Cigar Wrapper Leaf: A Crash Course
A guide to what is arguably the most important part of the cigar
When we think of a cigar’s flavor and aroma, it is easy to assume that both elements are a direct result of the types of tobacco leaf that make up the dense, springy interior. The surprising truth however is that a cigar’s wrapper can account for between 60% and 90% of a cigar’s flavor and aroma profile, and is 100% responsible for a cigar’s signature color.
For this reason, it is not uncommon for manufacturers and smokers alike to refer to their sticks by the type of leaf. For instance, “I only smoke Habanos”, or, “Let’s try one of these Double Maduros.”
In the second part of our “Crash Course” series on Cigar anatomy, we are going to take a closer look at the different types of tobacco leaf that make up the most flavorful, most aromatic, & most beautiful structural element of any good stogie.
You can probably guess where the Connecticut leaf comes from. This common wrapper is an American-grown leaf that is grown under conditions not found elsewhere in the world, namely, beneath screens that help protect the plants from unpredictable weather conditions. (This is where the term “Connecticut Shade” comes from).
The reduced sunlight encourages dense, healthy leaved that have a comparatively mild flavor & aroma with notes of cedar wood and light spice.
The Corojo leaf is grown primarily in Honduras, though it used to be grown in Cuba before the embargo. It is helpful to think of the Corojo as a thicker and more robust version of the Connecticut leaf, with more pronounced flavors of spice and pepper. It is also one of the “toughest” wrapper leaves available, which can help provide a longer, slower experience that takes a bit more effort to puff through.
Like the Corojo, Habano-style wrapper leaves were once exclusively from Cuba, but because of the embargo are now grown in multiple parts of the world, Nicaragua chief among them. Habano seeds prefer to grow in rich, volcanic soil, which leads to both bolder flavors and a higher nicotine content, two things that can make it hard to handle for many new smokers.
However the same conditions that give the Habano its potency also led a wonderful sweetness that cannot be found in other leaves. If pure Habano sticks are too strong for your tastes, consider a hybrid-style wrapper like the Habano-Corojo or the Habano Rosado.
The dark & decadent wrapper used in some of the world’s finest cigars, Maduro Leaves provide a depth of sweetness that leads to a smoking experience that is perfect for a good cocktail pairing. The long aging and fermentation process required for Maduros means that many tobacco species and leaf types cannot be made into Maduros, and is one of the reasons that they can be more expensive that other varieties.
Also known as “Oscuro”, the Double Maduro Leaf takes the aging and fermentation processes of the Maduro leaf to a whole new level, increasing the iconic Maduro attributes of deep color and lingering sweetness.
In recent years, the young, green Candela wrapper has become more popular among American smokers, ourselves included. The relatively quick production process of the Candela leaf gives it a district green color and a much milder profile than any other wrapper. This also means that Candelas are less suitable for long-term humidor aging and are best enjoyed promptly.
Taking its name from the Indonesian country of the same name. Sumatra wrappers are a favorite of many new and younger smokers because of the signature cinnamon flavor and aroma that it produces. Sumatra leaves are thick enough to withstand moderate aging and fermentation, making many subcategories of “Dark Sumatra” also available.
This African-grown leaf is a genetic offspring of the Sumatra wrapper, first brought to the area by Dutch colonists. The intense sun exposure of West Africa encourages dense pockets of natural tobacco oils to form in the leaf, providing the rough and “toothy” texture of the cigar exterior. Flavor profiles can range from toasty and woody to sweet and buttery; bold and pronounced flavors that are a result of those dense oil pockets.
Become an Expert: “Stripping” The Wrapper
Interested in experiencing the powerful effect of the Wrapper Leaf firsthand? Try this:
Using an exacto-knife, it is possible to strip the wrapper leaf from the cigar, leaving the binder leaf and fill leaf intact. This lets the smoker experience the interior leafs on their own for a few puffs before the burn reaches the wrapper leaf.
Once you become familiar with your favorite styles of wrapper, be sure to try out one of the dozens of hybrid-style wrappers that mix the flavor and aroma components in fantastic ways.