Wrappers A-Z: Mexican

Mexico

Mexico’s cigar industry is quite large and also quite consolidated, the entirety of it being located in the region of Los Tuxtlas along the Gulf of Mexico. This fertile region features rich volcanic soil and also a rich history. It is thought that tobacco plants probably originated on the Yucatan peninsula and that the natives there were smoking long before modern cigars were invented. The volcanic soil in which the tobacco is grown in Los Tuxtlas is what contributes to the unique flavor of Mexican tobacco leaves. The dark, spicy earthy flavor is repugnant to some, but is adored by others. Regardless, it’s a very unique flavor, one which makes it easy to instantly identify a Mexican wrapper when you encounter one.

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Wrappers A-Z: Honduran

Honduras Map

Wrappers of Honduran origin have a strength and flavor that fall between Ecuador and Nicaragua tobacco. There is an earthiness but there is also a spice. Camacho and Puros Indios are two well known manufacturers in this country. General Cigar also manufactures a lot of their lines in Honduras.

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Wrappers A-Z: Arapiraca

Arapiraca

This leaf is grown in central eastern Brazil in the state of Alagoas from the Bahia type (see here for Common Tobacco Strains). It is often referred to as a Brazilian Maduro, but is a little less sweet and a little more light and earthy than a "standard Maduro". The tobacco is not as aromatic as other Bahia tobacco grown in other regions, but its subtlety makes it an excellent component for cigar making. The Arapiraca wrapper leaf takes its name from the name of the municipality where it is grown. The Arapiraca municipality has gained renown as “The Tobacco Capital of Brazil” owing to the delightfully subtle leaves that are grown there. Brazilian tobacco leaves have been used in a number of popular cigars including La Aurora Preferido Maduros, Alec Bradley’s Trilogy Maduros, and Charlie Toraño’s 1959 Exodus 50 Years.

Despite the fact that many smokers in America enjoy Brazilian tobacco leaves in their cigars, Brazil has never become a popular exporter to US customers. Many of the cigars US smokers enjoy that contain Brazilian leaves aren’t actually Brazilian cigars. In the first half of the 2000s decade, fewer than 100,000 Brazilian cigars were imported into the US every year. Why Brazilian cigars don’t have the same renown as cigars from other countries (Cuba for example) isn’t particularly clear, but hopefully awareness of the distinctive and superlative Brazilian Arapiraca Maduro wrapper leaves will continue to grow, bringing Brazil more success in the coming years.

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Wrappers A-Z: Besuki

Indonesia Map

When American consumers think of cigars, thoughts usually turn toward Cuba and other countries in Central and South America—not to Indonesia. Nonetheless, Indonesia is enjoying success with its Besuki wrappers as well as its Sumatra tobacco leaves, which are used as binders, fillers, and wrappers. Originally, Besuki referred to a type of tobacco that was specifically grown in East Java. The quality of this crop can vary and it is not as popular as it once was. The rest of the tobacco industry in Indonesia is concentrated in East and West Java as well as the island of Sumatra.

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Common Tobacco Strains

Tobacco leaves

Before I delve into cigar wrapper types, I wanted to give a quick overview of cigar tobacco in general, specifically the common tobacco strains.

Tobacco originates from South America: Ecuador and Peru in particular. It belongs in the same family (Solanaceae) which includes tomatoes, eggplant and potatoes!

Fact o' the Day- Did you know that out of the 66 different types of tobacco, only two are smokeable? Nicotiana rustica Linnaeus and Nicotiana tobacum Linnaeus, named after Swedish Botanist Carolus Linnaeus in 1753.

From Perelman's Primer, "the Nicotiana tabacum type is the one we know today that is used for almost all smoking tobacco." Within the tabacum family are are various sub-species such as blond, burley, Oriental and black. The first three are flue or fire -cured and are used primarily in cigarettes. Black tobacco is air-cured and the only one used in cigars.

Common Tobacco Strains

Of course there are tons of different Black tobacco strains, and agronomists are always experimenting in order to find the next best thing, but here are the five most common strains. (This list is yanked right from Perelman's primer)

Bahia: this is grown in Brazil and is one of the oldest native-seed tobaccos. More info on Bahia tobacco located here.

Broadleaf: widely grown, especially in the U.S., this style resulted from the migration of natives from the Andes area into North America.

Habanesis Hybrids: these styles developed from seeds brought to Cuba from Mexico in 1534 and form the base of the "Cuban seed" tobacco family.

San Andres Negro: planted in Mexico and was cultivated by the Aztecs.

Sumatran: originally planted on the Indonesian island of Sumatra from seeds brought by Dutch explorers and traders of the 1500's.

Wrappers A-Z: Cameroon

Cameroon map

The Cameroon is my personal favorite non-Cuban wrapper, long regarded by many as the best wrapper leaf outside of Cuba. The Cameroon wrapper is originally from the Sumatran black tobacco plant and is a hard leaf to grow (read this too). Grown in Central Africa, the climate is so temperate that the plants are completely sun-grown, which is made even easier by semi-permanent cloud cover which helps keep uniformity in the leaf's appearance. Cameroon wrappers have been used in a number of popular cigar brands for both premium hand-rolled cigars and machine-made cigars including Garcia y Vega, Arturo Fuente and different brands from General Cigar. Despite political problems and internal strife in Central Africa which causes many businesses to suffer, the cigar wrapper industry is thriving and continues to grow.

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Wrappers A-Z: Nicaraguan

Nicaragua Map

Despite political upheavals which have made production difficult at times, Nicaragua has proved to be a leader in premium cigar production and puts out some of the most aromatic and flavorful tobacco in the world. Nicaraguan wrappers are valued worldwide for their distinguishing qualities, though at one time (around 1979 when the Sandinistas took over), wrapper production virtually ceased, thanks to blue mold and socioeconomic action taken by Cuba against Nicaragua’s tobacco crops. This incident was just one of many in the country’s history which have made it difficult for manufacturers to flourish.

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Wrappers A-Z: Connecticut Broadleaf

Connecticut

Connecticut Broadleaf, unlike Connecticut shade, is grown in full sun, where the leaf gets thick and full of sugar. The plant is stalk cut instead of primed. Usually earthy and toasty with a subtle sweetness, this wrapper is certainly one of the most popular in the last few years. This leaf is grown in many countries and is the primary type used in Maduro cigars. The word "Connecticut" in the tobacco's name refers to the valley, not the state.

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