Review: High-End and Handcrafted

By Sharon Letts

Historically, partaking of a fine cigar that’s hand-rolled with tobacco leaves was considered the height of sophistication. Add cannabis, and the experience is not only more healthful, it adds a new level of refinement to the cannabis industry’s high-end offerings.

Handmade by skilled craftspeople, the cigar became a trademark of celebrities and politicians alike. A private club, a smoking jacket, and a pricey cigar are still considered status symbols, implying privilege and power.

According to, the earliest hand-rolled cigars came from Cuba, with factories established in Spain, France, England, and Germany by the late 1700s. By the end of the 1800s, cigars were largely made by machine. Hand-rolled versions were pricey and rare; and fine Cuban cigars were banned for import for decades, due to politics.

The skill can take up to a year to master, and is often handed down through generations. Completely crafted by hand, the process consists of layering one leaf over the next. Wrapping is said to be the most difficult task, with a special rounded knife called a “chaveta,” for trimming the filler leaves.

It’s interesting to note that not all cigars made from tobacco are rolled in the same leaf they are filled with. Often, there’s a lower quality of plant material found inside. With the new trend in cannagars, the fan leaves that are typically tossed from the same crop are used as wrapping.

Leira Cannabis Cigars of Washington state includes samples of the flowers the cannagar is made from in its wax-sealed glass tube.

Cottage Crafting

The recreational cannabis market has spawned a supply and demand situation not many could prepare for — a need to automate in warehouse space.

In legal states, that medible previously handmade in a rented industrial kitchen for the medical market, is now a recreational edible. It’s likely manufactured in bulk with automated machines and a Sous Chef overseeing staff, as grandma’s recipe is now increased to make batches in the thousands.

We often think of the “cottage industry” as a small company, with the owner and extended family sitting around the kitchen table, garage, or a small rented space – all chipping in for the benefit of the family and town they live in.

The truth is, prior to the Industrial Revolution, small manufacturers were actually the norm around the world, keeping profits in the family and close to home. They were the backbone of rural America, keeping families and communities afloat, and Main Street U.S.A. prosperous.

According to the website, How the Market Works, this type of industry was initially called the “Putting Out System.” Large orders were filled, and many contractors produced the same product to specifications.

This system ensured that many hands in many towns were employed, rather than one large manufacturing facility reaping all the funds and depleting resources in one region. It was a sharing of the wealth system that worked for decades.

Fine Cannabis Cottage Industry

Cannabis cigars, referred to as “cannagars” or “magars,” are just one example of a product that cannot be automated. Each cannagar can take one person an hour to make.

Cannagars are filled with ground flower that’s pressed around a thin wooden dowel for air passage, which is removed prior to packaging. Fan leaves are then wrapped around the ground material, secured with a string for curing, then removed prior to smoking or packaging. Variations include adding rosin, hash or concentrated oil to the ground plant material inside.

Depending on the size of the cannagar, the partaker could have up to five hours of enjoyment or medicating.

Cannagar producers include Acme 420 Magars in Denver, Colorado; Artisan Canna Cigars in Southern California; Leira, in Washington state; and Jean Carlos Magar, which is based in Los Angeles.

Cannagar Etiquette

Ariel Payopay, owner of Liera, demonstrates the proper way to smoke one of its hand-rolled cannagars on YouTube. He cuts off the end with a “double blade guillotine,” then lights it with a “torch lighter.”

Cigar smoking has its own language, protocol, and tool set. The torch, Payopay implores, is not to be confused with a butane torch, which is used for smoking dabs or concentrates.

The only difference noted between smoking a tobacco-laden cigar and a cannagar is inhaling deeply – rather than just puffing tobacco for the flavor. It’s a more purposeful partaking — either for medicating or recreating — to relax or play.

Leira currently offers two styles of cannagars on its website: $100 gets you a Cannarillo, filled with 4 grams of cannabis and an estimated flight time of one hour, and the Corona, filled with 12 grams of cannabis, with an estimated four-five hours of smoking pleasure at $420 retail value.

The Leira comes in a glass tube that’s sealed with wax. It also comes with a few samples of flower added inside as an example of what it’s filled with.

Boutique Sourcing

Roger Hinkley and Nathan Zeeb met in December of 2016 during The Emerald Cup in Northern California where each showcased their individual hand-rolling skills in competition. The two fine-tuned their skill sets, inspired by past hand-rolling guru, Afgoo Head, who co-founded the Southern California-based Artisan Canna Cigars in 2017.

Initially, Hinkley said, they had a tough time convincing retailers to carry its pricey, labor intensive product — until they were featured on Viceland’s premier episode of “Bong Appetit” in December 2017.

“After that episode aired, everything changed, and our product is now available in 30 stores in California, in many regions,” Hinkley shared. “Everything we produce is small batch, averaging around 250 cannagars a month.”

The beauty of the cottage industry is the ability to source from equally small farms, or what Hinkley calls, “boutique gardens.”

“We both have an appreciation for handcrafted items – from woodworking to welding, something made by hand just has a certain feel to it, you can tell it was made with care,” Hinkley explained. “In the cannabis industry we have extremely talented small batch, craft cannabis farmers to work with; and we feel they bring a quality to our product not found in large-scale commercial grows.”

Cannabis Connoisseur

Philip Wolf is a cannabis sommelier, and founder of high-end event company, Cultivating Spirits, in Colorado. He pairs fine dining with fine flower and fine libations in beautiful settings. Wolf is extremely pleased to see the cannabis smoking experience elevated to a higher standard.

Wolf also co-founded the Cannabis Wedding Expo in Denver with Bec Koop, of Irie Weddings and Events. The two have revolutionized the use and presence of cannabis within a mainstream, multi-billion dollar wedding industry, and have witnessed the high-end weed accoutrements that now surround the occasion.

“It’s extremely satisfying to see fine cannabis products presented in this way,” Wolf said. “Cannagars would be a perfect fit for any number of parties surrounding a wedding – including the bachelorette party. It would also make a fine wedding present.”

High-end, handcrafted smoking was inevitable within the burgeoning recreational market. Thankfully, the process is being undertaken by people who believe in quality over quantity, and they will continue to provide the old-fashioned way – winning over patients and partakers alike, one painstakingly rolled cannagar at a time.

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Emerald contributor since March 2012


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