Cigar Making

by Female Abroad

US boarder note: When going through customs at the airport, they didn't care what we carried as long as it wasn't above the limits. We found out later on the cruise that the rules had changed and that we can bring back 100 cigars and it didn't matter if they were in boxes or not. Canada would still only allow 50 though. As of 2021, because the USA & Cuban agreements have dissolved under Trump, you are not allowed to bring any Cuban items back into the USA so make sure to check before purchasing items to bring home with you.

Our first stop in Vinales was a cigar field to visit a guide that would take us through the cigar making process. Getting out of the car we were greeted by a chicken chasing her chicks and a guide who spoke perfect English and escorted us inside a hut before our tour guide for the day informed us that the building was actually a traditional farmers hut that they believe withstands hurricanes better than new homes do. Since this building is still standing I would say that it probably does.

I was expecting a free cigar and some honey but we ended up with a free stogie (per person) and some shots of coffee. I am not a coffee drinker at all (can't stand the taste) but after a spoon full of sugar in it, I had no problem drinking it as it was just that smooth. If you are a coffee drinker, it was all you could drink coffee.

Once we were ready we walked out of the traditional farmers hut and the guide took us over to a barn type building. Here he explained that we were there in off season so there was no fields currently for us to look at (due to the rain the day before, I was glad for this as we were not dressed for mud) and none of the actual leaves were drying but they did have a few set up that we could look at.

While checking these leaves out he explained how the leaves are cut off the plants and which leaves were used for which strength of cigar. The first two leaves closest to the stem were cut and thrown away. The next two would be used for a light flavoured cigar, the next two for a medium body, and the final leaves for a full body as they were the ones that got the most sun. Once the leaves were cut off the plant in the specific order they were then hand stitched together in bundles by the ladies with needles and thread before being hung up in the barn to dry.

When enough time had passed and the leaves were dried, they are packaged and sent into the Havana for the government to ferment. Here they would dry the leaves even more to remove the tobacco before dousing them with water to reduce it even more. After they were dry after the douching then ladies in the cigar plants would turn them into actual cigars. 90% of these cigars are kept by the government and sold through government stores under various brands (Cohiba, Romeo y Julieta, etc) but 10% are given back to the farmers who can sell them / give them away as they want but they cannot be branded.

These are thee cigars that they then tried to get us to buy at the end of the trip for 5 CUC each.

After spending time at the barn, we headed back to the hut where we watched a cigar rolling demonstration but the guide made it very clear that while we could keep this cigar we cannot smoke it. Not sure if it is just because it wasn't government made or if there is something in it that isn't healthy for us but either way, don't feel like taking the risk.

At the end, the guide had a piece of taped together paper that showed we were allowed to take 50 cigars back to Canada and of course he was hoping we would by 50. Since we were going through the US and I had checked before we left, we could only bring back government sealed boxes. The cigar guide argued with us but eventually we did end up buy one and deciding that we will take the risk as it was a really good cigar.

The tour was very informative and worth the stop. I'm not sure of the price as it was included in our private tour cost but since we were the only ones there and we got the free cigar as well as the free dummy cigar, I would recommend it if you are interested in cigars or culture.