Even those new to cigar life immediately recognize the difference between Maduro and naturals. Maduros are dark, and naturals are light. Simple enough. But looks can deceive. There is an even wider variety of exterior wrappers that give premium cigars their distinct taste and body, including Sun Grown.
The Components of a Premium Cigar
The make-up of a cigar is simple. Unlike cigarettes, which use paper and cotton filters, a cigar is constructed entirely of tobacco. Fillers and binders are the guts. These tobaccos come from a variety of regions and define a cigar’s taste and body. But many aren’t aware that nearly 80% of a cigar’s flavor comes from the exterior wrapper. And not all wrappers are alike.
The Difference Between Shade and Sun Grown
There are a few distinct differences between shade and Sun Grown cigars, namely humidity, sun exposure, cigar wrappers, and even cigar texture. To fully appreciate a Sun Grown cigar, know the differences between them and shade cigars.
Humidity and Sun Exposure
All plants need sun to grow, including tobacco plants. To produce different tastes and strengths, tobacco grows in many ways and from a variety of seeds. Most tobacco leaves are grown using a canopy that provides shade. This filters the amount of direct sunlight a plant receives. This process began in Connecticut (hence the name) in 1900 and continues to this day. In the early days, growers used cheesecloth to raise humidity and reduce sun exposure, but now nylon is the material of choice. The result is a smoother, thinner veined leaf you’ll find in your typical “natural” cigar.
Sun Grown tobacco is exactly as its name sounds. Leaves receive direct sunlight during the growing process. The result is a slightly darker and thicker veined leaf.
The next time you’re browsing in your local cigar shop, look close. Many cigar lines offer the same style of cigar in a natural or a maduro. It isn’t just the color that makes a difference. The exterior wrapper of Connecticut shade grown cigars has a thin and delicate appearance. The exterior wrappers are lighter, but they are also smoother. That’s because leaves do not absorb as much sun intensity as their darker counterparts do.
Your typical maduro cigar has more texture, and the thicker veins are obvious even at a glance since a maduro is essentially sun grown. They undergo a longer and more complex fermentation process.
A traditional Sun Grown cigar, such as an Ashton VSG or Davidoff Millenium Blend, has a similar texture, the thicker veins, and the darker color, common to a maduro. Additionally, you might also notice a slightly oily texture and appearance with maduros and true Sun Grown. Appearance aside, though, what truly distinguishes traditional Sun Grown from a maduro or a natural is the flavor and body.
Sun Grown Taste
Even the least sensitive palates will immediately recognize the boldness of a Sun Grown cigar. You won’t find the creamy sweetness that you find in Connecticuts or the pepper and chocolate notes you find in many maduros.
Tastes and strengths vary among Sun Grown. Most are robust compared to other alternatives. Some smokers have even described the initial draw as having a pleasant bite. Despite the full-bodied flavors, these cigars are balanced, smooth, and often top-shelf. How you describe the unique flavors of a Sun Grown depends. However, “earthy, leathery, and spicy” comes to mind, but they are pretty hard to pin down. But the best way to find out is to try one for yourself. Better yet, complement it with a blanco tequila. Its spice won’t overpower the richness of a Sun Grown.
Photo credit: Alec & Bradley Cigar Distributors Inc.