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Machine-made cigars are typically made with scraps of homogenized tobacco and are mass-produced. Handmade cigars on the other hand may include both those cigars made entirely by hand and those that are machine-bunched but hand-finished.
Generally, the draw, feel, and construction of a machine-bunched & hand-rolled cigar and a true hand-rolled one appear much the same. Often, only the price of the cigar enables one to tell the difference. Machine-bunched cigars have been made since the 1950s, and while they are usually less expensive, they can be hard to distinguish because they are also often described as handmade cigars. This is not necessarily a misnomer, however, because a great deal of hand labor does indeed go into each product. The draw is usually 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, placed into the cigar molds, 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.
Enjoyed what you learned in this article? Be sure to check out some of our other interesting articles on cigar seconds, cigar bundles, and more! And don't forget to browse our full selection of both machine-made cigars and handmade cigars to compare for yourself!