The What, Where and How of Maduro Wrapper
Posted on June 05 2020
I remember the first time I walked into the humidor of a cigar lounge; it was truly a kid in a candy store experience.
Shelf after shelf of cigars, ranging in color, length, bands and prices.
It was so overwhelming! I wasn’t sure where to start and approached a sales associate. I was honest about being inexperienced with cigars and asked for a recommendation for a new smoker. Without taking another breath, the sales person started “rapping” all different types of cigars, throwing lingos like “Havana, maduro, connecticut, gordo, toro, lancero, vitola, wrapper, binder, filler, TAA, 1875, Cigar Aficionado 92 rating, etc.” The list is endless.
This lasted about 15 minutes. So at this point, my auto-defense mechanism kicked in and all I could do was smile, chuckle and nod.
I am sure readers out there who are experienced in sales, customer service, or empathize with people can point out a dozen things that the sales associate could have done. However, I also believe that it is our responsibility as consumers to comprehend the basics of any product on our wish list.
This brings me to the topic I will be discussing today: cigar wrappers. However, instead of a general quick introduction of the many wrappers we have, I will be focusing on a more specific type of wrapper; the maduro wrapper.
Why, you ask? Let’s face the facts. If this was another blog listing all the different types of cigar wrappers and providing one-sentence descriptions, more than 90% of the information would be filtered out through our short-term memory by the time we reached the end of this article.
Before getting lost in the abundant information maduro wrapper has to offer, I want to quickly touch base on cigar wrappers in general. I want to outline the bigger picture, so when I dive into the main topic, you will have a better understanding on the other aspects of cigar you can learn about.
There are more than 50 types of cigar wrappers available, and probably more to come as cigar manufacturers discover new hybrid tobacco plants or new ways to ferment the leaves. However, they all can be traced back to 4 main categories: Connecticut, Corojo, Habano and Maduro (in the order from light to dark shade). And if you want to make things even broader, you can categorize tobacco leaves into natural (Light) and maduro (dark).
The word maduro translates to mature, ripe or mellow in Spanish. It isn’t specific in any certain regions. The wrapper itself varies in different flavors, strengths and regions.
Few can argue about which leaves on the tobacco plant are best used for a wrapper. After reading numerous articles and watching many late-night documentaries on YouTube, it is safe to say that the Seco part of the plant is mainly used for wrappers by most companies, with a few exceptions. Seco leaves are the mid-section of the tobacco leaves. They are oily and aromatic, not too thick nor too bland. Whereas the Ligero leaves are too thick and coarse leading to difficulties in burning. It is also limited in quantities, extremely potent and not as aromatic as the Seco leaves. As for Velado leaves, the bottom portion of the plant is too dry and tasteless since it gets the least exposure from the sun.
Not all leaves can be turned into a maduro wrapper even after being identified which section is best suited for wrappers. The leaf must be thick enough to withstand the years of aging and still be able to maintain their flawless quality.
When maduro leaves were first introduced, people confusingly used the term “maduro” to describe harvesting the ligero portion of the plant thinking the leaf is darker and more potent in flavor due to the excess exposure to the sun. However, it is referred to the fermentation process of the leaf which transforms it into a maduro wrapper.
Maduro wrappers are the results of a painstaking amount of time in the fermentation process, which can be as little as 4 weeks or as long as 6 or more years. This process is to introduce excess heat into the leaves, transforming the starch in into sugar, giving the maduro wrapper it’s dark and oily sheen. Depending on the different variation process and length of time, the color can go from café au lait brown (Padron 1926 series) to an almost ebony color (Macanudo Maduro or Arturo Fuente Anejo).
Some of the most common leaves used for maduro wrappers are the Connecticut Broadleaf and the San Andres Negro. Both tobaccos are ideal to withstand the excessive temperature that are required during the fermentation process.
There is not much information as to the origin of maduro wrappers. According to a story I was told at my local B&M shop, describing how maduro wrappers were accidentally discovered, a cargo ship was delivering pallets of tobacco leaves. After they docked, they found out they didn’t have any warehouse space for the shipment due to an internal error. The pallets of tobacco were then left on the ship in a sealed container for several weeks. When the time came to relocate the tobacco to a warehouse, the owner of the tobacco witnessed several things: the color of the tobacco darkened and there was dark liquid, which he later found out to be oil dripping from the pallet. There was a unique sweet aroma in the air that no one had experienced before. Finally, they discovered that due to thousands of leaves piling on top of one another, it increased the core temperature in the middle of the pallet, which eventually lead to a natural fermentation process.
I am not sure how true this story is, but it is unique enough to be taken as fact.
***Fun Fact #1: Maduro wrappers didn’t even exist before the 1980s. (https://cigarcutterexpert.com/cigar-wrappers-guide/)***
One of the main misconceptions of maduro wrapper is the strength of the cigars. Many assume maduro cigars are stronger due to its dark color. This is false (i.e. Ashton Aged Maduro, Arturo Fuente 858 Maduro, Foundation Charter Oak Maduro, to name a few). Maduro wrappers become sweeter from the fermentation process. The wrapper can also alleviate some of the harshness from the tobacco. Don’t believe me? Imagine trying to smoke an Arturo Fuente Anejo without the sweetness from the maduro wrapper. The spiciness and leather flavor would overwhelm anyone’s palette.
***Fun Fact #2: Maduro wrappers are typically responsible for the sweet and earthy taste in a cigar. Whereas in Natural wrappers, it provides more nuttiness and hay. ***
Although this post is scratching the surface of maduro wrappers, I hope it’s a starting point for many cigar smokers and sparks an interest to educate oneself even further by doing more in-depth research and smoking more.
To quote a good friend of mine, Carlos Moreno, “Stay smoky my friends”.
- Kevin Sun