The blend of a cigar is what creates its unique flavor, but also its strength. As a smoker, you will notice that each blend is a unique experience as far as how the cigar smokes and tastes. It is important to understand how cigars are blended to get a better idea of what influences the quality and taste of a cigar.
A number of factors influence the way a cigar tastes and smokes. First of all, the skills of the roller will determine whether or not the tobacco is blended in a consistent manner. The aging process and the quality of the tobacco will influence the way the cigar tastes and smokes. Lastly, the unique combination of ingredients will create a signature taste for the cigar. It is possible to create a wide variety of cigars from the same ingredients by changing the quantities used for each ingredient.
There are three different components used when blending a cigar. The filler tobacco can be one type of tobacco or a mix of different species. The filler tobacco is the inside of the cigar. The binder leaf is the ingredient that holds the cigar together by enveloping the filler tobacco. The wrapper tobacco is the only visible part of the cigar. This outside layer gives the cigar a lot of its flavor.
The filler tobacco is what determines the strength of a cigar. One or more species of tobacco can be used. Ligero tobacco is commonly used as a filler by manufacturers who produce premium blend cigars. Lower quality cigars typically include small quantities of Ligero tobacco mixed with other species. The quantities of different types of tobacco used strongly influence the taste and quality of the cigar. The key to making a quality cigar is to mix tobacco in a consistent manner. A roller with poor blending skills will probably make cigars that do not have a consistent taste or feel. On the other hand, a skilled roller will be able to mix different types of tobacco so that the taste and feel of the cigar remain the same as the cigar burns. The best rollers can blend tobaccos in a way that is consistent from one cigar to another and even from one batch to another.
The binder leaf keeps the cigar together. This leaf usually comes from a low grade tobacco plant but some manufacturer choose high quality binder leaves for their premiums cigars. A high quality binder leaf can add more flavor and create a complex and interesting contrast with the filler tobacco. Some manufacturers use a binder leaf that belongs to the same variety as some of the tobacco used in the filler for a more consistent experience while some cigars get their rich flavor from the contrast between the filler and the binder.
The wrapper of the cigar is the outside layer. Most of the flavor of a cigar comes from the wrapper. The quality of the leaf used as a wrapper will strongly influence the smoking experience and the taste of a cigar. High quality leaves should be used as wrappers. Manufacturers inspect wrapper leaves very carefully and select only the best ones. The color of the wrapper leaf will determine how the cigar is labeled. A wrapper leaf can be grown under the sun if the manufacturer wants a strong taste. These leaves are usually dark and oily.
Wrapper leaves can also be grown under the shade of a cloth for a lighter color and a smoother taste. Some wrapper leaves go through a fermentation process to create a fuller taste. Moist leaves are heated and sometimes reheated before being left to ferment for a few weeks. The flavor and strength of a wrapper changes in function of the fermentation technique used. Typically, fermented wrappers have a very dark color.
The blending of a cigar is what determines the quality of the final product. You can recognize a good cigar by the quality of the ingredients used, the aging or fermentation techniques the manufacturer used to create a unique flavor and by the consistency of the blend. A good cigar should be made with high quality ingredients, the quantities should be carefully chosen and the smoking experience should be consistent.
Photo Credit: Unique Hotels via Flickr.com