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Cigar Q&A: How Much of a Cigar’s Flavor Comes from the Wrapper?
Cigar 101: How Much Flavor the Cigar Wrapper Contributes to the Blend
A burning question, indeed…but because of how a premium cigar is made, it’s hard to answer this question with anything other than, “it depends.” Although I can add: it’s probably more than you might think.
“It depends” on a number of factors: the size of the cigar, the blend of tobaccos used to make it, and – believe it or not – even who you ask. Which means it’s subjective, like pretty much everything when it comes to cigars, tobaccos and flavor. And that’s why we’ve seen some estimates for the wrapper’s contribution to a cigar’s flavor profile to be as little as 20-30%, while others, including Ernesto Perez-Carrillo, have said the wrapper speaks for as much as 70% of the total flavor impact. But who’s right?
To get closer to your answer, take two things into account: math, and type of tobacco.
The amount of flavor that comes from the wrapper depends a lot on the cigar’s size – more specifically, the ring gauge of the cigar. Compare a Churchill to a Petite Robusto: all components of the blend being equal, the volume of filler tobaccos and amount of wrapper surface area can vary by 20%. Granted, it’s a small variation – but it’s not insignificant, as the difference can be noticeable to many palates.
Next, factor in the type of tobaccos used in the blend, and especially for the wrapper…if it’s a spice-riddled Habano, or the blender chose a PA Broadleaf that’s a real pepper-monger, there’s more of this intense flavor to go around – and more impact on the taste buds. This is often one of the reasons why you’ll find many Coronas that can out-muscle their Toro and Gordo counterparts; it’s also why most cigar blenders will tell you why they start with the wrapper when they develop their recipes.
Yes, the other tobaccos do contribute their fair share of flavor: “Every leaf is important to the overall blend, but most importantly, the binder has to blend well with the wrapper,” Ernesto told us. “It can be the difference between an ‘OK’ cigar and a memorable cigar.” But the binder’s role is really more complementary – its real job is to keep the fillers together, and make sure they burn on pace with the wrapper. Binder tobaccos leaves usually come from the less-flavorful lower primings (again, depending on the type of plant), but are prized for their combustibility and aroma. The fillers help to add extra body to the smoke, and provide some of the nuances.
So who’s right? It depends. If you want to get a true estimate of how much of a cigar’s flavor comes from the wrapper, you need to experiment for yourself on a cigar you enjoy – and Alan Rubin from Alec Bradley Cigars showed us how, with this simple yet ingenious test:
Try it, and see – and I bet you’ll get a better sense of how hard that wrapper leaf is working for you.