The color of the wrapper can tell you a lot about what a cigar will taste like. I’d like to say that there’s a general rule, but there are too many discrepancies and exceptions to say something like darker = stronger. Some Maduro smokes paled in comparison to some stronger Connecticuts. In an effort to clear up some of the misconceptions about wrapper shades and how they affect a cigars taste, here is a compiled a list of wrapper shades and what they tend to add to a cigar.
Connecticut wrappers, are shade-grown from Connecticut seed, usually either in the U.S. or in Ecuador. Shade-grown refers to the process of being grown under giant sheets of cloth, which keeps the leaves from being exposed to too much sunlight; this ensures that they have a milder flavor. Depending on how long they are aged, their tasting notes can include grass, cream, butter, black or white pepper, coffee, cedar, and many others. Many Connecticut wrappers give a cigar a spicy, ammoniac aroma, and this is due to the fact that tobacco leaves naturally contain a lot of ammonia. The aging process removes some of this ammonia, though lighter wrappers generally tend to be a bit peppery. Connecticut wrappers tend to have a bit more of a dry taste than darker wrappers, as they usually don’t have very high sugar content.
Natural wrappers are typically a bit darker than Connecticut wrappers due to the fact that they are more mature when picked, and are sometimes not shade grown. These tend to be just a bit sweeter with a fuller spice profile and some additional notes of cedar, coffee, bread, and sometimes earth. Identifying these by color can be tricky, as many other wrapper shades have a similar color. Additionally, some companies use Natural as a blanket term covering Connecticut, Claro, and sometimes many others.
And now for some of the middle-ground of wrapper shades Corojo, Criollo, Sumatra, and Habano. This is for smokers who tend to like spicier cigars and are curious as to why they have that distinctive bite. Or on the other hand, if you can’t stand fuller-bodied smokes, it’s always good to know a bit about what you don’t like.
Corojo tobacco was originally grown in the Vuelta Abajo region of Cuba since the mass exodus of tobacco farmers from the country in the 1970’s, Corojo tobacco is principally grown in the Jamastran region of Honduras. Corojo leaves tend to have a spicy, robust taste with notes of black pepper, earth, leather, cocoa, and cedar. They tend to be very oily and have a distinctly reddish-brown color, though they can be dark enough to make it easy to mistake them for a Maduro. Generally, if you’re not a fan of fuller-bodied smokes, you’ll want to stay away from Corojo-wrapped cigars.
Criollo tobacco is one of the original tobaccos used in cigar making, and according to some, it dates back to the late 1400′; the term itself means native seed. Criollo wrappers tend to be slightly milder than Corojo wrappers, but still have a bit of pepper in the flavor profile. Other notes include cocoa, cedar, bread, nuts, and a bit of sweetness.
Originally hailing from the Indonesian island of Sumatra, this tobacco tends to ere on the sweeter side. A lot of Sumatra tobacco is grown from Sumatran seed in Honduras and Ecuador. Many infused cigars (like Acid and Maker’s Mark) use a Sumatra wrapper because it’s mild enough not to argue with the flavor infusion. Tasting notes include cinnamon, earth, floral notes, and a slightly sweet aftertaste.
Habano wrappers tend to be a bit darker than the aforementioned three, and are by far the spiciest. Habano refers not only to the fact that it’s generally grown from Cuban seed, but also to the fact that its spice level is comparable to that of a Cuban cigar. They can be grown in several countries, though a popular choice is Nicaragua, as the soil content there is conducive to producing some very strong leaves. Tasting notes include bread, intense spice, leather, cocoa, espresso, and cedar. The nicotine blast you’ll get from a typical Habano-wrapped stogie might not be the best introduction to cigar smoking. As a general rule, Habano smokes are better for more experienced smokers.
Maduro means mature or ripe in Spanish, and that’s exactly what these dark brown leaves are. The process of making a true Maduro wrapper involves a great deal of time. After the leaves are picked, they’re stored in a curing barn for up to 45 days, until their color turns from green to a rich brown. They are then aged for years to achieve an even darker color. The aging process also brings out a myriad of tasting notes, including dark chocolate, coffee, brown sugar, caramel, molasses, black pepper, dried fruit, black cherry, and sometimes even a boozy taste, depending on how they are aged. The common sweetness in Maduro-wrapped cigars often earns them the designation of nighttime or dessert smokes.
Sometimes known as Double Maduro or Maduro Maduro, Oscuro wrappers are the darkest of the dark. They’re fermented for longer than Maduro leaves, which gives them deeper sweetness and often a stronger, richer flavor. Tasting notes in Oscuro-wrapped cigars include many of the same ones as Maduro-wrapped, with a bit of added strength and sweetness.
Cameroon wrappers, as their name would suggest, originate from Cameroon, and are sometimes grown in the Central African Republic. The grain of the leaves is very recognizable, and is often referred to as toothy. Cameroon-wrapped cigars tend to be very rich tasting while remaining smooth and manageable. Tasting notes include butter, black pepper, leather, and toast.
One of the more uncommon wrapper shades is Rosado, which translates to rosy or pinkish in Spanish. These wrappers have a distinct reddish hue and are extremely difficult to grow outside of Cuba, which means that only a handful of companies are lucky enough to have a supply of this leaf. This makes Rosado-wrapped cigars rare and highly sought after. Typically, these cigars are very spicy with notes of cedar, coffee, earth, and pepper.