A Guide to Cigar Wrappers
The color and sheen of the exterior wrapper are the initial attributes a smoker notices when looking at a cigar. The wrapper provides an important marketing platform for the manufacturer and simultaneously informs the consumer as to the content and quality of the cigar.
As well, a cigar’s wrapper leaf can determine anywhere from 60% to 90% of the cigar’s overall flavor. A good trick to identify the significance of the wrapper is to cut an inch of wrapper leaf off the bottom of a cigar, stripping it much like a wire-stripper takes the insulator off of an electrical wire. This shows the filler and binder leaves only. This portion of the cigar will taste much less flavorful, and reveal the true importance of the wrapper.
It is important to acknowledge that the wrapper is often an attractive sales pitch for a cigar, much like an appealing album or book cover. At the very least, the wrapper is a message saying, “smoke me.” And though a quality wrapper often indicates a superior smoke, it usually affects the cigar’s composition and aesthetic more so than the entire flavor. In short, it introduces the cigar to the smoker and may or may not affect the taste and seasoning.
The Nitty Gritty
The ideal wrapper must have few to zero blemishes and larger than other leafs to properly wrap the cigar. This means that it usually comes from the lower levels of the cigar tobacco plant, where bigger (and often more flavorful) leaves grow. Also, it usually has a distinct sheen created by specific oils from aging process. Finally, the wrapper’s flavor is carefully cultivated and protected by cigar growers in order to provide the optimal taste and experience.
Wrappers range from light tan to dark brown; however one may find an occasional offbeat green wrapper, like those manufactured by Garcia y Vega Cigars. All leaves are originally green, but the aging process is what brings the exterior its chocolate hue.
Furthermore, each shade is associated with a type, the name of which being principally determined by the region from which the seed originated, where it was actually grown and how. All in all, there are over 50 named wrapper leafs; many are mixes or “tweeners” of two different origins. Sometimes such hybrids are named because the seed was from one region but cultivated in another, such as an Ecuadorian Connecticut.
The Big Four
The four major wrapper leaves, from light to dark, are Connecticut, Corojo, Habano and Maduro.
- Connecticut. As the name implies, this leaf comes from the Northeastern U.S. state and is essentially the only significant tobacco export from America. However, the seed is grown in Ecuador as well. This plant is nurtured under special conditions, garnering it the nickname “Connecticut Shade” because it is mostly grown under some form of protection – like giant sheets of cheesecloth. This keeps its color light and the unpredictable weather, such as excessive sun radiation, from beating up the plant. The lack of sunlight also contributes to the leaf’s mild flavor and low nicotine content, but it usually has a woody, spicy and/or cedar taste. Suggested examples include the beloved Macanudo and Montecristo cigars.
- Corojo. A little darker in color than the Connecticut wrapper, the Corojo was originally grown in Cuba but, because of the embargo, it is now mostly grown in Honduras. Due to the new location, the seed needed to be genetically modified in order to survive in its new environment. This wrapper tends to have a very spicy, peppery, robust flavor, favored by many cigar smokers; however, one drawback to the wrapper is its toughness. It sometimes doesn’t smoke easily. To try it out, explore the Camacho Corojo cigars.
- Habano is similar in color to Corojo and is also from Cuba, but today it grows mostly in Nicaragua. The leaf produces a heavy, spicy flavor and is often dense with nicotine, so it may overwhelm a beginner smoker. Discover this delicious wrapper with brands like the Perdomo Habano.
- The Maduro is the darkest in color of the four and enjoys the lengthiest lifespan, from seedling to wrapper leaf. It goes through such a long process to properly darken and flavor the leaf properly. Because of these distinct parameters, to be classified as Maduro the wrapper requires a hearty, thick leaf that can withstand years of aging and still maintain its un-blemished cover quality. Not every leaf can be turned into a Maduro wrapper and, interestingly enough, they tend to defy their ominous looks. These cigars often produce a somewhat sweeter undercurrent, which has earned this style the nickname “dessert smoke.” Click Maduro Wrappers to learn more about this specific wrapper. We recommend the CAO Maduro or Macanudo Maduro.
Other Notable Wrappers
Some other wrappers worth mentioning are the Candela, Sumatra, Oscuro and Cameroon.
- Candela is distinctly green in color, which has much to do with its quick aging process. Though this doesn’t detract from its value, flavor or strength profiles. It is usually milder and sometimes used in short, promotional runs of cigars.
- The Sumatra leaf comes from the Indonesian region that bears the same name. Known for its cinnamon zest, it is usually mild and sweet. Light up a Hoyo de Monterey Dark Sumatra cigar and taste the full-bodied take on the Sumatra wrapper.
- Oscuro is a very dark cigar wrapper. These remarkable cigars are sometimes called double Maduro. Why? Because they are fermented for longer than the traditional Maduro wrap in order to achieve their intense color and flavor.
- The Cameroon comes from the Central African country. The leaves of this plant have a unique “toothy” quality, which fortunately does not translate to the actual wrapper or its taste. The Cameroon is rich and savory. Intrigued by the African mystique? We recommend an H. Upmann Vintage Cameroon.