The make-up of a cigar consists of three different tobacco leaves: filler, binder, and the wrapper. For now, we will stick with the wrapper, the outermost layer of leaf that makes the cigar so visually appealing.
Cigar wrappers attribute to the overall flavor and strength of a cigar depending on many different factors. One factor could be the vitola of the cigar. For example, the flavor and strength of a lancero (7 x 38) would have more influence from the wrapper than a robusto (5 x 50) due to the ratio of wrapper to other tobaccos that make up the cigar. Another factor could be the fermentation of the wrapper. Some would say that cigars with lighter wrappers are more mild than cigars with darker wrappers — this is not the case. Do not judge a cigar by it’s wrapper because you do not know by looking at the cigar if it is mild, medium, or full-flavored or strength. The only way to find out is to light it up and smoke it!
When looking at cigar specifications, you may notice that the wrapper is referred to by two countries. As the cigar industry grows, different blends of seed and soil will be created to find unique flavors. If a wrapper is labeled with two countries, the first country is the country the wrapper was grown while the second country is the origin of the seed. (i.e. Brazilian Habano = Habano seed grown in Brazilian soil)
Wrappers come in numerous different shades but we will go over seven of the more popular wrapper shades and their attributes:
The Double Claro wrapper, also known as the Candela, Jade, or AMS (American Market Selection), is picked before fully maturing and artificially heated in barns rather than naturally cured. This heating process seals in chlorophyll, giving the wrapper a green hue. These wrappers have barely any oils, mild strength, and little flavor.
Claro wrappers are one of the most common shades in the market today. These wrappers are shade grown under cheesecloth to achieve minimal veins and a silky yet elastic leaf. The claro wrapper gives a smooth flavor and mild strength to a cigar. Connecticut shade-grown wrappers fall under this claro category.
Slightly darker than the claro, the Colorado Claro (or Natural) wrapper, has more of a medium-brown with a reddish hue. These wrappers have more flavor than the claro leaf. Connecticut shade-grown wrappers can be colorado claro after some curing but more of these wrappers could be Sumatran, Ecuadorian, Cameroon, or Cuban.
The Colorado wrapper is reddish dark brown and more oily than the colorado claro. A couple variations of this wrapper have been created in the past such as the Habana2000 (Cuban seed grown in Nicaragua) and the non-Cuban corojo (Sumatran seed grown in Ecuador). The claro, colorado claro, and colorado wrappers also fall under the EMS (English Market Selection). A robust and rich flavor can be expected from this wrapper.
The Colorado Maduro is an aromatic wrapper withgreat flavor. These dark brown leaves can be found in many Honduran cigars. Colorado Maduro wrappers are considered dark EMS.
Maduro wrappers are darker brown than the colorado maduro with a different taste than any of the previous wrappers mentioned. These wrappers taste very rich with full flavor. The long process to create a Maduro wrapper creates a unique, sweet taste. There are multiple ways to make a maduro wrapper but it boils down to natural and unnatural. The maduro tobacco can be a heartier leaf that is picked from the bottom of the crop or a stalk-cut broadleaf because it needs to be able to absorb the processing and ageing required. I recommend looking further into these processes and reading Tobacco University: Maduro Education by Steve Saka of Drew Estate. This article is a great read that describes how a maduro color wrapper may not be a true maduro cigar depending on the fermentation process.
Oscuro, also referred to as Maduro Maduro or Double Maduro due to the color of the wrappers, can be as dark as it gets. After fermentation, these wrappers can become almost black. Oscuro wrappers are very rich with a lot of flavor. The intense fermentation of these oscuro and maduro leaves allow for a sweeter taste and well-rounded spices and flavors. These sun-grown wrappers are going to have small to medium-size veins and bumps but don’t let that deter you from what could be an amazing smoke. To learn a little more about the fermentation of these dark wrappers, take a look at the article above in maduro wrappers.