The X Factor (Part 1): The Soul of a Good Cigar

The X Factor (Part 1): The Soul of a Good Cigar

The tangible of a good cigar…

Perhaps the X factor can be described as “body.” A texture that can glue all of a cigar’s elements together. Yet some cigars can have abundant smoke and still not have that “thing.” Adding more volado[i] to a cigar’s blend will certainly add more combustion, but that could take away flavor. No, it’s not about the quantity of smoke.

And it’s not about strength. Some cigars are strong but still boring. Adding loads of ligero[ii] will certainly increase strength and will often add flavor. But the X factor is not simply about adding more of this, or less of that.

Fermentation is key to making a good cigar and some cigar manufacturers are better at it than others. Of all the elements, fermentation may be the one factor closest to the X factor. Having well fermented leaves is key for constructing a good cigar, but without the right blend, a cigar won’t have balance regardless of its fermentation. Without balance, even a well-fermented cigar will get boring. Is balance the answer? Here again, a cigar with a balanced blend can be missing something.

The intangible…

So where does that leave us? So far we’ve talked about tangible things, i.e. combustion, strength, and fermentation. But there is something else that must be taken into account…and that is soul.  No, I’m not talking about cigars having souls, but rather cigars being soulful. And this doesn’t come from the tobacco used or the amount of fermentation. It comes from the person responsible for the creation of the cigar, the cigar blender. The best cigars are those made by people with a passion for cigars, and [who generally come] from a lineage of cigar makers. Behind every great cigar is a great cigar blender to whom cigar making is instinctual. They are beyond simply making cigars; rather, they are creating works of smokeable art. Each cigar is an extension of their being and contains a level of soulfulness derived straight from their hearts. If someone less passionate were to make a cigar using the same tobacco and techniques, the result would be uninspired. It is similar to cooking. Two people can follow the same recipe but the one with a love for food will always make a tastier dish. It is this intangible factor that drives all greatness.

Passion elevates one’s accomplishments whether it be cigars, food, music, or architecture. Perhaps cigar reviewers should make soulfulness a part of their grading systems. It would be great to read that along with appearance, construction, flavor, and value, there was a column for soulfulness. Sometimes reviewers get carried away with cerebral adjectives in an effort to describe the quality of a cigar. That makes for good reading, but ultimately when talking cigars, whether they have the X factor or not may be all we really need to know.

[i] Volado is the lower priming tobacco leaves used for combustion in a cigar blend.
[ii] Ligero is the uppermost primings from the tobacco plant.  These leaves are the strongest and have tones of flavor.

This article originally appeared on February 25. 2011, and has been reposted by permission of the author. Copyright © 2011 | Robustojoe: Online Cigar Magazine. All rights reserved.

Gary Korb

Gary Korb

Executive Editor at

Gary Korb has been writing and editing content for since its debut in 2008. An avid cigar smoker for over 30 years, during the past 12 years he has worked on the marketing side of the premium cigar business as a Sr. Copywriter, blogger, and cigar reviewer. A graduate of the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, prior to his career in the cigar business, Gary worked in the music and video industry as a marketer and a publicist.

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