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A Wrapper’s Contribution to Cigar Flavor: Part 3
First, Hendrik pulled three of the same type of cigars out of the humidor in the office. The cigars that were chosen were cigars with a fairly mild blend and were identical, in ring gauge, length, filler, binder and wrapper. He then called down to the factory floor and asked one of the supervisors to bring up a few wrapper leaves of different types.
Eladio took the wrapper leaves off of two of the three cigars and replaced them with two different ones. I became the lucky research assistant who got to smoke the results. The first cigar, had the original wrapper, which was a Connecticut Shade grown in Ecuador. This cigar exhibited grassiness and a light spice. The second wrapper, which was a hybrid of Cuban seed and Connecticut seed also grown in Ecuador, displayed rich tobacco sweetness and had medium spice. The third cigar wrapper was a Cuban seed grown in the DR. This cigar was very full in spice and had woody flavors and aromas. All three were very different, even though the filler and binder were identical. I never expected that the differences would be so dramatic, but it was clear that, when the filler blend is fairly light, the flavor of the wrapper leaf will be able to assert itself more easily. I was thoroughly impressed with the experiment and the results. But, as it turned out, we weren’t done yet
Hendrik called back down and ordered up two more cigars and two more wrappers. These were identical cigars again, but this time they had the same wrapper leaf yet with a twist. The two wrapper leaves, though from the same tobacco type, were taken from different parts of the plant. One was taken from a higher part of the plant (5th priming), and the other a lower part of the plant (2nd or 3rd priming). Again the differences in flavor were substantial. The cigar with the wrapper from the lower priming was light, grassy and had some light spice, while the cigar with the wrapper from the higher priming was full-flavored with rich tobacco sweetness and full in body. Once again, there was a big difference, attributable only to the difference in wrapper leaf. This experiment was the actual proof that the wrapper leaf can contribute hugely to the flavor of a cigar.
In summary, there are many factors that contribute to the flavor in a cigar. A wrapper that is bold in flavor and strength can be a major factor, especially when the filler has been blended mild to medium. Another factor is the ring gauge of the cigar. In cigars with the same blend and wrappers, those with smaller ring gauges have a higher wrapper to filler ratio and, thus, the wrapper will contribute more to the flavor.
Of course, many master blenders will tweak the cigar blend in cigars with smaller ring gauges. I have talked with different master blenders and they all have different philosophies when it comes to blending cigars of different ring gauges. Some will change the blend (i.e., the number of leaves of each tobacco type) so the wrapper will not have too much influence. But others will not change the blend recipe. They keep the same recipe of filler leaves and understand that the smaller ring sizes will have more contribution by the wrapper.
While all of this is interesting, the fact remains that, regardless of the contribution of the wrapper, only you can say if the cigar is to your liking and whether you will buy more for your humidor.
David “Doc” Diaz is the publisher of Stogie Fresh and the editor of the Stogie Fresh Cigar Journal. He has served as an educator, researcher and writer and has taught in the Health Education and Health Science field for over 30 years. He possesses an earned doctorate from Nova Southeastern University.
(This story was re-posted on CigarAdvisor in March of 2011 by permission of the author.)