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Marion wrote: I am a sea lover. Seems to be an interesting cruise. david martin Abrahams would love to travel on it.

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Premium Cigar Wrappers
Which do you prefer?

Wrapper leaves from various geographic areas contribute distinctive flavors. Here's how to differentiate.

I was speaking with Gary Korb of Famous Cigar the other day about cigar wrappers and thought a little primer on the subject would be interesting. Wrapper leaf is one of the most crucial elements in cigar making, accounting not only for the cigar's appearance, but contributing about 20% of its taste. It's also the most expensive leaf to grow and cure.

The plants, called "corojos," are grown specifically for premium cigar wrappers under huge sheets of gauze called a "tapado" (Spanish for tent), hence the term, "shade grown." The idea behind shade growing is to prevent the leaves from becoming too thick and veiny, which is Mother Nature's way of protecting the leaf from the sun's rays. This is one of the reasons a Maduro or Sun Grown leaf is thicker, darker, and often "sweeter" in flavor.

 Shade-grown wrappers are classified by color as "ligero" (light), "seco" (dry), "visio" (glossy), "amarillo" (yellow), "medio tiempo" (half texture), and "quebrado" (broken). Note that some of these terms were also used for classifying the strength of the filler leaves. The term "medio tiempo" is also used to refer to wrapper leaves that are allowed to age on the plant "50% longer," like the Medio Tiempo wrappers used on the Partagas Black Label cigars.

The key to a good wrapper leaf, or "capa," is its elasticity and absence of veins. Wrapper leaves are usually matured from one year to 18 months, but the longer they're aged the smoother they smoke. Some wrapper leaf is aged for as long as three years, like the wrappers used on Bahia Gold cigars, which are designed to mellow out the hearty ligero filler used in that blend. Wrappers come in a variety of "shades" from practically every corner of the world. The country of origin and the seed from which the wrapper leaf is grown play a key role in the flavor, aroma, and strength of the cigar.

Many premium cigars today use wrappers grown in Ecuador, where the volcanic soil is especially fertile and ideal for growing consistently good wrapper leaf. That's why you'll often see the wrapper type listed as "Ecuadorian Connecticut" or "Ecuadorian Sumatra." This means they've used a Connecticut, Sumatra, or Cuban seed, depending on the blend, and grown it in Ecuador instead of in its "native" soil. The results, as many of you may already know, have been excellent.

Take, for example, the Punch Rare Corojo or Hoyo Dark Sumatra cigars. They both use wrapper leaves grown in Ecuador from Sumatra seeds, yet they're selected and cured differently to achieve their unique, respective flavors. The "Talanga Cubano" leaf found on Astral Talanga Valley and Don Tomás Dominican Selection is grown in Honduras with a Cuban seed... and so it goes.

Following are the characteristics of some of the most commonly used wrappers found in premium cigars:

  • Connecticut Shade Natural: Light, golden brown, mild flavor, very silky in feel with a sweet aroma, and the best have very few veins. It is grown primarily in the Windsor Valley of Connecticut, in the U.S., and used exclusively on Macanudo and most cigars made by Davidoff of Geneva, among other makers. This leaf is also grown in Ecuador and Honduras, often resulting in a more flavorful wrapper.
  • Broadleaf Maduro: Very dark brown or black, depending on how long it's matured, with a richer, semisweet flavor and aroma. It is usually much thicker and veinier with the higher grade leaves acquiring a velvety texture. Also grown primarily in Connecticut, it is grown in many other countries as well, such as Ecuador, Honduras, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Brazil. Maduro wrappers can also range from mild to very rich, especially the darkest of all Maduros, the black Oscuro wrapper.
  • Cameroon: Dark brown, spicier in flavor, with an inviting, sweet aroma. It is grown primarily in Africa and was originally used on the first Dominican-made Partagas cigars for their similarity to Cuban-grown wrappers. Arturo Fuente uses Cameroon wrappers on many of their cigars as does La Aurora.
  • Claro: The lightest in flavor and color, often cured to retain its natural green color, hence the term "jade wrapper." Not as popular as they were in the early-to-mid-20th century, some cigar makers like Arturo Fuente, Macanudo, and Don Tomás still produce several shapes in Claro or Jade wrappers.
  • Sumatra: Dark brown, smooth, and mild with a spicy accent and a sweet, inviting aroma. The Indonesian-grown wrappers tend to be more neutral in flavor whereas the Ecuadorian-grown, Sumatra-seed wrappers are much richer in flavor. You'll find these on Hoyo De Monterrey, Punch, Avo Signature, Puros Indios, and many other heartier blends.
As you continue to smoke cigars, you may eventually find a preference for a particular wrapper. Once "hooked," some cigar smokers won't smoke anything else. They may try different brands, but the wrapper has to be the same. Go ahead and experiment by trying different wrappers; that's what makes cigar smoking such a great adventure.
About Bob Lesnick
Robert L. Lesnick, a cigar aficionado, is YV&C's Cruising Cigar Man.

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