There is a (very) common misconception about cigars: the darker the cigar, the stronger the cigar. This is completely false. I repeat: this is not true. I’ll explain....
A cigar is much more than just a wrapper. Any given cigar may contain up to 4 or 5 (or more!) different types of tobacco in the filler alone, then there’s the binder and wrapper. Therefore, any one of these leaves - let alone the combination of these leaves - will significantly contribute toward the overall strength of the end product. In other words, to truly determine how powerful a cigar will be, one must look at the whole cigar, rather than one sole characteristic – in this case, color.
Since this myth typically revolves around natural and maduro cigars, let’s dive deeper into these two wrapper varieties.... The most common type of natural wrapper is the Connecticut
variety. While Connecticut seed can be grown anywhere, there are two primary types:
- Connecticut Valley leaf - grown in Connecticut under thin sheets of cloth, is a thinner, more elastic leaf that cures to a lighter, even color. Grown in direct sunlight, the leaf would be coarse and tough. But by shading it, the sunlight is filtered. Today, shade-grown Connecticut wrapper leaf is one of the world's most expensive agricultural commodities. Of all places why has Connecticut historically been the source for such prized wrapper leaves? A combination of good soil, adequate rainfall and abundant sunshine has made it one of the world's premium tobacco growing regions. Although experiments have been done transplanting wrapper leaf seed varieties from Connecticut to grow in other regions such as Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Mexico, Panama and others, no one has yet been able to duplicate the color, flavor and texture of the Connecticut Valley leaf. Typically, this leaf is mellower in both flavor and strength, offering a crisp tobacco flavor making it one of the most universal leaves on the planet.
- Ecuadorian Connecticut leaf - grown in Ecuador, is thicker by nature and darker in color. The tobacco-growing regions of Ecuador are misty, eliminating the need for cloth under which the tobacco would be grown. These natural valley mists produce a tobacco leaf that is silky in appearance, oily to the touch, and a slight step up in flavor and strength. Ecuador Connecticut wrappers tend to be richer, with a creamy, slightly nutty element. These characteristics make it the perfect fi t for a bolder filler blend - thus, it is very possible to produce a medium or full-bodied cigar with an Ecuador Connecticut wrapper.
Now, let’s look at maduro
. First and foremost, maduro is not a type of wrapper. Maduro simply means ripe, and almost any strain of tobacco leaf can ‘become maduro.’ Consider it a state of the leaf achieved through extensive fermentation – the natural introduction of a leaf to high temperatures and moisture. During the fermentation process, the natural oils within the tobacco leaf come to the surface, and the color of the leaf darkens. While this can enhance the flavor of the smoke, the leaf actually becomes mellower. Because of this, there are many maduro-wrapped, mellow-bodied cigars on the market.
Remember: the entire blend - wrapper, binder, filler - generate the cigar’s strength. Place full-bodied, ligero tobaccos inside a true Connecticut shade wrapper and boom, you have a full-bodied cigar. Fill a maduro wrapper with mellow seco leaves from the Dominican and you’ll have a mellow-bodied cigar.
Lastly, it’s important to remember, there are plenty of fuller-bodied wrappers disguised as ‘natural’ shade leaves. Tobaccos such as Corojo
, etc. can all be much lighter than most maduro wrappers, but deliver a more complex flavor profile and strength level. An unsuspecting enthusiast may buy a Corojo-wrapped cigar based on color, thinking it’s going to be mellower in body, only to become quite green when the full-bodied profile takes over.