Among the most attractive things in the presentation of cigars we should definitely mention the bands. They provide the cigars with elegance and glamour. There are many stories (most of them legends) that retell the birth of these appealing and nowadays essential rings. One of them states that Queen Catherine the Great had the idea of covering a portion of the cigar with silk so that her hands wouldn’t get stained. However, it has been repeatedly said that the mere whim of a Russian queen would have never been a reason strong enough to modify so radically and largely the design of the cigars in the whole world.
Another story says that the English lords, who used to wear white gloves, complained about the ugly stains their gloves had after smoking a cigar. Nevertheless, this story is also supposed to be nothing but a romantic approach, because it was later proved that after the introduction of the band the English lords (and basically every single smoker) rarely held their cigars on the band, and they would usually get rid of their gloves when feeling like smoking.
There’s a third tale that assures that, at first, the band was used to prevent the cigar from unwrapping. This, as the previous two stories, has much of a legend and very little of facts, since the first brands to introduce the band were actually the ones that were considered to be among the best at the time. Saying that this was the reason why the manufacturers began to use it, would be foolishly questioning the quality standards of those excellent brands.
Undoubtedly, the story that most connoisseurs agree upon as the most likely to be true is the one that says that bands were introduced because the Cuban manufacturers found out that their cigars were being copied and commercialized by the Germans. In order to prevent this from happening, Gustave Bock created the cigar band in the 19th century with the aim of marking every single item that was going to be exported. As time passed by, all the manufacturers saw this was a very good way to make it difficult for the counterfeiters and began to produce their own bands.
The truth is that bands slowly became much more than a simple measure against falsification; many of them became real pieces of art. In fact, with the boom of the cigar band many people began to collect cigar bands for pleasure. There were even people that would cover ashtrays and other everyday-life items with cigar bands. However, after the competitiveness of the market forced many brands to merger with others, and many other brands to just disappear; it was every time harder and considerably more expensive for the collectors to find new items. That’s why this tradition faded in most countries. However, in Cuba there are still many men that are completely devoted to collecting these valuable pieces of history.
At the Cuban cigar factories, the banders are all women. Their task is to delicately apply a band to each cigar and make sure that all of them are correctly aligned according to their bands. This whole process is carried out totally by hand. The bands need to be attached to the cigar with the correct amount of glue, so that it doesn’t fall off or leak out. They also have to make sure that the band is not too tight or loose in order to avoid the wrapper from being damaged or the band from falling off, correspondingly.
There has been a long-standing debate among connoisseurs and regular smokers about whether or not the band should be removed from the cigar before smoking. Many say that the band should be taken off the cigar before smoking it, mainly for the sake of elegance and chivalry. It is said that someone that leaves his cigar’s band on is most likely to be trying to show off or advertise the brand he is smoking.
Some other cigar enthusiasts claim that the band should be left on the cigar owing to the delicateness of the wrapper leaves nowadays. They say that taking onto account the current prices of the cigars, it would be very sad to spoil one just trying to follow a rule that doesn’t make the cigar tastier or longer-lasting.
Other experts just prefer to remove the band from the cigar after they have been perfectly lit. What we can conclude from these different opinions is that removing the band or not, is completely up to the smoker. Though the connoisseurs might never come to an agreement on this topic, this should not stop you from making your own decision, because, whatever you do, it is just a step on your way into the glory of cigar-smoking.