Cigars 102: The Criollo Wrapper
Every now and then, you will find a unique wrapper sitting on top of a premium cigar. It is the Criollo wrapper (pronounced cree-oy-yo). Criollo means “native seed,” and may also be described as “Havana-seed.” In Cuba, the word means a Cuban leaf grown on Cuban soil. By historical accounts, it is considered one of the original Cuban tobaccos that emerged around the time of Columbus. Rumor has it that old Chris was so impressed with this seed, that he asked the native chef (Gary) to stuff it inside the very first turkey served on Thanksgiving. Thankfully, he didn’t listen!
Criollo seeds have made their way to a number of other countries where they take on unique flavor profiles depending on the chemical composition of the soil where they are grown. Going on that assumption, a Criollo seed grown in Bayonne, New Jersey, may be deemed less than desirable by most smokers.
But I digress …
When a wrapper, or occasionally a filler tobacco, is Nicaraguan, Mexican, or Honduran Criollo, it usually has nothing to do with the original Cuban Criollo plant—it is just native to that country. The strain used today as wrapper leaf, are most often grown in Honduras and Nicaragua. There are two main regions in Nicaragua where Criollo is grown: Estelí, and Jalapa. The Jalapa Criollo plant has a very distinct sweetness and the Estelí’ strain has more of an earthy and nutty flavor profile. Once again, this flavor difference is due to chemical composition of the soil and the climate of each region. Nicaraguan Criollo is featured on the Te-Amo World Selection Series Cigars Nicaragua; Created by A. Turrent, a world-renowned cigar maker, this gem is handcrafted in the heart of San Andres, Mexico and offers bold, earthy notes of leather, spice, and charred wood. And the Joya de Nicaragua Antano is a potent blend of Nicaraguan black tobaccos and bold spicy flavors.
Honduran Criollo is smoother and creamier in flavor and is usually aged at least 7-10 years. The most popular strain is the Criollo ‘98, found on a handful of top-quality smokes, including an old-time robust fan favorite, Don Tomas Clasico Cigars, and the Camacho Criollo, the medium-bodied smoke widely regarded as being “as close to Cuba as you can get”. The band also looks like it belongs on a pair of boxing trunks, but that has absolutely nothing to do with this article!
San Andres Criollo has a very earthy and spicy flavor that also adds quite a bit of strength to the blend. One of the few brands utilizing this powerful wrapper is the TTT Trinidad Paradox Cigars—a full-bodied gem that offers great balance, with notes of molasses, light coffee, leather, and sweet cedar.
Although not the biggest player in the wrapper game, the Criollo is appearing more often these days, especially with boutique brand manufacturers looking to encompass the distinctive qualities this leaf has to offer to a blend.