Cigars usually come in one of two classifications of wrappers: Natural wrappers or Maduro wrappers. Natural wrappers range in color from light yellow Connecticut Shade to brown Habano. Maduro cigar wrappers vary from dark browns to black. There also is a green leaf variety of wrappers with Candela-wrapped cigars, but these are rarer. Maduro cigars can be a little confusing, as the term refers to the color of a wrapper leaf. Mostly, this refers to the fermentation process of making the Maduro wrappers.
The Maduro Fermentation Process
The fermentation process is how Maduro cigars get their dark, rich colors and slick sheen and their sweeter, deeper, and more robust flavor notes such as dark cocoa, molasses, and black pepper. Maduro leaves come from the top of the tobacco plant, where they’re heartier and thicker. These top leaves get more time and sun, allowing photosynthesis to create more sugars and natural oils to build up and more protection against harsh sun rays. After the leaves are harvested and air-cured, they are stacked into large piles to ferment.
The fermentation time is longer than natural wrapper leaves. A longer fermentation time translates to the darker color. The spices in the Maduro wrapper also round out. They develop into a more mellow flavor. This is how Maduro gets its name, which means “Ripen” or “Mature.” Oscuro is another term used for Maduro cigars. They are closer to black, like La Flor Dominicana’s Colorado Oscuro No. 5.
Maduro cigar leaves also are fermented under more intense heat than other wrappers. Temperatures reach up to 150 degrees Fahrenheit as organic decomposition transforms starches in the leaves into sugars. This is also because of the weight of the large piles being fermented. Sometimes, manufacturers add more weight to the stacks to press the leaves tighter. Once the fermenting piles reach the correct internal temperature, blenders shuffle around the bundles, ensuring the leaves are fermenting evenly. High temperatures also contribute to caramelization of the sugars in the leaf. This creates dark wrapper leaves and eliminates more ammonia for smoother and milder tastes.
Maduro Cigars Leaf Growing Regions
Typically, Maduro cigars come from U.S. Connecticut Broadleaf, Mexican San Andres Negro, or Brazilian Mata Fina and Arapiraca tobacco varietals. Connecticut Broadleaf is the most common leaf used for Maduro cigars. They originated in the United States’ Connecticut River Valley and have broad leaves that turn dark brown or black. You can find Connecticut Broadleaf on the wrappers of Diamond Crown No. 3, Dunbarton Tobacco and Trust Mi Querida cigars.
San Andres Negro comes from the San Andres Valley of Mexico near the gulf. Their tough leaves make them prime candidates for the intense fermentation process to create a Maduro wrapper. They were primarily associated with Te-Amo brand cigars in the 1970s, but now Drew Estate uses San Andres Negro in their Undercrown Maduro blends.
Brazil grows its Maduro wrappers in the Bahia region off the Atlantic coast. Mata Fina, meaning “Thin Forest,” has three types coming from different areas: Mata Sul, Mata Norte, and Mata Sao Goncalo. Each has different microclimates they grow in and different taste characteristics. Brazil also has Arapiraca tobacco leaves which are thicker than Mata Fina but have a milder flavor. Micallef Grande Bold Mata Fina is one cigar that uses a Brazilian Mata Fina wrapper.
Top Myths for Maduro Cigars
The darkness of a Maduro-wrapped cigar doesn’t equate to the strength of the smoke. Some cigar smokers believe that all Maduro cigars have a more pungent flavor or have higher nicotine content, but that is a myth. Since Maduro wrappers are aged for an extended period and under higher heat, the taste is sweeter thanks to the higher sugar content. The additional time allowed for them to mature gives these leaves a mellower flavor as well. The aging time doesn’t add nicotine content or make cigars more potent. As Maduro cigars age longer in a humidor, the flavors marry more. The oils also move more toward the surface, creating a rich and complex smoke.
Pairings and Conclusion
Dark beer makes a good pairing with Maduro cigars. Hearty dishes like seared steak and baked potatoes, or anything rich and fatty, complement the taste of dark Maduros. Dark rum, Scotch whiskey, and dark red wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot go well with Oscuro sticks.
Whether you’re new to the cigar hobby or are a seasoned cigar aficionado, Maduro cigars are worth a consideration. The care that goes into the aging process ensures rich aromas and deep flavors and the process to make these glistening wrappers requires time to develop their dark colors. So, cigar smokers should spend more time with these artisanal delights.
Photo credit: Cigar Life Guy