CIGAR 101: ANATOMY OF A CIGAR
By Sapna Kakkar
For anyone looking to acquaint themselves with the ABC’s of cigars, this series is for you. Cigar 101 focuses on the details of the anatomy of the cigar along with other matters such as how to pick a perfect cigar, how to smoke a Cuban, how to store your cigars, etc. Please subscribe for regular updates.
How many times have you read a product description that describes itself as “natural and artisan” and then when actually used or consumed, you realize that it was in fact anything but that.
Words like Natural, bespoke, luxury, artisanal have indeed been falsely used in todays day and age but Cigars, and especially the original Cuban cigars have earned and reserved the right to be called all of the above and more. The Cuban cigars proudly (rightly so) boast the one ingredient that it is made of – Pure, unadulterated native Cuban Black Tobacco that has been directly descended from the plants that Columbus first discovered in Cuba more than 500 years ago.
It’s strange that the tobacco leaves grown across the road from each other would have such a wide variety of natural flavours be it sweet or spicy, floral, vanilla, cocoa, leathery or even earthy.
For all Cuban cigars, there have been two distinct forms of cultivation to produce the different types of leaf required. The filler and binder leaf are grown in the open, under direct sunlight so as to develop maximum flavours that are ultimately blended to form the rich and complex taste of Habanos. Each part of the plant has different characteristics that provide to the flavour of the cigars.The filler leaves are the heart of the cigar and hold the flavours, strength, aromas and combustibility inside of them. The binder leaves help in holding the filler leaves together, thereby also providing a cylindrical shape of a cigar. Finally, you have the wrapper leaf which is grown under muslin cloth. The muslin cover filters the sunlight and traps the heat so the leaves grow larger and finer. The wrapper leaves very rarely add flavour to the cigar; instead its job is to just delight the eye.Most Cuban cigars use 5 leaves. Three types of filler leaves, one binder and one wrapper leaf. However, the thinner cigars may use three to four leaves. The Cohiba Behike is the only brand of Habanos that uses 4 types of filler leaves, a very rare fourth leaf called the Medio Tiempo is one of the things that makes the Cohiba Behike the most sought after cigar in the world.
While Habanos and the tobacco blenders try their best to make each individual blend the same year after year, the blends are in fact subject to change based on the year’s crop produce and the natural variations that come with it. It is imperative to point out that as with any handmade product, no two premium cigars will be exactly alike and while you should expect consistency, you should not expect identical cloning.