The Rap on Wrappers

The tobacco leaf on the outside of a handmade cigar – the wrapper – is to start with, an essential structural element.

The wrapper must be supple so it doesn’t split as the cigar is rolled. It is also an important contributor to the cigar’s flavor and appearance. Ideally, a wrapper leaf should be of consistent color and have no prominent veins or blemishes. Because wrapper leaves must meet so many requirements, they are carefully grown, aged and selected. Wrappers come in many varieties and some of the most important recent advances in cigars have been innovative wrappers. Here are a few of the types of wrappers you’ll want to experience:

  • CONNECTICUT SHADE: This wrapper leaf descends from the Hazelwood strain of Cuban Seed. Its distinctive golden color is attained by growing it in the shade of huge tents in the Connecticut River Valley.
  • CONNECTICUT BROADLEAF: Also from the Connecticut River Valley, this leaf is grown in the sun, which results in a coarser, darker, sweeter wrapper.
  • HABANA 2000™: is an exciting new wrapper made from Cuban Seed tobacco grown in Nicaragua.
  • MADURO: A shade of wrapper varying from a very dark brown to almost black. The color results from longer exposure to the sun, a cooking process or longer fermentation. Mexican wrapper leaves are often used as Maduro wrappers.
  • TBN: Shade-grown in Indonesia and carefully fermented, this dark wrapper was created by marrying special strains of Java with Connecticut tobacco.

Choosing a Cigar
The ring gauge of the cigar will give you a general indication of how full the taste is. The larger the ring size, generally, the fuller, smoother, cooler, and slower the smoke will be. Ring gauge is the standard set to measure the diameter of a cigar. 64 ring is equal one inch.

Cutting a cigar
The cap or the head of a handmade cigar must be cut before lighting it. You can do this with a cigar scissor, guillotine cutter or a punch cutter. The guillotine is recommended for the most effective cut. Make sure not to cut the entire cap off, because this could damage the wrapper.

Lighting a Cigar
Lighting the cigar is an art that will enhance the enjoyment – by using a slow, two-step process you can ensure that one side of the cigar will not burn faster than the other side. Step one: Hold the cigar horizontally and rotate it in the flame to evenly warm the end. Step two: Put the cigar in your mouth. Keeping it still in a horizontal position, hold the flame only to the tip of the cigar, and draw slowly as you continue to rotate.


Cigar School: Definitions

SIZES – Cigars are sized by an ancient system where length is shown in inches and thickness or “ring gauge” is shown in 64ths of an inch.

RING GAUGE – The diameter of the cigar, which affects the overall flavor. The fatter the cigar, the more developed and full a cigar will taste. A wide cigar will also burn slower.

FILLER – Filler is the inner bulk of the cigar and can be either cut-filler (short pieces) or long filler running the full length of the cigar.

BINDER – What holds the filler together. It can be made of a half-leaf of tobacco or sheets formed by pressing pieces of chopped tobacco.

WRAPPER – The outer tobacco leaf covering of a cigar. These can be sungrown or shadegrown under cheesecloth.

WRAPPER COLORS – There are four basic color designations: Candela (Lt. Green); Natural (Med. Brown, called “Cameroon” if grown in Africa); EMS, a slightly browner brown known as “English Market Selection”; and Maduro, a dark brown.

BLENDS – There are two basic tobacco blends used in high-grade cigars – Olor and Cubanito.

  • OLOR – A hybrid tobacco obtained by crossing Connecticut Valley strains with Havana. Grown mostly in the Olor province of the Dominican Republic, it is cured a full year longer than other tobaccos to make it a more mild and aromatic smoke.
  • CUBANITO – This tobacco is a direct descendant of the original Havana grown in Cuba. Now grown in Nicaragua, Honduras and Mexico, it furnishes a rich, full-bodied smoke.

PURO – Spanish for “Premium Cigar.”