Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012 | 2 a.m.
In a dimly lit room 44 stories above the Strip on a recent Sunday night, employees from a computer technology company wander about, sipping cocktails, eating sushi rolls and enjoying breathtaking views of the valley.
At a table tucked along the wall, Katrina Kelley pulls out a bag of Connecticut shade tobacco and positions a leaf on a circular stone tablet.
She spritzes the leaf with water and begins shaping it using a chaveta, a blade used to cut tobacco. Next comes a bunch of packed tobacco, which she deftly begins rolling and pressing until a cigar takes shape.
With a quick twist at the end, the cigar is done and placed on the table in front of her for passing guests to pick up and enjoy.
Kelley is a professional torcedora, trained in the art of rolling cigars, but she looks nothing like the older men who traditionally have dominated the cigar-rolling profession.
Dressed in a sleek, black cocktail dress, the 25-year-old entertains the party guests while she rolls, discussing the different types of tobacco she uses and offering tips on how to enjoy the cigars.
“The Connecticut shade wrapper is very mild, very smooth,” she says. “Many people prefer this, especially if they’re a beginner.”
Kelley works for Cigar Dolls, a new company that’s found a foothold in Las Vegas and throughout the country, providing attractive, young torcedoras to roll handmade cigars at corporate events and private parties.
“What captures guests at a party is they’ve rarely experienced something like this live,” said Mark Pavlides, events manager and co-owner of Cigar Dolls. “The leaves, the technique, even the tools the rollers use are unique. You don’t have to be a cigar smoker to appreciate it.”
Kelley, who is studying for a marketing degree at the College of Southern Nevada, said she typically works two to three events per week as a Cigar Doll. Most events last two hours, during which Kelley cranks out freshly rolled cigars at a rate of about one every three minutes, although she can work faster if catering to a larger crowd.
She picked up the craft while visiting her uncle, who owns a cigar shop in Nicaragua.
“I was curious, so I spent a few weeks there helping out every day at the shop,” Kelley said.
Rolling requires nimble fingers, Kelley said, a skill she developed through years of playing the violin.
Pavlides said Cigar Dolls looked for attractive, articulate people with previous experience rolling tobacco when hiring torcedoras. The company does employ men, but torcedores are in far less demand than the women, he said.
“The folks who have seen cigar rollers before are tired of the old guy rolling cigars,” Pavlides said. “These women, they’re intelligent, they’re powerful, they have a unique talent. They’re not just eye candy; they’re fun to talk with.”
Cigar Dolls was started in 2011 and now employs rollers across the country in places such as New York City, Miami, Chicago and Los Angeles. Many of the rollers travel throughout the country and around the world to work events, with their expenses paid by Cigar Dolls.
The cost for an event varies depending on the number of cigars ordered, but smaller parties start at $1,000 with events of 100 to 200 people ranging above $10,000.
“You get lots of flavor. You can taste that it’s very distinct from a convenience shop cigar,” Kelley said of the cigars she rolls. “A lot of times at stores, you don’t know how long it’s been there. With ours, you’re guaranteed it’s fresh, that it won’t fall apart on you and that you’ll get the flavor you want from your cigar.”