Any avid cigar smoker can tell you that where you get the tobacco, and how it’s grown are major contributing factors in the quality of the cigar, but there’s more to it than that. The different types of tobacco leaves and how they’re used in the cigar contribute to the overall flavor, strength, and size of the cigar. It may not seem like vital information, but whether you’re considering rolling your own cigars, or just want to cement your status as a cigar aficionado, its worth knowing in order to truly appreciate the smoking experience.
There are three types of leaves on a tobacco plant: Ligero, Seco, and Volado. To understand the different types of tobacco leaves, you need to first understand the harvesting process of the tobacco plant. Tobacco plants ripen bottom to top and are harvested correlating sections. This process is called “priming.” Priming ensures that each tobacco leaf is picked at the peak of ripeness.
At the top of the plant, we have the Ligero leaf. Harvested last, and exposed to sunlight the longest, this leaf is flavorful and bold. It’s coarse in texture, and produces smoke with a potent, spicy flavor. Due to ripening the longest, this is the smallest of the leaves, and contains the most nicotine. This leaf is used in the center of cigars. The amount used will determine flavor; the more Ligero leaf a cigar contains, the bolder it’ll taste.
Next, we’ve the Seco leaf. This leaf comes from the middle of the plant. Large in size, and mild in flavor, these leaves make up the second layer of a cigar and are mainly used as filler.
Finally, we’ve the Volado leaf. These leaves are located on the bottom of the tobacco plant and are harvested first. This is the narrowest leaf, and while it does not contribute to the overall flavor and aroma of the cigar, it is vital to ensure proper burning. It is used as the outermost layer, and will affect how quickly a cigar burns. The more a cigar contains, the quicker it’ll burn.
There’s a simple way to remember the particular roles of each leaf. Ligero gives it boldness, Seco creates the body, and Volado makes it all burn. Each type of leaf brings unique qualities to the end result, and each component is imperative in creating a well-rounded cigar.