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The wrapper is what you see on the outside of the cigar. The wrapper is the most important element of the cigar, as it gives a cigar not only its appearance and smell but provides much of the taste as well. When you look at a cigar and run it under your nose, the wrapper is what you’re appreciating. Although manufacturers have identified over 100 different shades, only six are of great distinction.
Also known as "American Market Selection" (AMS) or "Candela", this is a green wrapper. Victor Sinclair Cigarillos are a popular cigar utilizing a Candela wrapper leaf.
This is a very light tan color, almost beige in shade, usually from Connecticut. Macanudo Café is an example of a cigar that has a Claro shade wrapper.
A medium brown found on many cigars; this category covers many descriptions. The most popular are "Natural", or "English Market Selection" (EMS). Tobaccos in this shade are grown in many different countries. Punch is an example of a cigar that as a Colorado Claro wrapper.
This shade is instantly recognizable by the obvious reddish tint. Don Pepin Garcia Blue is an example of a cigar that has a Colorado wrapper.
Darker than Colorado Claro in shade, this color is often associated with African tobacco, such as wrappers from Cameroon, or with Havana Seed tobacco grown in Honduras. La Perla Habana Morado is an example of a cigar that uses a Colorado Maduro wrapper.
Very dark brown or black; this category also includes the deep black "Oscuro" shade. Tobacco for Maduro wrappers is grown in Connecticut, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Brazil. 5 Vegas Series 'A' is an example of a cigar that uses a maduro wrapper.
It doesn’t often happen that a new type of tobacco makes its way into the market. That’s due to a few reasons. First, most seed varieties are already in use, and there's usually a good reason those not being used stay that way. Secondly, it takes years to cultivate a new wrapper. Finding a good location, establishing fertile fields, engineering the crop to provide large, flavorful, and disease-resistant leaves, aging the final crop, proper fermentation, perfecting a blend - is a long and tedious process! So, from idea to final product can take a long time. But there’s an upside to the wait. Most new tobacco varieties released are usually very good, having been perfected over long periods of time.
If you're interested in trying something different, two new wrapper varieties receiving ample praise recently:
Habano Ecuador - – launched a few years ago, it has snowballed into a hugely popular wrapper choice. Habano Ecuador is Cuban seed, grown in the rich, fertile soils of Ecuador under natural cloud cover. The result is gorgeous leaf that’s smooth and even in color, and loaded with flavor. When fermented properly, this leaf acquires a dark, reddish-brown hue, a nice coat of oils and a beautiful appearance. But the flavor it offers is its real gift. Complex, rich, and Cuban-esque, Habano Ecuador has become a go-to choice for full-flavored premiums. It’s a little more costly than some other leaves, but the added flavor makes it worth the coin. Try Man O’ War Ruination, My Father, Oliva Serie ‘V’, Sol Cubano Cuban Cabinet, La Aroma de Cuba Edicion Especial, or Padilla Reserva Habano to experience the impressive taste of Habano Ecuador wrapper.
Pennsylvania Broadleaf - Grown in Pennsylvania, USA (Lancaster) and normally fermented into a maduro, PA Broadleaf has been around for quite some time. But until recently, it was only used as a binder and sometimes filler. It’s not the most attractive leaf due to its somewhat uneven, marbleized appearance. But the flavor is extraordinarily rich and distinctive. If you’re interested in a full-flavored maduro with a uniquely original taste, check out Diesel, 5 Vegas Triple ‘A’, or La Herencia Cubano Oscuro Fuerte to experience Pennsylvania Broadleaf in all its glory. Based on the success of these brands and others, expect to see a flood of new Pennsylvania Broadleaf releases in the coming years.
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. 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, Criollo, Habano, Sumatra, 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.