The making of cigars at La Aurora is carried out under a quality assurance system specifically designed to achieve the result sought in a cigar: to offer the smoker a cigar with a certain appearance, flavor, aroma, and strength. To achieve this, the staff of La Aurora’s Quality Department is present throughout the entire cigar manufacturing process.
Eight levels of quality assurance
In short, at La Aurora we perform eight levels of quality assurance:
- Performance and operation: analysis of the draw (not too high, not too low) and the smoke. “That is the cigar’s function—burning perfectly to produce smoke; that is to say, the goal is to produce the quantity and with the quality that gives out the best perceptions of flavor, aromas, strengths” emphasizes La Aurora’s Quality Manager, Willman Hernández.
- Aesthetics: the cigar’s shape.
- Special features: defined by the master blender of La Aurora, Manuel Inoa, in terms of notes, strength, etc.
- Compliance with product standards.
- Cigar durability.
- Quality perceived by others: consumers are the experts and the ones who can say if a cigar is good or not.
- The quality of the product and the service, which is a combination of all aspects.
- Reliability: what consumers buy should give them the confidence to buy again in the future. Smokers are the experts, the ones who can say if a cigar is good or not.
In this sense, the staff of La Aurora’s Quality Department is present throughout the entire manufacturing process: from raw materials purchase—and processes such as primary, drying, classification and destemming—to the cigar production area, the laboratory, the packaging stage, etc.
Guaranteeing the cigar blend
Specifically, we work to guaranteethe blend defined by the master blender. Depending on the origin leaf level, each type of tobacco has its own characteristics in terms of aroma, flavor, strength, combustibility, etc. When the different tobaccos are mixed, they form a blend with specific characteristics.
In Quality Assurance, we work to “ensure that the blend defined is easily achieved in the placement of leaves in the tobacco factory, as this will allow for the consistency necessary for a brand,” as the Quality Manager of La Aurora emphasizes.
“We make sure that mainly the bunchers—those who make the blend—carry out the mixtures with the precise amounts,” explains Willman. The characteristics of a cigar depend on what the company and the master blender have defined for that cigar. Our goal is to ensure that this blend is obtained smoothly.
The premium cigar smoker uses all five senses when tasting a cigar. He/she uses his eyesight to check the aesthetics of the cigar and hearing to test if it’s too dry or too wet. In addition, he/she uses touch to check the construction of the cigar; smell, when cold and when lit, to appreciate aromas, and taste to detect the notes both when cold and once the cigar is lit.
Therefore, controls are also applied to ensure the cigar’s aesthetics:
- Wrapper brightness and color: not all wrappers are glossy, but the tobacco-maker, when stretching it with his fingers, manages to make it shine and to make it adhere better when wrapping it. “The goal is to make the wrapper look sharp and bright,” Willman details. Another control aims to ensure that the veins are not very protruding, since certain types of tobacco have very strong veins.
- Excellent construction: no bumps or holes in the cigar. To ensure this, at La Aurora we make sure that the leaves are correctly arranged, so that, when you squeeze and feel them, the fingers do not sink in.
- Perfect cap: although the cap is cut when smoking, it is one of the aspects that needs to be more perfect. “It is part of the aesthetic,” says La Aurora’s Quality Manager.
- Absence of stains and cracking in the cigar.
- Uniform ash. A compact, solid, light gray ash is a sign of good cigar construction and tobacco quality.
Supervision of the cigar’s construction
In addition to the cigar’s appearance, it must be perfect when smoking. In this aspect, we guarantee that the cigar is not too tight nor lacks tobacco. We also ensure that the tobacco leaves are arranged as defined by the company. The objective is to avoid the presence of tunnels and bumps in the cigar.
“The bunchers are the ones who carry out the most critical process, more than the rollers,” explains Willman Hernández. And he adds: “The buncher is the one who makes the blend and builds the cigar. He must ensure that the tobacco from the ligerolevel is in the center, followed by the viso, and the secoin the outside; in case the blend includes all three leaf levels.”
For a perfect smoke, we must also control the homogenization of the different humidity levels of the tobaccos that form the cigar’s blend. “The ideal humidity to allow for smoking a cigar is 13.5,” says Willman. In the aging room, the different humidity levels of the three parts of a cigar (filler, binder and wrapper) are homogenized.”
Finally, in La Aurora we carry out a strict control for detection and elimination of Lasioderma, which is the number one enemy of tobacco. To avoid the appearance of this insect we carry out a double process, which is very expensive but effective: fumigation with phosphine and cold treatment of the cigar.
“With both methods, we ensure the elimination of Lasioderma in any of its four stages. It is a costly process, but we guarantee that the cigar will be free of infestation,” points out Willman Hernández.
Involving all staff in quality assurance
To ensure quality in production, in La Aurora “we involve and make participants out of all staff members, from the first processes undergone by tobacco, to the making of the cigar, as well as packaging,” highlights Willman Hernandez. “We work so that quality is perceived. We have to release the cigar with the quality that is required,” emphasizes the Quality Manager.
The tools to achieve the excellent quality levels we endorse in La Aurora consist in having a dedicated and motivated workforce, having the best and more experienced cigar-makers in the country and a production system suitable for these purposes: “It is a manual, artisanal industry, but it follows procedures and instructions,” says Willman.
All this, along with the control of the materials (boxes, rings, cases, among others); supervision of the methods; and warranties at the moment of materials reception and product dispatching.