What is a Candela wrapper?

What is a Candela wrapper? Often cigar smokers, especially new smokers, have no idea what Candela is. They see a green wrapper and look at it as something weird. A gimmick or something used to make a cigar look interesting. And you can’t blame them, as that’s the last decade many cigar brands have been using candela that way. Use thin pieces of the green wrapper to highlight another wrapper, make a barber pole with Candela, or make a green theme cigar. Give it a funky name, turning the once-so-popular wrapper into a gimmick. But what’s the history behind the wrapper, and why is the tobacco green?

The history

If you are old enough to remember cigars prior to the mid-1970s (we are not) then you might remember that candela wrappers were everywhere. It was the most favorite wrapper of American cigar enthusiasts. The wrapper was so popular in America, that it was dubbed ‘American Market Selection’ where natural wrappers were known as ‘English Market Selection’. And it all started in the early 1940s in Cuba. To meet the demand for milder cigars, and to meet the exploding demand for cigars, Cuban farmers found a way to cure tobacco in days instead of weeks. But that quick curing locks in chlorophyll, preventing the wrapper from turning brown.

The process was discovered by accident. Some Cuban farmers would use heat to warm up their curing barns to balance excess humidity. If it got too hot, the leaves from the lower part of the tobacco plant would turn green. Instead of discarding that tobacco, farmers still made cigars with it. And the consumers loved it, so the farmers started to do this with all their crops. The demand went down when the Cuban embargo came into play. Candela from other countries was sourer and that didn’t please the consumers. And by the time farmers outside of Cuba got the flavor under control, cigar smokers had moved on to natural wrappers.

What makes tobacco green?

Well, the better question is, what does the tobacco prevent it from turning brown? It’s heat, lots of heat. Blazing fires in the curing barns. And the process is quicker and easier than natural curing, that’s why farmers like it so much. Less time in the barn, and no need for fermentation, means they see their money quicker. 

 Wrappers used for Candela are harvested before they reach maturity. Every crack and hole in the curing barn is covered as sunlight is kryptonite for candela wrappers. Vents in the bottom and top of the barn are left open and slowly the farmers increase the heat. From 32 degrees Celsius (90 Fahrenheit) to 38 degrees celsius (100 Fahrenheit) for two days straight. Then the tobacco is all green and ready, except for the stem. The stem is stubborn, so takes closing the bottom vents and cranking the heat up to close to 80 Celsius (175 Fahrenheit) for a day. 

This process locks in the chlorophyll. Farmers then open the vents at nighttime to let moisture in. The nighttime few should be enough, but in dry days electronic steamers do the job. That’s the whole process and it eliminates further curing, fermenting, and aging. Taking months, or years, of the process. The only downside is that the tobacco has to be stored in a refrigerated area.

Gimmick or not?

Now is Candela a gimmick? It depends on the use. Candela has its unique flavor, grassy, fresh, and when done right, Candela cigars can bring something to the game. And there are a few companies that do treat Candela with the respect that it deserves. Think of Illusione for example. Dion Giolitto has several Illusione cigars with a Candela wrapper that are not a gimmick. Kafie 1901 and Arturo Fuente also use Candela in a traditional way.

Others use the green leaf as a gimmick, or to decorate natural cigars. The best example is the Alec Bradley Filthy Hooligan and the Shamrock, the annual St. Patrick’s Day release. The cigars are popular, but the use of green leaves in combination with the green-themed Irish national holiday make it a gimmick. The same goes for the MoyaRuiz Pickle Juice, another green St. Patrick’s day release. Asylum’s Ogre, a barber pole named after the green character from Shrek, is another cigar that uses Candela as a gimmick. Or maybe the cigar isn’t a gimmick, but the Orge name makes it feel that way. 

And then there are some that don’t utilize Candela as a wrapper by itself. But also don’t use it as a gimmick. They use thin pieces of Candela to aesthetically make some limited editions look amazing. RoMa Craft’s Black Irish is a fine example of this technique. or Black Studio Works Killer Bee.

Go out and smoke

If you are curious about Candela after reading this article, go out and explore. Grab yourself a few Candela cigars. And we suggest getting some legit ones from Fuente, Illusione, Rocky Patel, Kafie 1901, or any other brand with a serious Candela cigar. Also get some barber poles such as the Orge, Filthy Hooligan, or Stogie Roads Sweet Grass Gringo. Try them, smoke them. Maybe you like them, maybe you won’t enjoy the typical Candela flavor but without trying you will never know.

header photo by Tim Stief on Unsplash

Leave a Reply