventing champagne was actually a marketing tool used in the 19th Century by one of the subsequent owners of the Abbey. Apparently, when Dom Pérignon first tried the sparkling wine he shouted ‘come quickly, I am drinking the stars’. This quote was used in an advertising campaign, again reinforcing the ideology that the monk invented the bubbly drink.   He used the myth to promote the vineyards when sparkling wine was becoming popular. Evidently, the marketing tool worked and consequently stuck!

Champagne today is not too sweet, with the name Brut often placed on their label to identify the dryness. Early champagnes, on the other hand, were loaded with sugar, but this was also used as a ploy to disguise any fermentation issues. 

It seems that a person’s palate and taste buds are significantly different depending on the drinkers nationality. Russians and Scandinavians like their bubbles honey-sweet, German, French, and American, semi-sweet, and for the English the drier the better. Over time, the English style has succeeded at becoming the most well received. 

So how do you know you are getting a quality bottle of champagne? Similar to wine, it’s all in the label, you need to look for the ‘appellation d’origine contrôlée’. These are the regulators who make sure the wine is made under the strict guidelines and made using the ‘Champenois method’. To warrant this title they insist on a second fermentation in the bottle, only using the correct grape type: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Arbane, and Petit Meslier. The name ‘Champagne’ can only be used under strict guidelines for sparkling wine that is made in the champagne region of France.  

In the region of champagne, some of the oldest champagne cellars have become UNESCO world heritage sites. In Reims, one such site is the chalk tunnels below the city where champagne makers such as Pommery, G.H. Martel, Ruinart, Veuve-Cliquot, and Charles Heidsieck all established their cellars. If you are ever lucky enough to visit Champagne in person, then going on an exclusive tour of these relics is a must. 

At Midas, we are here to organises your exclusive tour of the Champagne region, just be sure to think of us when you raise your first toast!

Green tea – your healthy habit

Japan, your mind slowly drifts to images of elegant ladies dressed in kimonos, delicately pouring tea into handcrafted teacups. The way of tea, or Ichi-go ichi-e as it is locally known, is just as important as enjoying the tea. According to local tradition, during a tea ceremony, the underlying Japanese ethos is that you should treat your encounter with that person as if it is the first and last encounter that you will ever have with them. The preparation of the tea is used to provide a connection between the people.

There are actually 28 varieties of tea Sencha is the most common, sweet and mild. Gyokuro has strong aromas. Hōjicha is savory but the most classic is Matcha.

Let’s talk some more about Matcha, it is bright green and made from ground-up tea leaves that are grown in Japan. Matcha is created under shade-grown conditions and is a pure powdered form.  

Matcha had 3 grades. Ceremonial, Premium and Cooking. Ceremonial is used in tea ceremonies, Premium for everyday enjoyment and the cooking grade is used for sweets . Matcha can be made in two ways, usucha (thin) and koicha (thick). 

The thin tea is made using a bamboo whisk and is made with a creamy head. The thicker variation has no cream. It has a dense syrup like constancy and is dark forest green in colour.

In Tokyo, you don’t have to go to a formal tea ceremony to experience your Matcha, You can go to a tea house, which is a lot more relaxed and has a cafe-style ambiance. Nakamura Tokichi, founded in 1854 in Uji Shi, is one such place. It is a UNESCO world heritage site. It serves all varieties of Matcha and delicious desserts to accompany them. 

I’m sure this article has got you curious to try your very own Matcha, in Japan. At Midas, we are here to orchestrate this unique experience for you. We will look after all the details, remembering to dot our i’s and cross our tea’s!

Train travel can also be classy

When we hear the words Orient Express our minds drift to the 1930’s Agatha Christie murder mystery. But this is a different story, not Murder on the Orient Express, but Opulence on the Orient Express! Built in 1883, this has to be one of the most famous trains in the world. Dripping in history and elegance, a journey on her is a true step back in time. Right now, you can enjoy its full elegance visiting Venice, London, Paris, and Verona. This exclusive trip has to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, not to be missed.

Another particular locomotive journey not to be missed is the magical trip through the Swiss Alps. Claimed to be the most sought-after seats in Switzerland, you travel across 291 bridges and through 91 tunnels, with an onboard concierge service catering to your every need. 

In upper-class cabins, you are guaranteed a window seat as you gaze at the Alpine panorama whilst sipping complimentary champagne. Enjoy your amuse-bouche before relaxing at a 5-course meal featuring traditional dishes accompanied by regional wines. Imagine yourself travelling through the Swiss Alps with an array of culinary delights to sample. Afterwards, you can enjoy drinks in their onboard bar.

If these beautiful train journeys have got you excited and ready to travel again, leave it to Midas to make it happen, but they are moving fast! Adventure awaits..

Have a sommelier come to your home

Would you like to host a wine tasting evening at your home, where you can taste and smell the origins of each wine?Invite your friends for a fun, interactive, and informative evening, where they are guaranteed to leave having learned something new, while enjoying a sundowner on your terrace.

A private wine tasting experience, presented in the comfort of your own home by a qualified sommelier, is a fantastic way to entertain family and friends. Sample exquisite local and international wines, have the process of each grape variety explained, as well as how to source for yourself excellent wines for your home or events.

This experience combines the past, present, and future. Listen to interesting facts about how these particular bottles have made their way from the grapevine to your home. Ask the sommelier to inspect your own wine cellar and choose the most appropriate wines for your dinner whilst explaining their source. Share this moment with your friends and family and remember the knowledge you’ve gained. Or if you have your own business, why not arrange a sommelier to come to your next corporate team building session.

Read more here about wine local in our Wine Treasures of Malta article.

Midas can orchestrate this enchanting evening for you, giving you the rest of the time to fully relax and enjoy the experience