Any time we poll our customers on what their preferred wrapper shade is, the results are the same: it’s maduro by a landslide. More and more smokers are crossing over to the dark side these days, and it comes as no surprise. Maduros can be downright delicious, offering a smooth and hearty extra dimension of flavor and sweetness that you just don’t get with most natural wrappers. A good maduro wrapper can deliver a wide range of unique tasting notes, including deep earth, dark chocolate, coffee, caramel, molasses, brown sugar, nuts, red pepper, black pepper, dried fruit, and even a liquor-like character. We decided to shed some light on these dark delicacies with a brief primer on the most common types of maduro leaves found on handmade cigars today. But before we get too far ahead of ourselves…….
Maduro is a Spanish adjective meaning “ripe”. The term maduro is used pretty loosely in the cigar community to describe a cigar’s wrapper leaf as being dark in color, but by true definition maduro is a variety of cured tobacco leaf that is produced via extensive fermentation. The production of maduros is a time and labor-intensive process that actually darkens, mellows, and sweetens the leaf.
Maduro wrappers come from fermenting tobacco at higher temperatures and with more humidity than other tobacco types. Thicker tobacco leaves (usually from the highest ligero priming) are used because they can stand up to the rigorous process of being fermented repeatedly. Thinner, more fragile leaves are too delicate to withstand the intense heat. Natural wrappers are typically fermented to between 100 and 120 degrees for most varieties, while maduro wrappers are fermented at temperatures sometimes as high as 150 degrees. The higher temps result in the darker color and mellow quality of the leaves. Below are some of the most common types of maduro wrapper leaves.
Some of the most revered of all modern maduros are the ones derived from Connecticut Broadleaf tobaccos. As the name would suggest, these leaves are indigenous to farms in Connecticut, USA. This finely textured and fast-maturing leaf has been a favorite of cigar makers for a very long time, and has been mentioned in seed catalogs dating back as far as 1884. A particularly hearty strain, the Connecticut Broadleaf is pretty much perfect for the maduro curing process. In the sandy soil of the Connecticut River Valley it can grows to upwards of 4 feet in height and produces thick dark green leaves up to 30″ long and 16″ wide.
Experienced smokers may salivate over a healthy Connecticut Broadleaf’s tell-tale thick, oily and veiny appearance, but the real charm of Connecticut maduros lies in their deeply rich, earthy-smooth, and sweet flavor.
A couple prime examples of Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro done right are Ashton’s Aged Maduro line and Drew Estate’s Liga Privada T52, but there are many to choose from. Tatuaje brand owner Pete Johnson and La Flor Dominicana main man Litto Gomez are both huge fans of this popular leaf. Johnson was quoted in Cigar Aficionado magazine as saying,“It has the earthiness, but also the sweet. In its truest form, it can be one of the best-tasting wrappers.”
The Mexican San Andres Negro strain is a Cuban-seed varietal harvested in Mexico’s rugged, volcanic San Andres region in the Veracruz countryside. Some historians believe that the idea of rolling tobacco and smoking it started there. We know that Mexicans have been rolling cigars at least since the 19th century, so it’s very possible that these seeds are ancient in origin. Once seldom-used on cigars sold in the U.S., this leaf has been popping up on new cigars more frequently in recent years.
The San Andres Maduro lends an Earthy, toasty, and sweet character to a cigar, as well as a beautiful dark hue with a toothy texture and oily sheen. In some instances, the grainy texture of this wrapper is so prominent that it carries over and is visible even once it’s been reduced to ash. Recent examples of putting this looker of a leaf to good use can be found on the CAO Zocalo and Crowned Heads’ Jericho Hill cigars. Master blenders A.J. Fernandez and E.P. Carrillo have also been known to work wonders with Mexican maduros.
There are two different types of Brazilian tobaccos commonly used for maduros.
First there’s the spicy-sweet, earthy, and aromatic Mata Fina. Brazilian Mata Fina leaves are medium-dark in color and not especially thick. They’re also not the prettiest, which is why historically they’ve been employed more often as a binder rather than wrapper. These leaves are smaller and slightly more distinctive in smell then most other maduro wrappers. A couple of great sticks wrapped in Mata Fina are the 7-20-4 Classic and Cusano 18 Paired Maduro. It’s also used as filler in one of my favorite cigars, the Dunhill 1907.
Next we have Brazilian Arapiraca wrappers. Light in body, extremely dark in color, leathery, and less sweet than most other maduros, these leaves are grown in the Arapiraca municipality; a region that has become known as“The Tobacco Capital of Brazil.” Arapiraca leaves are more subtle in flavor and aroma than Mata Fina, but it’s that unique quality that makes them excellent for creating well-rounded cigar blends. They’re also known for their exceptionally even burn. For a taste of Arapiraca, check out Carlos Torano’s sweet and spicy Exodus 1959 50 Year and the beefy-yet-balanced CAO Brazilia.
By far the most under-appreciated leaf on this list, Costa Rican Maduros are typically very earthy, sweet, and strong on the palate. These leaves are known to be particularly resistant to frost and have a glossy sheen when mature. Somewhat similar in taste and appearance to Brazilian and Mexican leaves, dark Costa Rican wrappers are sometimes used as a less expensive substitute to these more established maduros. Over the last couple of decades Costa Rica has been slowly forging a reputation for producing great tobaccos, and it’s likely that we’ll see more Costa Rican wrappers emerge on the market in the years to come.
While premium cigars that use Costa Rican leaf as a wrapper are somewhat scarce at this time, you can light up the La Palina Family Series Babe and Pasha vitolas and Rocky Patel’s Edge Maduro to see what this up-and-coming capa is all about.
Spicy, nutty, and earthy with sweet undertones, most Nicaraguan wrappers are produced in the fertile soils of the Esteli and the Jalapa Valley regions of the country. Traditional Cuban-seed tobacco varietals like Habano and Criollo are used to produce oily and textured wrappers with an even brown hue and bold, sometimes intensely spicy taste. Much like Connecticut Broadleaf, Nicaraguan maduros are all the rage these days and can be found on a plethora of awesome sticks. Prime examples include Padron Anniversario 1926 (or any Padron, really), Oliva V, and Tatuaje 10th Anniversary.
Pennsylvania Broadleaf tobaccos have been grown in Lancaster, PA since the 1800s and were traditionally used as filler in some of the most popular cigar brands right up until the 1980s. During the Cigar Boom of the 90s these leaves saw a resurgence in popularity, this time for use as binder. Lancaster County soil is rich in potassium, nitrogen, and calcium, making the tobacco thick and tough but also very combustible – ideal traits for cigar binder. It wasn’t until recently that cigar makers began to use PA Broadleaf as a wrapper. Rocky Patel was among the first to do so with the release of the Winter Collection ’08.
These thick leaves usually have a somewhat uneven, marbleized appearance, but their flavor is pretty awesome – smooth, yet spicy with a sugary sweetness. Much like its next-door neighbor, Connecticut Broadleaf, PA Broadleaf grows up to about 4 feet in height and mature in 55-60 days. Another interesting tidbit about these is that during the curing stage, fires are lit inside the barns to help regulate the humidity. In most parts of the world regular firewood is used, but in PA they burn Hickory chips, which are said to add a little extra somethin’ to the flavor.
Though it’s still a fairly new concept, use of PA Broadleaf as wrapper has really been picking up steam over the past couple of years. Notable new releases wrapped in PA Broadleaf include J. Fuego Americana, Camacho American Barrel Aged, and Barracuda by George A. Rico, all of which are amazing examples of this potently flavorful top leaf.
What’s your favorite type of maduro leaf? Did we (gasp) leave any important ones out? Let us know on Facebook