We all know the difference between a machine made
cigar and a handmade cigar. Machine made cigars are typically made with scraps of homogenized tobacco and are mass-produced. But when it comes to handmade cigars, there is an important distinction within this category. Cigars that claim to be handmade may include both those made entirely by hand and those that are machine-bunched but hand-finished.
Often, only price enables one to tell the difference between a machine-bunched & hand-rolled cigar and a true hand-rolled one, as the draw, feel, and construction appears much the same. Machine-bunched cigars have been made since the 1950s. While they are usually less expensive, it can be hard to distinguish because these are also often described as handmade cigars. It is not necessarily a misnomer, however, because a great deal of hand labor does indeed go into each product. The draw is often as good as that of a true handmade cigar, often even better, because a machine is more consistent in forming the bunch than a human. Cuba is particularly notable for producing a large number of such machine-bunched and hand-finished cigars, and these sometimes are made with short filler.
A typical way of making this cigar would be to feed the pre-blended filler leaf into a machine that automatically bunches it. While this is happening, another worker places a rough-cut binder leaf over a template, whereupon a mechanized blade trims the leaf precisely to the required form. The binder is then picked up mechanically and glued with clear vegetable gum to hold the filler leaf, which is rolled into the binder before the finished bunch tumbles gently onto a conveyor belt. This is then picked up by hand, trimmed, and placed into the cigar moulds and pressed. Then, the machine-bunched cigar is treated exactly like a handmade one. It goes to the hand-roller who applies the wrapper the same way as he would for a totally handmade product. The cigar then follows the standard steps of manufacture, including the quality inspection, color-sorting and aging processes.
Want to learn how to roll a cigar? Check out this step by step article on Cigar Rolling Process