A cigar wrapper is the pièce de résistance of any great cigar – it does a lot more than just hold a cigar together, it helps to define the flavor and overall experience of smoking a great cigar.When you are diving in and purchasing your next box of cigars you want to have a least a working knowledge of cigar wrappers.
Forgive us for waxing poetically about the importance of a cigar wrapper but we believe it’s critical to inform and engage you with the hope you might (small plug) take the plunge and give us some of your business with a purchase. But, regardless, we hope this deep dive into cigar wrappers gives you deep insight.
Six Critical Issues about Cigar Wrappers and their Impact on your Cigar’s Quality
Your Cigar Wrapper should be paired with the right filter and binder. You have to holistically think about all of the ingredients that go into a great cigar, not just the wrapper by itself. The filler and the binders should be from the same seed variety and foliage level – if these are well matched, then the wrapper will impact the overall taste of the cigar, assuming the filler and binders are of good quality. Think about the correlation of the wrapper and the filler and binder – these are critical.
If you pair an Ecuadorian wrapper (which is usually mild and neutral) with a filler and binder that are Ligero (usually found at the top of a tobacco plant) the wrapper is not going to be the source of flavor. But for a cigar with leaves from the bottom of the plant combined with a powerful Ligero wrapper the wrapper will define the overall taste of the cigar, not the filler and the binder. Just remember the relationship between the filler, binder and the wrappers – it’s important.
A Great Cigar is like Real Estate – The Location of the Plant Defines the Taste
The location of the plant and weather are critical to defining the quality of the cigar wrapper. In the wine business most aficionados will tell you the “terroir” (the soil and environment) has a huge impact on the quality of the wine and this is true when you are assessing the quality of a cigar wrapper. The same seed stock planted in a different location will impact the taste of your cigar differently. Just ask any wine connoisseur if he or she likes California or French wine and stand back.
When cigar tobacco is grown (anywhere in the world) the composition of the soil itself with have a significant impact on the leaf; usually soil that is mineral rich (high in potassium, iron and magnesium) you are going to get a plant with a much richer flavor, that is robust and aromatic.
If you dig into (no pun intended) into PH balance that will also tell you something about the quality of the plant – if you do your research, note a PH balance of 5.0 to 6.5 helps to create a plant that will better assimilate minerals and nutrients and give you a richer flavor.
Weather and the geographical location of where the plant is grown will impact the cigar wrapper flavor – too much rain or drought dissipates the health of the plant, giving you a radical difference in the quality of the plant’s health and flavor.
The seed stock of a plant is another important variable and contributor to flavor. Again, like wine, beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. Many think a wrapper from seed stock in Ecuador is lighter in flavor and milder and should be paired with the right filler and binder that does not overpower it.
But, some cigar smokers think and Ecuadorian wrapper (seed stock) is too acidic in taste and prefer a Habana type of wrapper, which is stronger and fuller, bodied in taste. Wrappers from Indonesia usually have a somewhat wooden flavor (originating in the curing process in a barn) and others prefer a Dominican wrapper, with an inherently spicier flavor that is more complex.
Ring Gauges Have a Huge Impact on Your Cigar’s Flavor Origins
The ring gauge of your cigar wrapper have a huge impact on the flavor.Most good quality cigars are have three primary components that define the taste of the cigar: you have filler leaves (the blend), the binder (about 50% of the leaf), and a wrapper (almost always half of a leaf).
In most cases a cigar with small rings will generate more flavor from the wrapper than that of a really thick cigar. Ring gauges very dramatically, generally from the mid 30’s to up to 60, with a small cigar like the Panatela with a ring gauges in the 30-35 range and a much bigger cigar like a Presidente with 52-60 ring gauges.
Bigger cigars usually have a higher amount of fillers that are competing for the overall taste, contrasted with a smaller ring cigar, which has much less filler. And, the shape of your cigar is also important and it too impacts flavor.
When you are smoking a smaller perfecto cigar at first you are tasting the wrapper itself and not much of the fillers. As you enjoy more of the cigar and get into the center your smoking much more of the fillers and experiencing the taste of the entire blend.
A Great Cigar Wrapper is should be properly Stored, Fermented and Processed
The method in which a cigar company processes their tobacco and wrappers defines the complex blend of flavor characteristics that make a great cigar. When your doing your research realize the curing process is important – a wrapper is made by heating up a barn or shed with high temperatures, which determines how “green” the tobacco is. If your stick has a green or grassy taste the tobacco was probably not cured properly (processing time equals more costs), giving you not a great experience.
Fermentation helps to remove some of the acidic characteristics, nitrogen and ammonia from the cigar wrapper – once these impurities are removed in fermentation the cigar burns properly and evenly. If the manufacturer scrimps on fermentation during production your going to get a cigar with higher levels of impurities and it’s not going to taste as good.
Conversely, if the manufacturer over ferments (it’s a delicate process) your cigar wrapper will lose essential oils that help to produce an aromatic flavorable experience – much of the natural strength of the tobacco is lost in the process and the leaf does not look as glossy.
Again, like a great wine, the aging of the wrapper bales is critical, making the tobacco combust properly, and improving the overall taste. If the wrapper is not aged properly it’s not going to taste as good, giving you a taste of a raw, greener tobacco that is not optimum for most cigar smokers.
A Properly Stored Cigar will Always Improve Your Experience
Most aficionados will tell you to store a cigar in a low humidity environment with a 70-degree temperature and 68% humidity. You’re making an investment when you buy cigars a high quality humidor for storage helps you protect your investment.Five critical issues for best cigar storage:
High humidity produces fungus (film coating) which even when wiped off negates flavor.
A cigar high in Ligero in the blend should be stored at slightly lower humidity.
Too low humidity is not good: essential oils can be lost.
If the cigar is stored with conditions that are too dry you’ll lose flavor characteristics.
Bad storage conditions can only negate the flavor of your cigar but they can also raise the quality (slightly) of a cigar that was not fermented or aged properly.
A Great Cigar is the Sum of Many Parts Including the Cigar Wrapper
There is so much that goes into a great cigar. As we said at the outset a great cigar wrapper can make or break a cigar. But, where the plant was grown, the actual seed stock origin, the amount of ring gauges, the quality of the fermentation and the storage all help to define your experience.
For great taste and experience you need to understand and appreciate how wrappers impact the smoke and the flavor experience. We hope this post was helpful and informative.