Those wonderful lads at Trinidad have done it again — this past week a Cuban Master Cigar Roller, Mr. Hamlet Jaime Paredes has been making the rounds at local divans here in Kuala Lumpur demonstrating the fine art of cigar rolling. To say the least, large crowds at each of the venues have been enthralled by his skill and mastery. Its no wonder that this young man won the Partagas Anniversary Master Cigar Roller Competition in 2001 when he was just 26 years old.

Master Roller, Hamlet Jaime Paredes

Speaking to him during the event at The Cigar Divan, Eastin Hotel, i learned that he’s been rolling cigars in the Partagas Factory in Havana, Cuba these past 10 years. Enrolling in the Partagas academy at the tender age of 18, it took him about 9 months of intensive training before he was allowed to roll for the factory proper, producing commercial cigars. Since then, his talent was recognized early, and his progression up the ranks of rollers in the factory has been swift.

Today, a large part of his responsibilities lie in overseas assignments such as the one that brings him to Kuala Lumpur this week, and Hong Kong next week. He tells me he travels extensively as a “cigar ambassador” partly because his command of the English language is unusually fluent.

Depending on the vitola he’s assigned for a particular day, he normally rolls 100-150 cigars a day while in the factory. When asked what qualifies a cigar roller as a “master roller”, he revealed modestly that consistency is the main qualifying criteria. He’s able to roll cigars of any particular vitola with up to 98% uniformity — for every 100 cigars he rolls, just 2 or fewer sticks are rejected by the stringent quality controls of the factory. Virtually every cigar he rolls is exactly the same in terms of weight, length, size and ring gauge. Watching him in live action during his demonstration, i personally watched him roll 10 cigars in just over 30 minutes with EXACT uniformity. Every cigar, barring the natural differences in the shades of tobacco used, is uncompromisingly similar.

Looking at this rate of of precise production, i asked him how he does it — at no point during the rolling process does he use at rulers or ring gauge measures to assist him. Coyly, he answered, “Experience is the key.” Experience indeed. Only 28 years of age this year, one can only imagine the heights this young man will achieve in the years to come. Perhaps he’ll start his own brand of cigars one day to complement the already impressive offerings from Cuba. At this suggestion, he could only laugh, with a shy, “Perhaps, one day.” Perhaps, indeed.