There are several different types of tobacco. Which plants the cigar producer chooses and how much of each creates vastly different flavors, burning tendencies, and strengths. Knowing different types of tobacco will help you better choose a flavor of a cigar to your liking.
There are three types of leaves: filler tobacco, the binder leaf, and wrapper tobacco. Filler tobacco is the main determinate for the strength of the cigar. There are several types of filler tobacco, the most common are ligero, volado, and seco. Ligero is used among the highest quality cigars, it comes from the top of the tobacco plant, and requires a longer growing period for maturation. Ligero tobacco is full-bodied and burns longer. Cigars with this filler will have a heavy, spicy flavor. Volado leaves come from the bottom of the tobacco plant. They’re easy burning and have a lighter, milder flavor. Lastly, the seco leaf, which comes from the middle of the tobacco plant. They’ve more flavor and are longer burning than volado, but not as much as ligero.
Binder leaves are what keep the filler tobacco together. They have to be somewhat stretchy to be able to roll around the filler. For the most part, cigar producers choose a low-quality leaf for the binder as its only purpose is to hold the cigar together. It may have blemishes, unlike the wrapper, or be not as flavorful as the filler. However, some top line producers have started testing with flavors in the binder to complement the filler.
The wrapper tobacco is the most important. It’s the highest quality leaf, and it not only determines the aesthetics of the cigar, but it is the primary flavor provider. They can be grown in a tent or in the sun, which will make them thinner versus thicker, and lighter versus full-bodied. Wrappers can range from very light to very dark. How the leaf is heated and fermented will determine the flavor. This process, like a vintner making wine, will determine the unique texture, and flavor of the cigar.
If all of these tobacco leaves come from the same country, they will be labeled “puro”. Otherwise, producers are experimenting with importing various leaves from other countries and testing to make entirely new blends of cigars. Understanding which leaves they are using, and the blending process will help you to better decide which types of cigars you prefer.