V - Finishing
1 - Sorting the colours
No product on earth enjoys a more painstaking treatment in its presentation and packaging, starting with the perfect color-matching of the wrappers.
Wrappers come in many finely distinguished shades of color, and great care is taken to ensure that all of the cigars in any one box are the exact same shade.
The color of a Habano wrapper is purely natural in origin - no artificial process is used to force it. Leaves from the upper levels of the plant are naturally darker, and become darker still in the course of fermentation.
Among the most senior workers in the factory are the Escogedores – color graders – who work in pairs to color-match the wrappers in any box or bundle of Habanos.
One Escogedor sorts the cigars en masse, dividing them by colors and shades of each color in a pattern of columns and rows that may well represent 60 or more finely distinguished shades.
A second Escogedor then sorts the cigars within each shade, one box-full at a time, ordering them so that any slight differences in tone run dark to light from left to right across the box. The Escogedor also chooses which face of each Habano will face upwards in the box.
At any stage in these processes the Escogedores will reject any cigars that do not look good enough.
2 - Applying the bands
Cigar bands were introduced in the 1860’s by Don Gustavo Bock, a European who had arrived in Havana to make his fortune in cigars. Legend has it that the idea sprang from a desire to protect the white-gloved fingers of his more refined customers from staining.
Other explanations suggest that bands were introduced simply to differentiate between cigar brands and to make the production of fakes and imitations more difficult.
Whatever the true reason was, cigar bands grew to become the Habano’s most potent popular symbol, prized by collectors and copied by every rival.
The Anilladora – or ‘bander’ – delicately applies a band to each Habano and places them in their part-dressed box, following the Escogedor’s arrangement in every detail: same face upwards with the band appropriately aligned, and the same order left to right.
3 - Dressing the box
Cuba was first to introduce the classic labelled cigar box in the mid-19th Century, and it remains the best known form of Habano packaging.
The extravagant paper trimmings on the box are called habilitaciones, literally dressings. Each label has its own time-honored name and all of them are applied by hand.
Some labels are applied before the box is filled, and some afterwards.
Just before the box is closed and sealed there is a final quality examination by the Revisadores or inspectors.
Expert eyes scour the contents to check the color matching, the banding and, above all, the appearance of each and every Habano.
Any that fail the test are placed upside down and the whole box is returned to the Escogedor for correction.
The image on the top of the box, often reminiscent of the time when the names were literally branded onto the box with a hot iron. This is where the idea of a ‘brand name’ first came from.
A seal fixed over the nail that secures the lid of some boxes.
The decorative strip that seals the lid’s hinge.
The colored strip on the short sides of the box, often showing the size name.
A rectangular or oval seal on the short side of the box.
The colored strip on the long sides, often showing the brand.
The protective leaf of paper inside the box, decorated to complement the Vista.
A romantic pictorial celebration of the brand, often with much gold and embossing. Vistas typically feature medals that the brand has won, the coats of arms of former royal patrons, historical images and notes about the brand.
Cuba’s term for the cigar band. The common term elsewhere is la vitola (hence ‘vitolfilia’ for cigar-band collecting) but this is a word with other meanings in Cuba. A particular size and shape of Habano is also a vitola.
4 - Marks of distinction
When you have a reputation like Habanos, it is no surprise that unscrupulous persons will try to pass off their product as yours.
Here are the authenticating marks that you should look for when buying Habanos. It’s also important always to buy your cigars at authorized shops.
The warranty seal was first introduced in 1889 by Royal Decree of the King of Spain. Then in 1912 the independent Cuban Government passed a law authorizing the use of a new design, which is similar to the one in use today. It was modified slightly in 1931 and more radically in 1999 with the addition of the red serial number and an emblem that is visible only under ultra-violet light.
Most recently, in 2009, a new version was introduced with a hologram on each seal as well as an individual bar code that tracks every box of Habanos from production to each Habanos s.a. exclusive distributor anywhere in the world. The bar code allows you to find out if a box is genuine by using the Authenticity Check you will find on Habanos s.a.’s website at www.habanos.com>
Individual countries or regions have their own certifying marks as an extra, local defense against counterfeiting. These marks are the responsibility of the local exclusive distributors. For more information about the stamp in the market where you are asking your local authorized Habanos Specialist.
Since 1994 all boxes have carried the Habanos seal as a mark of the cigars’ denomination of origin. No box of Habanos is shipped from Cuba without it.
Since 1960, the bottoms of all Habano boxes have been hot-stamped with the words ‘Hecho en Cuba’. Before that time, it was often written in English (‘Made in Cuba’). Since 1994, the bottoms of the boxes have also been hot-stamped with ‘Habanos s.a.’, the name of the company that distributes Habanos worldwide. From 1985 to 1994, the name was ‘Cubatabaco’. Nowadays they are marked as shown in this section:
There are two ink-stamps on the bottoms of Habanos boxes. One is a secret code that tells the industry which factory made the cigars. The other is the month and year when they were boxed.
The dates are not in code and the year is simple enough. The system started in 2000 with ‘00’, then ‘01’ and so on. However, unless you know a little Spanish, the months may need deciphering.
ENE (Enero) January
FEB (Febrero) Frebruary
MAR (Marzo) March
ABR (Abril) April
MAY (Mayo) May
JUN (Junio) June
JUL (Julio) July
AGO (Agosto) August
SEP (Septiembre) September
OCT (Octubre) October
NOV (Noviembre) November
DIC (Diciembre) December
Habanos improve with age, so the date is important to connoisseurs.
Totalmente a Mano - Tripa Larga
Since 1989 boxes of classic, Tripa Larga – long-filler – Habanos have been hot-stamped with the words Totalmente a Mano –Totally by hand’–.
Totalmente a Mano - Tripa Corta
Boxes of short-filler Habanos are also hot-stamped with the words Totalmente a Mano – Totally by hand – and since 2002 ink stamped with the letters TC (Tripa Corta – ‘Short Filler’).
There are also some boxes of cigars that are inscribed only with “Habanos s.a.” and “Hecho en Cuba” (Made in Cuba) omitting the words “Totalmente a mano” (Totally by hand).
These are machine made cigars which are .not essentially covered by the Habanos Denomination of Origin (D.O.P). Most of them are covered by the “Cuba. Tabaco Mecanizado” Denomination of Origin (D.O.P.) for machine made cigars (see Other methods of manufacture)
Note: Ink-stamps indicating the factory and date of manufacture were first introduced on Habanos boxes in 1985 but both were in code. If you want to check the date of a box between 1985 and 1999 see Ageing finished cigars, or ask your authorised Habanos Specialist.