The outermost tobacco leaf of the cigar is known as the wrapper. As there are many different types, the wrapper can have an impact on the overall flavor of the cigar and the aesthetics of the cigar. The capa or wrapper is used in Cuban cigar making for mainly aesthetic purposes, giving it a beautiful finish. In cigar making tradition from places like the Dominican Republic, the wrapper tends to provide an added layer of flavor and complexity. There are many different wrappers, each with a different set of qualities and characteristics. Two of the most common natural wrappers and Maduro wrappers, are explained in this article.
Just by looking at the wrapper, the color and quality of the leaf can be noted. The delicacy and as few veins as possible are the most desirable in a wrapper and are marks of quality craftsmanship. Each section of the tobacco plant is designated to a specific role in the making of a cigar with the leaves at the top of the plant receiving the most sun and having the most potent flavor and the leaves toward the bottom having less flavor but fine, delicate leaves that are highly combustible. Much of the time, the larger, thinner leaves towards the bottom of the tobacco plant are used as wrappers, although Maduro wrappers are often sourced from top leaves. The leaves are aged from their natural green leaf color to brown perfection of varying shades. With no fewer than fifty different wrapper varieties, the range of flavors and aesthetics is wide. The wrappers range from the very light Connecticut and natural wrappers to the dark, fermented Maduro.
Although many believe that a darker wrapper signifies a stronger, bolder cigar flavor, and this can be true, there are many more factors that contribute to the strength of a cigar. A darker Maduro wrapper is stronger than a natural wrapper, however, cigar with a natural wrapper that has a deep, dark filler and or binder will change the overall smoking flavor and experience of the cigar. Many cigar makers choose to only produce a natural cigar and a Maduro cigar, making them two of the most popular wrappers. It is important to note that “natural” cigars can sometimes refer to any cigar that is not a Maduro.
Maduro, meaning ripe or mature in Spanish, creates some confusion as Maduro is a shade of very dark brown of the wrapper, a shade between Colorado Maduro (a dark brown) and Oscuro (black-brown) on the scale of cigar color. Maduro wrappers as a whole, not just the color of one wrapper, are characterized by their fermentation process where moisture and heat are carefully controlled as the leaves are processed. The two varieties San Andrés Negro and Connecticut Broadleaf are mainly used because of how the leaves hold up to the long and rigorous curing process of Maduro wrappers. The end result is a dark, oily wrapper with deep, sweet flavors.
Color is an important aspect of a wrapper. It largely depends on the curing method as well as the leaf’s sun exposure. The immediately noticeable difference between natural and Maduro cigar wrappers is the color. Natural wrappers are a lighter brown while Maduro wrappers are a darker brown. Within the Maduro classification, there are many different types as the color of the brown can vary from dark brown to midnight black. The color difference comes from the Maduro receiving more sunlight through the growing process as well as an extra fermentation during the processing of the tobacco leaves. After the extensive fermentation process of turning the leaves’ starches into sugars, the wrappers then are cured for extended periods of time to fully create their signature dark, oily surface.
The lighter colored natural wrappers are made from tobacco that has not been exposed to excessive, bright sunlight. Some tobaccos are grown under cheesecloth to protect it from full sunlight. This is in contrast to the darker Maduro that has been exposed to bright sunlight. The leaves destined for a natural wrapper are also dried much slower, giving them their signature light golden tan color. Frequently, Connecticut Shade, Corojo, and Habano are the tobacco varieties used for natural wrappers and each has its own color and flavor profiles.
Flavor is one of the most important characteristics of a cigar, if not the most important. Each cigar is carefully crafted from seed to packaging to create and maintain a signature blend. The wrapper is a main component of the flavor, packaging the binder and filler into a cigar. When crafting a cigar, an intense Maduro wrapper or a mild, nutty natural wrapper is a large part of the flavor equation of cigar blending.
Maduro wrappers get their deeper, complex taste from an extra fermentation that the natural wrapper does not receive. The flavor of Maduro wrappers can range from chocolate to a peppery taste, with a natural sweetness from the extra fermentation that makes it a natural pair with cognac or rum.
Natural wrappers have a milder, nuttier taste in contrast to the smooth, sweet flavor of a Maduro wrapper. The slow drying process for natural wrappers combats any bitterness. Natural wrappers made from Habano tobacco exhibit a rich, sometimes spicy flavor and are typically seen on cigars from Ecuador and Nicaragua although they originate from Cuba. The flavor of a Connecticut Shade natural wrapper leans towards mild and slightly sweet.
While the flavor that comes from a wrapper may sometimes be gauged by the color, the overall flavor of a cigar is determined in combination with the tobacco used as filler and binder. The flavor and blending are complex and considers factors such as seed varietal, growing soil and climate, maturity, and processing.
Each season brings distinctive weather patterns and drives our choices on how we spend our time. Long summer days invite us outdoors, winter weather brings us indoors. These weather patterns also influence our cigar choices, much like many people choose red wine in winter for its warming characteristics and white wine in summer for its cooling characteristics. It’s no different with cigars. Maduro wrapped cigars are enjoyed by many during the cooler months, slowly smoked and warmed by the deep, sweet experience and its natural pairing with cognac and bourbons. On the other hand, natural wrapped cigars are smoked during the spring and summer months by many as the light flavor can pair with hot, humid weather.
Our large selection of cigars allows you to choose from a variety of wrappers and explore new blends. Try one of our samplers to experience the different flavors and characteristics of different wrapper types. Or browse our best selling Maduro cigars and find your new favorite today.