In the real estate world, the mantra is: Location, Location, Location. In the world of cigar tobacco, location is important, but there is more to a wrapper than what kind of leaf it is, or where it was grown. Don’t misunderstand: these things are important, but there are other obvious things to look for in wrappers. I’d say the mantra for cigar wrappers should be Quality, Visual, and Location. Here’s why they’re important:
Quality: Describes the overall fineness of the wrapper leaves. Generally, wrappers should be aged for a year or two before they are used to help the flavors develop. A quality wrapper will have certain visual cues that we’ll touch on in a moment, but will also not feel thin. A wrapper should have an appropriate level of thickness as well as a nice oil content – because oils are where the flavor content will come from. There’s a lot of debate among Aficionados as to how much flavor the wrapper imparts to the stick, and those percentages range from 50-75%. Regardless of the number, a quality wrapper could make or break a cigar.
Visual: Directly ties into the quality aspect. Ever have a cigar with really large veins in the wrapper leaf or a number of imperfections on the surface? Probably didn’t smoke too great, right? When inspecting a wrapper leaf, it should have small and minimal veins and few to no imperfections on the surface. The color of the wrapper will not always reveal the flavor of the smoke. There’s somewhat of a misunderstanding with wrappers that the darker leaves always lead to a more heavy and robust smoke – not always true. As with Maduros, some of the darkest wrappers out there, they are a sweet smoking wrapper that is very popular despite being very dark.
Location: Ever hear of an Ecuadorian Connecticut? Connecticut Valley Shade? The location a wrapper leaf was grown in can tell you a lot about its flavor. If a wrapper has more than one name, it means that the first name is where the leaf was actually grown and the second is what kind, or where the seeds were originally sourced. Therefore, an Ecuadorian Connecticut would be a leaf grown in Ecuador with Connecticut seed. The location can also tell you a lot about the flavor the wrapper will have. Because Connecticut leaves are usually grown in the shade, the flavors ae more mild and the leaf has fewer and smaller veins – leading to an excellently delicate and crisp flavored smoke.
A cigar’s wrapper might not be everything, but it’s still an important part of the stogie, and will definitely be the first thing you notice about it before purchase. It’ll likely also be the first thing you taste as you smoke the cigar. Because a not insignificant portion of the flavor comes from the wrapper, you should repeat this to yourself as you select cigars for purchase. As always, when in doubt ask for help.