Second Week – Began with Sorting

Before beginning today’s post, I wish to tell you that I am writing tonight with a heavy heart filled with profound sadness at the passing of one of my pets.  It is hard knowing that I wasn’t able to be with her during her last few days.  And I want to also gratefully thank my neighbors who were looking after her and can only imagine what they must have gone through during this process. Words cannot express my gratitude for what they have done for me.  Kevin R. will always be a great friend, an awesome neighbor and more than that he is a brother through and through.  I will never forget what you have done for my family.  Thank You!

Today I was exposed to pre-production sorting.  This is the last sort that the tobacco goes through before being rolled into cigars.  I say “last sort” as there is another sorting process that occurs after fermentation.  The tobacco is first sorted before it is aged in bales.  More on this sorting in the days to come as well as more information about this aging stage.

After starting the day, I was taken to the room where the tobacco is aged and shown how they determine when the tobacco is ready for its pre-production sort.  I don’t yet know if smelling the tobacco is the only test conducted.  To me it seems that this smell test is the primary test conducted.  I hope to learn more this week and will update you on any new discoveries.

After the tobacco is selected for pre-production sorting it is delivered to the staff that performs this sort.  Today I was provided the opportunity to sort both seco and viso tobacco and each had a different sorting requirement

I started the day sorting seco and was shown that there is only one requirement, is it a whole unblemished tobacco leaf.  If it is unblemished it goes into the good pile and if it isn’t it goes into the bad pile.  The good pile is then used in the filler of premium cigars and the bad will be used for bundled blends.

The two larger piles of tobacco on the left side of the picture are bad piles while the smaller pile, just to the right of the bad piles, is the good pile.  The good piles were turned over to the staff responsible for bundling up tobacco for the rollers, a position they call blending at AJ’s, while the bad piles were turned over to others who appeared to be boxing up the tobacco for a future use.

After lunch I was moved over to sort viso tobacco.  It was here that the sorting requirements were more stringent.  The tobacco had to be of even thickness, and have no thin areas at all, followed by a color review, and it had to be good (see seco’s definition of good to understand).  And today was the first time I was told which cigar would be using the tobacco I was processing, the viso would be used in rolling the New World, the first cigar that AJ and his father blended together at AJ’s factory.

It was here that I also learned something else about the different primings.  Seco tends to be thinner while viso tends to be thicker and that viso provides flavor.  Which makes since as it is the viso primings that are generally used for wrapper, and I know that the wrapper provides most of a cigar’s flavor.  I just didn’t put “2+2” together to determine this on my own.

In the above picture the good piles are the two large piles on the right side of the picture and the bad pile is the small one in the upper left.  The remaining pile, the one in between these two piles, is a pile of tobacco I was sorting.

It seemed to me that more of the viso was good than seco and this may have everything to do with how thick the tobacco is.  Seco, being thinner, may have a tendency to become damaged through the various processes more than viso does.  This statement is based purely on observation. 

I also learned another interesting fact today.  AJ has tobacco from all over the world and the two countries that surprised me were China and Italy.  Which cigars use these tobaccos remains a mystery.  I just found it surprising that these two countries grow and sell tobacco.  

That was my day today.  My host and I were discussing where I am to work tomorrow and we decided to hold off going to the curing barn for a few days.  So, as it stands, I don’t know what tomorrow’s adventure brings.  Whatever it is I know this – I’m In!

Until tomorrow… Long Ashes!

PS: I’m over half way there with fulfilling my 100 hours requirement for my CMT as I believe I completed 54 hours today.