What Are Wrapper Shade Colors?
When it comes to discussing the various elements and characteristics of a cigar, I believe nothing is more confusing to a customer than the wrapper shades. Before information was easily available via the internet, or really before cigar smokers really cared about the exact blends, shade colors were used to simply identify the type of cigar you were choosing. Generally, this could tell you what you could expect from it.
While shade color is still vital to blenders and farmers, as it helps determine if tobacco can or cannot be used for a particular blend, I feel as though because there is no industry standard, it shouldn’t be utilized as much when discussing with average cigar smokers.
Just so you have a general idea of what I am talking about, I’ve put together a list of the various wrapper shade colors along with a little explanation and examples of each, so you will be able to follow along if you ever hear these terms.
Candela is one of the easiest shades to recognize as it is green. Although not that popular anymore, up to the 1970s, a majority of cigars were rolled using candela wrappers. The term candela does not describe a wrapper’s seed variety, but rather the color you get from its unique fermentation process.
It is basically cured in the barn over a short period using high temperatures to keep the chlorophyll content in the leaf and to give it its distinctive green color. For more on the process, you can check out this detailed article from Cigar Aficionado. Candela wrappers tend to be very fragile and mellow, which is why the next color on our list slowly replaced them. However, candela is still used in some machine-made cigars or by boutique companies for a barber pole wrapper, due to the unique green color.
If you have ever smoked a Connecticut shade or Ecuadorian Connecticut shade wrapper, then you have smoked a claro. Claro, which means clear, is used to describe a wrapper that is very light brown in its color. While it is still on the thinner side, it became a much more flavorful and reliable wrapper to use on mellow cigars and eventually replaced the candela.
In terms of flavor, claros are typically very smooth and mellow with come creamy notes to them. That makes them perfect for use on more mellow cigars. You can see examples of a claro wrapper on cigars such as the Montecristo White or the Sobremesa Brulee.
Here is where things start getting very confusing. Once you start using the term Colorado, in my opinion, it can become a matter of personal opinion. In general, Colorado claro is used to describe a wrapper color that is slightly darker than a typical claro, but not too dark. They are typically still on the more mellow side of things but tend to have a bit more flavor than your average claro.
This is a term that is not really used anymore outside of industry insiders because as I said, there is no industry standard. Some close examples I could give on what a Colorado claro should be would be a cigar such as the Romeo y Julieta Vintage or the Davidoff Colorado Claro, which has the color in the name.
Straight Colorado wrappers can be a bit easier to identify, but the naming of them has gone through various iterations. At one time they were called E.M.S, or “English Market Selection. This was an old Cuban practice when determining whether the wrapper quality was good enough to be sold overseas. Today, we use Colorado to describe a solid, medium-brown color, typically with a reddish hue.
Another term that sometimes gets thrown in with Colorado is called Rosado, which translates from Spanish to mean pink. The most obvious example of a Rosado is on the traditional Opus X cigar. Any medium-brown wrapper with an oily, reddish color is considered to be Colorado, and they typically have a more zesty or fuller flavor. Some examples of this would be the Fuente Chateau Sun Grown or the original My Father line.
Again, this is a term where we just start nitpicking. As you may know, Maduro means ripe, and it is a fermentation process that turns thicker more robust leaves much darker and richer in flavor. The Colorado Maduro is supposed to be that shade right before it gets very dark. While your average Maduro cigar is nearly black with a rich, sweet flavor, Colorado Maduro typically is an almost dark wrapper, with a lot of oils and that emits a bolder, spicier taste.
The two great examples I have of a Colorado Maduro both come from Fuente. The Diamond Crown Maximus that they make for J.C Newman and the Ashton VSG they make for Ashton. Both of these cigars use a darker, Ecuadorian sun-grown wrapper that isn’t a true Maduro, but that is much darker than a typical Colorado. Do you see what I mean?
Maduro is a term most of you are going to be familiar with. The confusion today lies with many people believing that Maduro is a seed, which it is not. Maduro is a fermentation process used to get a much darker, richer, and sweeter tobacco variety. However, it can only be done in a few choice wrapper varieties. Tobaccos such as Mexican San Andres and Connecticut Broadleaf make for great Maduro tobacco due to their size and profile.
Maduro tobacco is fermented in Pilón’s, which is when the tobacco is laid out in huge piles on each other, creating natural heat. As the tobacco ferments, it eliminates the ammonia and some of the nicotine strength, while also making the tobacco much darker. This results in smooth and flavorful tobacco.
A common misconception is that Maduro wrapped cigars are stronger, which is again not true. A dark, Maduro wrapped cigar is going to be richer and very flavorful, but the strength comes from the filler and binder. Examples of some typical Maduros include the Charter Oak Maduro from Foundation or the Crowned Heads Court Reserve.
Unfortunately, our last term is another confusing one. Oscuro, for the longest time, was also called double-Maduro. This is, in fact, not the case, as double Maduro refers to a cigar that uses a Maduro wrapper and binder. Oscuro is a term that reserved for a process by which tobaccos are fermented in such a way that they can usually leave them with a jet-black color. They are fermented for a shorter time at a lower temperature than your typical Maduro, and this usually occurs or barrels as opposed to Pilóns.
The tobacco is typically from the highest part of the plant, sometimes known as Medio Tiempo. Oscuro shade wrappers are the darkest available and usually have a very dark rich flavor profile. Some typical examples of Oscuro wrapped cigars would be the Partagas 1845 Extra Oscuro, or the Davidoff Winston Churchill Late Hour.