Knowing the parts of a cigar’s construction – the cigar trinity – will allow you to fully appreciate one of the few products still made by hand, says Cigar Editor Samuel Spurr.
A cigar is made up of three parts, the filler, binder, and wrapper, and these components of 100 percent pure tobacco combine to give a cigar its overall taste and aroma.
Filler leaves make up the bulk of a cigar and are chosen for their flavour and burning qualities. Filler leaves contribute most to the overall taste and aroma of a cigar. A cigar’s filler is often a blend of leaves, often from the same region, but as is the case with non-Cuban cigars, can also be made up of leaves from different regions – but more about this later.
The Binder binds the filler. It is an essential, but underrated component as it keeps the filler in place. It doesn’t impart a lot of the cigar’s flavour but keeps a cigar structurally sound. Not that it’s advised, but if you’ve accidentally cut too much of the cigar’s cap off or the wrapper leaf starts unravelling for whatever reason and becomes a nuisance to your enjoyment of a cigar, you can remove the wrapper leaf and still enjoy the cigar. It won’t look great, but you can thank the binder leaf for this. Both the filler and binder work together to give a cigar a nice even burn and strong ash.
Cigar rollers usually work in teams of two, with the first combining the filler and binder and setting the cigars in moulds to manage the cigar into its appropriate shape before the second person wraps the bunch with the final wrapper leaf.
The final touch on a cigar is the wrapper leaf. Wrapper leaf is predominantly grown under shade, with cheesecloth limiting the amount of sunlight they receive. The result is wrapper leaves are finer then leaves grown under direct sunlight. This finer leaf wraps cigars to give them a cosmetic appeal and adds a touch to the overall taste profile of a particular blend.
Some argue that the wrapper leaf gives a cigar a lot of its flavour, but this can be argued on basic mathematical principles. On a smaller ring gauge cigar, the wrapper will impart much more of its flavour on the overall taste and aroma profile as it makes up a larger percentage of the overall cigar. On larger ring gauge cigars, the wrapper will, of course, impart less of its flavour due to its smaller contribution, as a percentage, to the overall blend. Wrapper leaf on a short corona, lancero or Lonsdale-sized cigar will naturally contribute more to the cigar’s flavour as opposed to wrapper leaf on a toro or gordo-sized cigar. Generally speaking, wrapper leaf used on a cigar with a ring gauge over 52 will not contribute as much to the overall flavour.
There are exceptions of course. San Andres and Cameroon wrapper leaves are known to offer strong and toothy flavours respectively to non-Cuban cigar blends. Davidoff’s new 702 series reimagines classic Davidoff cigars and offers a great way to understand the role of wrapper leaf.
It’s important to note the origin of tobacco in the cigar’s three components. Cuban cigars are made of 100 percent Cuban tobacco. However, non-Cuban cigars often have leaves from different regions and countries to impart flavours as intended by master blenders. It’s not unusual to find many such non-Cuban blends using leaf from different premium tobacco growing regions. As an example, a master blender might choose to use filler leaves from the Dominican Republic and Brazil, binder from Nicaragua’s Esteli or Jalapa regions, and a wrapper from Mexico’s San Andres Valley. The role of terroir comes to the fore in these examples, with each leaf contributing different burning qualities, flavours, and aromas to the cigar.
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