It Begun With..
1. Tobacco Plantation
Preparing The Land
Indonesian farmers use the Row System so that it’s easy to control the balance of ground water values to ensure the highest quality crop yield.
Well before planting, and as a result of considerable research for the production of the Wismilak pure Indonesian premium cigar, tobacco seed is chosen from the most well known, high quality varieties for growing under the ideal Indonesian conditions. Particularly, the seed from Connecticut shade grown tobacco is reproduced and grown in Java for use as wrapper tobacco for the Wismilak Premium Cigar. The other Indonesian grown seed varieties come from Brazil, reproducing the Malta Fina tobacco for some binder tobacco and Besoeki region of Indonesia itself.
Farming in The Field
The seedlings have to be removed carefully from the seedbeds individually for transplantation into well-prepared tobacco fields. There is room for 20,000 plants per hectare. It takes 45 to 60 days for the plant to reach full maturity and the fields continue to be tended to on a daily basis for weeding, pest control, irrigation, and most importantly, to have their buds and side shoots removed.
Putting Up the ‘Naungan’ (Shade)
‘Naungan’, the Indonesian word for shade, is the key ingredient in the shade-grown, a treatment to protected from direct sunlight to retain the smooth, silky, even texture and appearance.
After 50 days of great care, harvesting of the tobacco plants can be started. In Indonesia, tobacco leaves are usually ready for picking from July through October. However, there is no exact time for harvesting. The maturity of leaves differ from one plant to another. It is the knowledge of the tobacco farmers in the field that determines whether leaves are mature enough to be picked.
Tobacco plants consist of leaves on the stem that grow in 4 different parts:
Koseran (base leaves), Kaki (lower leaves), Tengah (centre leaves), and Putjuk (top leaves).
After harvesting the tobacco, the Indonesian farmers and tobacco experts work together to begin the air curing process.
Under strict supervision we can control the temperature and humidity precisely. This air curing is different from the flue curing process used for cigarette tobaccos.
In addition, these barns always have a north or south side entry door in order to avoid sunlight from directly coming in, ensuring that this curing is purely accomplished by air and without direct sunlight that can damage the leaves.
The air curing takes around 21 days. First the leaves turn yellow, then, through the process of oxidization, they assume the golden brown which indicates that they are ready for their first phase of fermentation.
The fermentation process is done in four stages based on the parts of the leaves that are separated during the harvesting and after the air curing of the leaves has been accomplished. Fermentation is done in large barns that are temperature and humidity controlled.
In this first stage of the fermentation process 2.5 tons of tobacco are formed into a large cube measuring 2m x 4m x 3m (7′ x 13′ x 10′). The temperature and humidity of the tobacco cube is closely monitored. Once the temperature reaches 35 degrees Celsius or 95 degrees Fahrenheit, the cubes have to be rearranged by rotating the tobacco over a three week period so that the outer tobaccos are rotated to the inside, so that the every leaf is subjected to the fermentation process.
In this stage, larger cubes are formed to continue the fermentation process by combining cubes from stage one. This combination is made by bundling the upper side of one cube with the underneath side of the second cube, so the arrangement of tobaccos is smooth. This stage lasts another three weeks at 35 degrees Celsius or 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
The process continues further by again combining the cubes formed in stage two of fermenting tobaccos which at this point measure is 8 m x 4 m x 3 m (26′ x 13′ x 10′) with the weight of each cube now at 9-10 tons each! If one of the outer leaves is broken in the process, we remove it so that it won’t affect the other leaves in this stage of the fermentation process, which takes 3-4 weeks.
In this step, the two cubes of stage three are bundled together with the same arrangement and rotation as in the previous stages. The measure of one cube in this final stage of fermentation is 10m x 4m x 3m (33′ x 13′ x 10′), with physical and chemical characteristics that are now very different from the leaves in stage one or two. After what has now been twelve weeks of fermentation the texture of the leaves is thinner and more mature, with almost same color, and a strong, pungent aroma.
After the fermentation process, tobaccos are exposed to the fresh air for a few days, then the sorting or Bir-Bir process begins. The Bir-Bir process is used to classify the maturity of the tobacco leaves, so we can determine which are ready for use in the production of our premium cigars.
There are also four steps in the sorting process:
- Is used to classify the tobacco leaves by thickness.
- Stage in sorting is to classify the tobacco based on its level of perfection. There are four groups: the unblemished tobacco, slightly blemished, moderately blemished, and very blemished.
- To classify the tobacco by color. The results of this sorting are 6 color classifications: red, light red, yellow, pale yellow, blue, and the light blue tobaccos.
- The tobacco is sorted by length on a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is for the longest and 5 is for the shortest.
The result of the four stages of the Bir-Bir process is a total of 480 groups of different characteristics of tobacco. The entire Bir-Bir process is done by hand, without the use of any machines.
Packing & Aging
Once the sorting process is complete the tobaccos are packed in bales called Bal in Indonesian or Tercios in Spanish, traditionally made form rush mats. The bales are stamped with the harvest date and labeled by species of tobacco, its origin and how the tobacco will be used: wrapper, filler or binder.
While the bales are stored in warehouses, the tobacco leaves continue the aging process which refines their flavor and aroma further. The aging process is important because after the leaves have been fermented and sorted, they are still only about 90% of the way to being fully matured and ready to be used in the production of our premium cigar.
The bales remain in the warehouse undisturbed for up to three months. Once aged, to ensure perfection, one of our master cigar blenders opens the bale. He inspects and determines readiness by lighting one or two leaves, and once again, his nose will tell him whether the tobacco has reached its peak of maturity. If so, the bales are removed and taken to the factory to begin their transformation into premium cigars.
Preparing Tobaccos before rolling, we give the leaves fresh air after they come out from their cold storage until it is time for the rolling.
After being carefully separated and “refreshed” from storage in their bales, the tobacco leaves are separated from their bales by wrapper, filler, and binder. The wrapper leaves are cut into two parts, so the main vein of the leaves that is not smooth can be thrown away and the smooth part of the leaf is kept to eventually wrap the cigar with perfection and beauty.
Meanwhile, the filler and the binder tobaccos are taken to the scale room where the Wismilak Master Blender determines the exact proportion and combination of tobaccos to be used as filler and binder in order to get the desired taste.
Bunching the Filler or Kepompong
First, the filler tobacco leaves are gathered by the master blenders, combined together and bound up with the binder tobaccos and then rolled or “bunched” which is all done by hand. These bunches are then measured to make sure they have the exact diameter for the size and to get the ideal shape of the cigar.
Wrapping And Cutting
After bunching, the wrapping process is begun. One highly trained and skilled roller does this wrapping. With great care, the wrapper, which is pre-cut, is applied to the rolled bunches, resulting in a neat, soft, and smooth outer texture.
Quality Controls & Marrying
Our experienced and skilled workers are responsible for all of our production which they take very seriously. Nevertheless, the human touch at times produces variations, albeit in small numbers. To control any variation in consistency, our quality control staff and master blender look over every cigar in every step of the production process.
The finished cigars are removed from the roller’s tables in the gallery and they are taken to the sorting room for yet another round of checking and sorting. Cigars are laid on a long table and examined by our quality control experts.
Every cigar is checked by hand for proper firmness, length, shape, overall appearance and weight. If the strict quality control guidelines are not met, the non-conforming cigars are rejected.Random sampling is also conducted by our master blender to assure the cigar meets our standards for taste, burn and consistency.
After sorting process, the cigars are removed carefully and stored in a special conditioning room and packed closely together so that they have a chance to rest and ‘marry’, sharing their unique flavours and aroma with each other. The cigars are shelved here for three months, under ideal conditions, between 70 degrees Fahrenheit (18 degrees Celsius) and 72 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius) temperature, and 65% to 75% relative humidity.
During this “marrying” period random taste tests are performed as a final step in our quality control process. When the cigars are certified to be ready for the consumer, they’re removed from the conditioning room and sent to the packaging area.
This step is dedicated to achieving a perfect presentation for Wismilak cigars.
Banding, Labeling & Packed
Before being packed, all cigars are given the highly symbolic and unique Wismilak Premium Cigar band. It is wrapped around the cigar by hand and positioned close to the head and held with a dab of glue. Women do all banding because we believe that the delicate nature of banding calls for a feminine touch.
The cigars are sleeved with clear cellophane, to keep them in the best condition, even if stored for many years, and it makes it easier to carry the cigar without fear of damaging the delicate wrapper.
Finally, the cigars are ready to be packed.