Construction of Cigars
There is an art to blending cigars, so the interplay of the various types of tobacco and the quality of the leaves from different regions will determine the taste and flavor of your cigar. Cigars have 3 basic components, which affect the cigar's taste: the binder, the filler and the wrapper. Each of the parts has a different function when the cigar is actually smoked.
First Part - Wrappers
A cigar's outermost leaves, or wrapper, come from the widest part of the plant. The wrapper determines much of the cigar's character and flavor, and as such its color is often used to describe the cigar as a whole. The wrapper is perhaps the most important of all three layers providing the cigar not only with its exterior appearance but also contributing significantly to the overall flavor and aroma of the cigar. Although only comprising 10% of the cigar by weight it is believed that the wrapper contributes as much as 70% to the value of the cigar. If the wrapper fails to please the potential buyer in terms of its smooth silky touch and oily consistency and if it fails to provide an inviting aroma, the sale will be lost. The wrapper must be strong yet elastic to be stretched over the filler and binder and must be without coarse veins. Although quality wrappers come from Honduras, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Mexico and Cuba, some of the more sought-after wrappers come from Sumatra, Connecticut or Cameroun.
Colors are designated as follows, from lightest to darkest:
• Double Claro - very light, slightly greenish (also called Candela, American Market Selection or jade); achieved by picking leaves before maturity and drying quickly; often grown in Connecticut
• Claro - light tan or yellowish. Indicative of shade-grown tobacco.
• Natural - light brown to brown; generally sun-grown.
• Colorado Claro - mid-brown; particularly associated with tobacco grown in the Dominican Republic or in Cuba
• Colorado - reddish-brown (also called Rosado)
• Colorado Maduro - dark brown; particularly associated with Honduras or Cuba-grown tobacco
• Maduro - dark brown to very dark brown
• Oscuro - a.k.a. "Double Maduro", black, often oily in appearance; tend to be grown in Cuba, Nicaragua, Brazil, Mexico, or Connecticut
Some manufacturers use an alternate designation:
• American Market Selection (AMS) - synonymous with Double Claro
• English Market Selection (EMS) - can refer to any color stronger than Double Claro but milder than Maduro
• Spanish Market Selection (SMS) - either of the two darkest colors, Maduro and Oscuro
Lighter colors are often presumed to indicate milder flavor; darker colors, stronger and sweeter flavors due to the presence of sugars and oils, and longer fermenting. However, the extent of the wrapper's influence on a cigar's overall flavor is an ongoing controversy among aficionados.
Second Part - Filler
The filler makes up the largest mass of the cigar. The filler consists of a blend of whole leaves running the length of the cigar. Their composition and assembly serves to determine the cigars overall character and taste. In hand-made cigars, the filler is usually in the form of strips of tobacco leaf cut to the length of the cigar (long-leaf). This is in contrast to the use of smaller tobacco shreds or pieces (short leaf) used in the production of machine-made cigars. There are three styles of leaf used in the filler namely, Ligero, Seco and Volado. The art of blending one leaf with another imparts a certain individuality to each cigar and certainly to each brand of cigar. It is more akin to the act of maturing a fine wine than simply 'rolling a smoke'.
Ligero leaves are cultivated during abundant rainfall seasons and need to be handled only in dry weather and needs to mature for two to three years. The leaf has little oil but is full flavoured. It is slow burning and is therefore typically placed in the centre of the cigar otherwise the cigar would burn unevenly.
Seco tobacco has less oil and little body and is typically lighter in colour than the Ligero leaves. These leaves are typically matured for 18 months. These leaves are used to impart a level of sublety to the cigar.
Volado leaves are even more subtle with the least amount of oil and with little flavor
Third Part - Binder
The function of the binder is purely structural. It hold together the leaves of the filler and imparts the general shape and size to the cigar. It imparts little to the smoking quality of the cigar although care is usually taken to ensure that it imparts a complementary flavor to the filler and wrapper. The binder is usually constructed from a tougher leaf than is used for the wrapper although the same leaf is often used as a wrapper on non-export cigars.
Are there any differences between the blends of different size cigars in the same line?
Manufacturers often use the same types of tobacco in different sizes, producing different tastes. Often the consumer will perceive this as the same "blend". There is a difference however - it's in the proportions of each type of leaf used. An experienced roller may use different proportions of the tobaccos in different sizes to allow for that size differences. In a smaller ring cigar, the binder and wrapper have a greater influence on the taste, for instance. The blender will allow for this difference by re-proportioning the filler blend. It's just one of those details that requires years of training among master rollers. (and of course, one of the reasons smokers will prefer the taste of one size over another of the same blend....