“Connecticut” is a name you will stumble upon quite a bit as a cigar aficionado, being somewhat ubiquitous on the market as a wrapper. An obvious departure from the prestigious tobaccos from South America, Connecticut tobacco has a unique history, and versatility that makes it quite a crowd-pleaser. So, if you are new to the world of cigar-smoking, it might be worth taking the time to learn more about Connecticut’s impact on the tobacco world.
Where Does Connecticut Tobacco Come from?
Connecticut tobacco grows in the Connecticut River Valley, and thus, has been a staple of the state’s exports since the early days of America. There are actually three distinctive types of tobacco associated with this region of New England:
- Broadleaf: Broadleaf tobacco dates back to the 1600s, when early settlers eagerly planted tobacco seeds in the loamy soils of New England. Broadleaf tobacco grows in the sun, with the direct sunlight greatly affecting the qualities of the plant. The whole plant is harvested at one time, and the sun exposure makes the leaves quite dark. This makes for a distinctively flavorful wrapper. It’s also “topped” frequently – in other words, the top of the plant is consistently cut – to make it oilier, by increasing leaf production. Broadleaf tobacco is grown spread apart.
- Shade: Connecticut Shade tobacco emerged in 1900, and it’s a hybrid between broadleaf, Sumatra, and Cuban tobaccos. Shade tobacco is grown specifically to be used as wrappers. It was developed to be a competitive force against the increasingly popular Sumatran tobacco at the time, and was grown in the shade to mimic the overcast climate of Sumatra by covering crops with cheesecloth. Now, nylon mesh is used. The plants are also grown closer together to encourage even more sun protection.
- Havana: Havana is the least known of the three, but was extremely popular as a wrapper in the early 19th century, being favored over broadleaf until a new broadleaf variety was introduced into the region in 1833, which offered larger leaves that quickly took over in popularity.
What is the Leaf Like?
Because the Havana tobacco from Connecticut has largely grown out of favor, let’s instead compare Connecticut broadleaf and shade wrappers.
- Broadleaf: Broadleaf wrapper are very dark and rich in color as they’re grown in direct sunlight, and the leaf grows to be very wide – hence the name, of course. The leaf is also thicker, which makes it more durable, and slows down the smoke. Broadleaf wrappers are commonly associated with Maduro cigars, as the curing process is extended to make the color even darker, and the wrapper is quite prestigious.
- Shade: Of course, being grown in the shade, Connecticut shade wrappers are lighter in color and a bit thinner. The leaves are smaller than broadleaf, and the curing process is gentler than that of broadleaf, to keep its flavor mild and to allow its color to remain light. Connecticut shade cigars are also associated with many prestigious brands.
Flavor and Aroma Profiles
It’s a lot of fun to compare the two types of Connecticut wrappers in terms of flavor and aroma, because they’re so unique from one another despite coming from the same region. In a lot of ways, they’re like opposites, and each serves a unique purpose in bringing out the very best experience in one’s overall smoke.
- Broadleaf: Broadleaf wrappers have a deep, rich, and dark flavor. Broadleaf wrappers are heavily fermented during the curing process, and this creates a bold taste that many people find practically addictive. The taste is very earthy and robust, with a subtle amount of sweetness. You can taste the fermentation, which adds intriguing complexity to every draw of smoke.
- Shade: Then we have shade wrappers, which offer a dreamy flavor profile that’s known for its notes of cedar and coffee, with a good deal of creaminess, and sweetness. People love the silky-smooth taste of a shade wrapper, which comes from minimal sun exposure and curing.
Again, the quality of the smoke is going to be quite different depending on which of the two varieties you’re smoking.
- Broadleaf: A broadleaf wrapper is going to smoke more slowly because it’s thicker and oilier – both of these factors prolong the time it takes to finish a cigar. The more robust nature of the leaf means a stronger and more impactful draw, which is appealing to many smokers.
- Shade: By contrast, a shade wrapper is going to offer an incredibly smooth and mellow smoke that’s never harsh, and even smokes a bit more quickly because of the thinner and drier nature of the leaf.