What makes a cigar
wrapper so oily?
A shimmering wrapper leaf, usually more apparent on a maduro cigar, can often be the difference between a sale and a pass. As my colleague Humberto Gonzalez says, "Oily cigar wrappers are attractive to the American eye because Americans love big shiny things." Actually, the oils secreted from the leaf are a product of the curing process. However, an oily wrapper is a sign that the leaf was not completely fermented. Moreover, some factories will use ethylene glycol to make their cigars look oilier. According to Jorge Padron, that's a serious no-no.
"At Padron we would never even consider doing something like this. Much has been said about oily wrappers and how consumers should look upon this as a positive attribute of a cigar. During fermentation, the idea is to remove as much oil from the wrapper leaf as possible without entirely drying it out."
The 411 on Maduro Cigars
By Gary Korb
There is so much material on the various processes for making Maduro wrapper it would take up a lot more space than I'm afforded here, so, I've tried to distill it down to the basics:
Let's start with the first misconception about Maduro cigars. "Maduro cigars are stronger than 'natural' or lighter-colored cigars." Nothing could be farther from the truth. First of all, "maduro" is Spanish for "ripe," not "strong." For that we use "fuerte." Ironically, the longer the leaf is fermented, the darker the leaf will be and the milder it will taste. Generally speaking, Maduro wrapper tends to be sweeter in flavor. This is due to the extra amount of sunlight that leaves used for Maduro get. The more sun, the more sugars and oils the leaf will produce. And because sunlight plays an important part in the process, the leaves used for curing most maduro come from the top two-thirds of the plant. However, Maduro can be as spicy as a jalapeno with the right curing method.
Secondly, there is no actual "Maduro leaf." As noted above, Maduro is created via a number of fermentation processes depending on what the blender is trying to achieve in terms of color, flavor and strength. The most commonly used leaves for curing Maduro are Connecticut Broadleaf, Habano, and Mexican-grown Sumatra, although Brazilian Mata Fina has become popular in recent years for its spicy properties.
In order to achieve the dark color associated with Maduro wrappers, in addition to extra sunlight, the leaves must also be fermented longer and at a higher temperature, usually as high as 150 degrees. ("Natural" wrappers are fermented at an average of 110 degrees.)
Another way to achieve a dark colored leaf is by using a method called "cooking." Using a steam chamber that can reach temperatures of over 180 degrees, this process is known to produce some of the darkest and mildest maduro leaves.
Speaking of color, "Oscuro" is the darkest of all the maduro varieties. But not unlike the misconception for strength, oscuro simply means the leaf is virtually "black" in color and nothing more.
Some factories even use dyes and sugar to darken and sweeten the leaf. If you notice some stain on your fingers or lips, the wrapper was most likely made using this process, which most maestro tabaqueros are loathe to do.
I can assure you that all of the cigars featured in this month's sampler are cured naturally. Check 'em out and discover the wonderful array of flavors and aromas that they can produce when done right.