Definition: What Is A Cigar Wrapper?
As you may have learned in our introductory guide to cigar anatomy, the wrapper is the cigar’s outermost leaf. Being the only directly visible tobacco leaf, the wrapper is often the focus of attention from enthusiasts.
For this reason, the wrapper’s function is largely aesthetic. However, some cigars will use the wrapper to contribute considerable flavour to the overall blend.
Generally, Cuban manufacturers will argue that the “capa” or wrapper is an attractive leaf used for hiding the unsightly binder. Meanwhile, New World cigars from the Dominican Republic, Honduras and Nicaragua will feature rich and flavoursome wrappers.
Depending on the methods used for curing and fermentation, a wrapper can come in a multitude of colours. The wrapper’s appearance will say a lot about a cigar as the tobacco will develop a particular colour due to the cultivation, curing and ageing processes.
How To Identify A Good Quality Cigar Wrapper
Like the cover of a book or product packaging, a cigar’s wrapper is chosen to be particularly appealing. In many ways, it acts as an introduction to a cigar and a prelude to its flavours. As such, a cigar enthusiast will develop certain expectations according to the wrapper’s appearance.
To be considered a truly alluring wrapper, the leaf should be thin and delicate while featuring as few visible veins as possible. The result should feature a smooth texture with a glistening sheen of rich oils. Similarly, the leaf used needs to be large to avoid creating the appearance of too many lines.
Conversely, a low quality wrapper may have blemishes and stains, which are caused by improper or rushed curing and fermentation. Thick and visible veins usually mean that coarser tobacco was used for making the wrapper.
Likewise, cracks and splitting wrappers are usually bad signs. This can suggest that the cigar has been stored in careless and dry conditions. Meanwhile, signs of mould can usually show that the storage environment is too humid.
Similarly, a rough texture is considered to be unsightly or may indicate a coarse cigar. However, this may be sometimes used intentionally to showcase a blend’s bolder personality.
What Tobacco Leaves Are Used For The Wrapper?
As an attractive wrapper is a thin and delicate leaf with few visible veins and a smooth texture, Ligero tobacco cannot be used as it’s often too thick and coarse.
Meanwhile, an oily sheen and rich aromas are considered as quite desirable, which rules out the tasteless and dry Velado leaves. Therefore, wrapper tobacco usually sourced from the Seco primings. These are oily and aromatic without being too thick and veiny nor too bland.
During the growing process, the selected leaves are meticulously cultivated in prime conditions. For instance, some tobacco may be grown under a cheesecloth-like gauze to prevent it becoming thick under the sun’s rays.
Once the tobacco has been harvested, a very careful curing process ensures that the wrapper is free of any blemishes and develop a consistent colour.
What Are The Different Cigar Colours?
Due to various methods in cultivation, curing and fermentation, cigars can come in many vibrant colours and textures. The full range of hues is staggering with many seeds and hybrids that can provide different results depending on the technique.
Although the wrapper is just a small part of the cigar, its colour can serve as an indicator of the cigar’s flavour and intensity. Lighter cigars can be interpreted as milder while the darker options are more robust.
However, this is only sometimes the case and its important to remember that the colour isn’t always a reliable indication.
Nevertheless, the Colorado Scale is sometimes used to make it easier to classify the majority of shades. This simplified range breaks it down into 7 distinctive hues as illustrated in the graphic below.
You can learn more about each individual colour using the menu below:
Alternatively, scroll down to learn about each one.
- Also Known As: Clarisimo, Double Claro, American Market Selection
Mostly associated with the American market, these young leaves can range from light blonde to a vibrant green. When cultivated, the leaves are usually flash-cured either through a quick-drying process using charcoal fires. Traditionally, they were fermented with candlelight, which earned the named “candela”.
When heated during the drying process, it will lock in the chlorophyll, which gives the distinctive green colour. This is why green cigars are often referred to as Candela whilst blonde ones are Double Claro.
- Also Known As: Connecticut Shade
As well as cultivating the leaves early, Claro tobacco is grown under cheesecloth tents. This reduces exposure to the sun by keeping them in the shade. However, it also protects delicate leaves from varying weather conditions. After air-drying, Claro wrappers have a distinctive tan or golden colour.
Although the Connecticut Shade is the most famous example of this process, the colour isn’t exclusive to the North-Eastern USA. Claro can also be found in Ecuador, which also produce a mild and aromatic cedar flavour.
Colorado Claro Wrapper
- Also Known As: English Market Selection, Natural
Featuring a medium brown colour, Colorado Claro is grown in direct sunlight and left to mature before cultivation. The result is a so-called natural wrapper that isn’t too dark or too light.
Sometimes it may be referred to as English Market Selection. However, this usually implies a specific inventory that was vetted by the historical importers, Hunters & Frankau.
With its aromatic aromas and rich flavour, the Colorado is a popular choice. Often shade-grown, Colorado leaves are left to mature far longer than their lighter counterparts to develop a robust profile.
Colorado Maduro Wrapper
- Also Known As: Spanish Market Selection
Seen as something of a compromise between the Colorado and Maduro (hence the name), it used to be the Spanish favourite. However, it has since long lost this association.
Some may claim that being slightly less cured than a Maduro, it retains a more aromatic flavour profile.
One of the most famous cigar wrappers, the Maduro (“mature” in Spanish) has a passionate following of enthusiasts. Usually cultivated from some of the highest leaves of the plant exposed to the sun, i can undertake years of curing and fermentation.
In order to survive the hot conditions of the pressure chamber ageing process, Maduro leaves are often thick and coarse. The result is an oily yet robust wrapper with a distinctively sweet flavour and high nicotine content.
- Also Known As: Double Maduro, Negro, Black
Like the Maduro, the Oscuro is taken from the highest leaves exposed to the most sun. However, they’re left on the plant for as long as possible before cutting. Once cultivated, they endure a much more intense and longer fermentation process than a Maduro that can last many years.
The result of this is a dark and almost black wrapper with a rough texture and very pronounced flavour. Due to the work involved in obtaining this precious leaf, they are quite rare to find.
Limitations Of The Colorado Scale
As mentioned earlier, the Colorado Scale limits the different shades and hues by breaking them down into 7 possibilities. However, whilst it makes it easy to understand, it leaves out a wide majority of nuances and hues.
For instance, whilst the Connecticut Shade is included even as a synonym, well-known seeds such as the Corojo or Habana are left out. Nevertheless, even if the Corojo or Habana leaves are relatively consistent in appearance, different ageing processes can create a great variety of resulting colours and textures.
Similarly, various firms may define shades somewhat differently. For example, one house’s Claro may be another’s Double Claro. Rather than use this Colorado Scale as a precise standard of unit, it serves as a visual aid to make it easier in appreciating the varieties available.
Now that you have read about the different types of cigar wrappers, discover some of our other cigar resources such as the following: