Lesson 12: Cigar Tobacco Growing Regions
Cuban tobacco is acknowledged as among the finest in the world. Cuba’s best tobacco-growing area is the Vuelta Abajo, part of the Pinar del Rio region area in western Cuba. In general, Cuban tobacco is strong and full-bodied, with spicy and aromatic flavors. It is also renowned for its suppleness. Most factories of premium hand-rolled cigars are located in or near Havana, Cuba’s capital city.
The quality and variety of cigar tobacco from the Dominican Republic has improved enormously in the past 20 years. The primary growing region is near the city of Santiago in the northern half of the country. Located in an agricultural region, this small city is also home to the majority of Dominican cigarmakers. Most Dominican tobacco is derived from Cuban-seed varieties. Although not as strong, it is quite full-flavored and lends itself to the creation of unusually complex blends.
Ecuador produces quantities of high-quality tobacco, for both filler and wrapper, and shade- and sun-grown. Growers there have been using both Connecticut- and Sumatra-seed varieties. In each case, the tobacco usually seems milder and less robust in strength and flavor than the originals. Its wrapper colors fall between Connecticut and Cameroon, and its silky texture has visual appeal.
These Central American countries produce high-quality Cuban-seed and Connecticut-seed tobaccos, including shade-grown wrapper. Honduras has suffered from periodic blue mold infestations in recent years, and Nicaragua’s tobacco region is still recovering from a ten-year civil war that was primarily fought in the area between the northwestern town of Esteli and the Honduran border. Both countries produce a full-bodied tobacco with strong, spicy flavors and heady aromas.
The San Andres Valley is world-famous for a sun-grown variant of Sumatra-seed tobacco. Mexican leaves are used widely as binder and filler in cigars. This tobacco-type also serves widely as a maduro wrapper because it can stand up to the cooking and sweating process that creates the darker leaf colors. Cigars manufactured in Mexico are usually made with 100-percent local tobacco.
North of Hartford, Connecticut, the Connecticut River Valley produces some of the finest wrapper leaf tobacco in the world: Connecticut shade. The fine, brown to brownish-yellow leaf has a high degree of elasticity, and it creates a mild-to-medium-bodied smoke. Another style, Connecticut broadleaf, produces a dark, almost black leaf that is used on maduro-style cigars. It is heavier and veinier than shade-grown.
Cameroon/Central African Republic
This area of West Africa is known for a high-quality wrapper leaf. In recent years, production has suffered from management changes and bad weather. The Cameroon leaf originated from Sumatra seed imported from Indonesia. It is prized for its neutral characteristics, which make it an ideal wrapper for full-flavored filler tobaccos. Cameroon wrappers generally are greenish-brown to dark brown, with a distinct grain, referred to as “tooth.”
Sumatra tobacco comes from the series of islands that make up Indonesia. The tobacco may be referred to as Java or Sumatra. Sumatra wrapper leaves are often dark brown and have neutral flavors. The majority of wrapper leaf grown there is used in the manufacture of small cigars.
The Philippines grows a mild tobacco that is used for cigars. The hybrid strain produced there is very aromatic.