Perfect Cuban Cigar Rolling: Havana's Guide
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 9 min read


  1. Select the right materials
  2. Prepare the tobacco leaves
  3. Shape the bunch
  4. Apply the binder
  5. Form the head and cap
  6. Inspect the cigar
  7. Store the cigar properly
  8. How to light a cigar
  9. How to smoke a cigar
  10. Common cigar rolling mistakes and how to avoid them

If you've ever been intrigued by the artistry behind Cuban cigar rolling in Havana, you're in good company. This centuries-old tradition is steeped in culture and craftsmanship, and gaining a deeper understanding can elevate your appreciation of a quality cigar. So, let's dive into the process and uncover the secrets of creating the perfect Cuban cigar, right from selecting the right materials to how to smoke it just right.

Select the right materials

The first step towards mastering Cuban cigar rolling in Havana—or anywhere, for that matter—is handpicking the right materials. The choice of tobacco leaves, the binder, and the wrapper can make or break your cigar-rolling game.

  • Tobacco Leaves: The core of your cigar is the blend of tobacco leaves. A good blend usually consists of three types of leaves—ligero, seco, and volado. Ligero leaves are spicy and full-bodied, seco leaves offer the aroma, and volado leaves ensure an even burn. All these leaves should be well-aged for a rich flavor profile.
  • The Binder: This is the leaf that holds the bunch of tobacco leaves together. It's typically a strong, flexible, and less attractive leaf that doesn't quite make the cut for the outer wrapper. But don't underestimate its role—it's key to the cigar's structure.
  • The Wrapper: This is the outermost leaf, the one that everyone sees. It's ideally smooth, supple and without blemishes. The wrapper contributes significantly to the cigar's overall flavor and is usually the most expensive component.

Remember, the process of Cuban cigar rolling in Havana is not just about skill—it's also about using quality materials. So, take the time to source the best, because your cigar is only as good as what goes into it.

Prepare the tobacco leaves

Now that you've got your materials, let's move to the second step of Cuban cigar rolling in Havana: prepping the tobacco leaves. This involves a process known as 'stripping' the leaves, which is removing the central vein from each leaf. This vein is quite thick, and leaving it in can interfere with the burn of your cigar.

How do you strip a leaf? Here's a simple step-by-step guide:

  1. Hydrate the leaf: Before you start, ensure the leaf is moist. A dry leaf can easily tear, so lightly spray water over your tobacco leaf. Not too much—just enough to make it pliable.
  2. Strip the leaf: Starting from the top of the leaf, gently pull down the central vein towards the stem. Be careful not to rip the leaf. The vein should come off relatively easily if the leaf is adequately hydrated.
  3. Sort the leaves: Once stripped, sort the leaves by size and type. This will make the next step, shaping the bunch, easier for you.

Once you've prepared all your leaves, you're one step closer to rolling your own Cuban cigar. Remember, practice makes perfect—don't be disheartened if your first few tries aren't flawless. The journey is as rewarding as the destination, especially when the destination is a perfectly rolled Cuban cigar.

Shape the Bunch

With your tobacco leaves prepared, we are now ready for the next step in Cuban cigar rolling in Havana: shaping the bunch. This is where your cigar starts to take shape—literally.

Follow these steps to shape your bunch:

  1. Gather your leaves: Grab your sorted leaves. Typically, smaller leaves are placed in the center with larger leaves wrapped around them. This helps create a uniform and consistent shape and burn.
  2. Roll your bunch: Starting from the foot (the end you light) and moving towards the head (the end you smoke from), tightly roll your leaves together. Make sure you maintain an even pressure. Too loose, and your cigar will burn too quickly; too tight, and it might not burn at all.
  3. Trim the ends: Using a chaveta—a traditional cigar rolling knife—trim any excess leaves from the foot and head of your cigar. This helps ensure a smooth, even burn.

Shaping the bunch might seem tricky at first, but don't worry. With a little patience and practice, you'll be rolling cigars like a seasoned pro. Remember, the goal here is consistency. You want your cigar to burn evenly from start to finish, and that starts with a well-shaped bunch.

Apply the Binder

So, you've shaped your bunch. The smell of the Havana air is starting to mix with the scent of your freshly rolled tobacco leaves. Now, the next step in Cuban cigar rolling in Havana is applying the binder. This is the ‘glue’ that holds our lovely cigar together.

Here's how you apply the binder:

  1. Pick the binder leaf: Choose a strong, pliable leaf. This is the backbone of your cigar, so pick wisely. The binder leaf is often a lower quality leaf than the wrapper but it's no less important.
  2. Wrap the binder: Starting from the foot of your cigar, wrap the binder leaf around your bunch. Make sure it's secure but not too tight—you don't want to choke the life out of your cigar.
  3. Secure the binder: Once you've wrapped your binder around the cigar, you'll need to secure it. This is where a bit of cigar glue comes in. Don't worry, this isn’t your regular, run-of-the-mill glue. It's a natural adhesive made from fruit and vegetable extracts. Apply a small amount to the edge of the binder leaf and press it down gently. Voila! Your cigar should now hold its shape.

Applying the binder is a delicate process that requires a gentle touch. But with a bit of practice, you'll soon become a pro at this crucial stage of Cuban cigar rolling in Havana.

Form the Head and Cap

Getting closer, aren't we? You've bunched, bound, and now it's time for the next step in Cuban cigar rolling in Havana — forming the head and cap. This is where the real magic happens, where your cigar starts to look like, well, a cigar!

  1. Shape the head: First, you need to shape the head of the cigar. This is the end from which you'll be smoking, so it needs to be just right. Using a sharp, precise tool known as a chaveta, trim the excess binder leaf to form the head of the cigar. Remember, this is an art, not a race. Take your time and get it right.
  2. Prepare the cap: Now, onto the cap. This is the small piece of tobacco that secures the wrapper leaf and completes the cigar. To make the cap, take a small piece of tobacco leaf and apply a bit of cigar glue. Again, be cautious with the glue. A little goes a long way.
  3. Apply the cap: Finally, it's time to apply the cap to the head of the cigar. Carefully place the cap on the head and smooth it out. This is the finishing touch, so make sure it's perfect. The cap should be smooth and secure, with no loose edges.

There you have it— you've just formed the head and cap of your Cuban cigar. It's a little tricky, but once you get the hang of it, you'll see it's all part of the fun of Cuban cigar rolling in Havana.

Inspect the Cigar

Phew! We've come a long way, haven't we? But before you get too excited, let's take a step back and inspect our handiwork. This is an important part of Cuban cigar rolling in Havana, making sure that the cigar is up to standard.

  1. Check the construction: First, feel the cigar gently with your fingers. It should be firm, but not too hard. If you find any soft spots or lumps, that might mean there's a problem with the bunching or the binder. We don't want that, do we?
  2. Examine the cap and head: Next, inspect the cap and head of the cigar. The cap should be smooth and well-secured, while the head should be neatly shaped. Any irregularities here might affect the smoking experience.
  3. Look at the wrapper: Lastly, examine the wrapper leaf. It should be smooth, without any tears or cracks. The color should be uniform, and it should have a nice sheen to it. A good wrapper is a sign of a well-made cigar.

Remember, you're not just rolling a cigar, you're creating a work of art. A true Havana-style Cuban cigar is a thing of beauty, and every detail matters. So take your time, inspect carefully, and make sure your cigar is nothing short of perfect.

Store the Cigar Properly

Once you've confirmed your work of art is perfect, it's time to store it correctly. The way you store your Havana-style Cuban cigar can greatly affect its flavor and longevity. Here's how you can do it right:

  1. Invest in a Humidor: This is a special box designed to keep your cigars at the right humidity level. Havana is known for its humid climate, so storing your Cuban cigar in a humidor replicates that environment.
  2. Monitor the Humidity: The ideal humidity level for your cigars should be between 65% and 70%. Too dry, and the cigar burns too fast and loses flavor. Too humid, and it becomes hard to light and draw smoke from.
  3. Keep the Temperature Steady: The temperature should be around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Too hot, and you risk hatching tobacco beetles that can ruin your cigars. Too cold, and the cigars might dry out.
  4. Don’t Mix Different Cigars: Stronger cigars can influence the flavor of milder ones. So, if possible, keep them separated in different compartments.

Remember, proper storage is just as important as perfect rolling when it comes to enjoying the true Cuban cigar experience. So, take this step seriously, and your Havana-style cigars will thank you for it!

How to Light a Cigar

Lighting a Cuban cigar is almost an art form in Havana. It's not as simple as striking a match and puffing away. Here are some steps to ensure you light your cigar correctly:

  1. Choose Your Lighting Tool: Matches, cedar spills, or butane lighters are all acceptable choices. However, avoid using gasoline lighters or candles as they can ruin the cigar's flavor.
  2. Warm the Foot: Before you start puffing, hold the flame under the foot (the open end) of the cigar. Rotate it to warm and evenly char the end. This is called 'toasting' and it will help your cigar burn evenly.
  3. Start Drawing: Now, put the cigar in your mouth, hold the flame to the foot again, and start drawing in. Rotate the cigar to ensure an even light.
  4. Check the Burn: Pull the cigar away and check if the end is glowing evenly. If not, you might need to touch it up with the flame a bit.

And there you have it! You're now ready to savor your Havana-style Cuban cigar. Just remember, take your time - a good cigar is meant to be enjoyed leisurely. Rushing the lighting process can lead to an uneven burn and a less enjoyable experience.

How to Smoke a Cigar

Now that your Cuban cigar is lit, you might be wondering how to properly smoke it. Havana's cigar aficionados have some tips for you:

  1. Take it Slow: A good Cuban cigar isn't something to rush. Take a puff every minute or so to keep it lit and enjoy the flavors.
  2. Don't Inhale: Unlike cigarette smoke, you don't inhale cigar smoke. Instead, draw the smoke into your mouth, savor the flavor, and then blow it out. If you're new to cigar smoking, it might take a bit to get used to.
  3. Hold with Care: Hold the cigar between your index finger and thumb. Avoid clutching it in your fist or between your index and middle finger like a cigarette.
  4. Rotate Your Cigar: Every once in a while, rotate your cigar. This helps it burn evenly and enhances the smoking experience.
  5. Respect the Ash: Unlike cigarettes, you don't need to constantly flick the ash off a cigar. A long ash is a sign of a well-constructed cigar. However, when it gets too long, gently tap it off.

And there you have it! By following these tips, you'll be smoking your Cuban cigar like a true Havana local. Just remember, cigar smoking is about relaxation and enjoyment—so take your time and savor the experience.

Common Cigar Rolling Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Well, even the most seasoned Havana cigar rollers make a few mistakes. But, fear not! We've compiled a list of common blunders in Cuban cigar rolling and how you can steer clear of them:

  1. Using Dry Tobacco Leaves: If your tobacco leaves crack while you're rolling, they're probably too dry. Remember to keep them in a controlled and humid environment to maintain their pliability.
  2. Overfilling the Bunch: It's tempting to pack in as much tobacco as you can to get a hefty cigar. However, overfilling can lead to a tight draw, which makes it hard to smoke. Use just the right amount of tobacco for a smooth smoking experience.
  3. Applying Too Much Pressure: While rolling, applying too much pressure can result in a hard cigar. On the other hand, too little pressure can make your cigar too loose and it won't burn properly. It's all about finding that sweet spot!
  4. Ignoring the Cap: The cap is what keeps the cigar from unraveling and drying out. Neglecting to create a proper cap is a surefire way to ruin your Cuban cigar rolling masterpiece.
  5. Improper Storage: Even after rolling the perfect Cuban cigar, improper storage can ruin it. Keep your cigars in a humidor to maintain the right humidity and temperature.

By avoiding these common mistakes, you're on your way to mastering the art of Cuban cigar rolling in Havana. Remember, practice makes perfect!

If you found this blog post on perfect Cuban cigar rolling intriguing and want to explore more unique topics and creative skills, check out Daisie's classes. Some of the best minds in various artistic fields are gathered here to share their knowledge and help you grow in your own creative journey.