Cigar 101: Wrapper’s Delight, Part 1 of 3
One of the most frequently asked questions in the cigar biz is how much a wrapper contributes to the taste of a cigar. The general consensus seems to hover around 60 percent, though it can vary depending on the size of the cigar. Cigars with smaller ring gauges tend to have a bigger wrapper-to-filler ratio, so the wrapper affects the taste a lot more than it would with a 60-ring gauge behemoth.
The color of the wrapper can tell you a lot about what a cigar will taste like. I’d like to say that there’s a general rule, but there are too many discrepancies and exceptions to say something like “darker = stronger.” I’ve had Maduro smokes that paled in comparison to some stronger Connecticuts. In an effort to clear up some of the misconceptions about wrapper shades and how they affect a cigar’s taste, I’ve compiled a list of wrapper shades and what they tend to add to a cigar. Here it is, starting with the lighter ones:
Candela wrappers, sometimes called Double Claro, are somewhat uncommon; they have a recognizable green tint to them, and have a very fresh, leafy aroma. The green color is achieved by picking the tobacco leaves before the plant has fully matured and drying the leaves quickly. This ensures that the chlorophyll content of the leaves is retained, thereby giving the wrapper its distinguishing color. Tasting notes associated with Candela wrappers typically include grass, cedar, and pepper with a little bit of sweetness. Depending on what type of tobacco leaf is used, they can break out of the mild zone, but typically remain pretty smooth and manageable.
Connecticut wrappers, which are sometimes interchangeable with Claro wrappers, are shade-grown from Connecticut seed, usually either in the U.S. or in Ecuador. Shade-grown refers to the process of being grown under giant sheets of cheesecloth, which keeps the leaves from being exposed to too much sunlight; this ensures that they have a milder flavor. Depending on how long they are aged, their tasting notes can include grass, cream, butter, black or white pepper, coffee, cedar, and many others. Many Connecticut wrappers give a cigar a spicy, ammoniac aroma, and this is due to the fact that tobacco leaves naturally contain a lot of ammonia. The aging process removes some of this ammonia, though lighter wrappers generally tend to be a bit peppery. Connecticut wrappers tend to have a bit more of a “dry” taste than darker wrappers, as they usually don’t have very high sugar content.
Natural wrappers are also referred to as “English Market Selection.” The term English Market Selection is a term used in Cuban cigar manufacturing, which refers to the designated quality for the UK market. They are typically a bit darker than Connecticut wrappers due to the fact that they are more mature when picked, and are sometimes not shade grown. These tend to be just a bit sweeter with a fuller spice profile and some additional notes of cedar, coffee, bread, and sometimes earth. Identifying these by color can be tricky, as many other wrapper shades have a similar color. Additionally, some companies use Natural as a blanket term covering Connecticut, Claro, and sometimes many others.
That’s it for today’s Cigar 101—I hope this has been eye-opening for the novice smoker, though sometimes even the most seasoned aficionado can learn something new. Check back tomorrow for Criollo, Corojo, Sumatra, and Habano wrappers.