Anyone who doesn’t appreciate a good cigar might think there is no difference from one to the next. In fact, where and how tobaccos are grown have an effect. For years, the climate of Cuba and the growing conditions there were considered perfect. Rainfall, altitude, sunlight and temperature all play roles in how tobacco develops and, hence, how it will eventually taste. The expertise of tobacco grower, combined with the technique and knowledge of the people who put them together are also important.
To assure quality, Cuba even placed severe restrictions on importing other cigar leaves or in blending tobaccos to make a true Cuban cigar. As a result, Havanas developed the reputation as the best in the world. People celebrated at weddings and bachelor parties with no less than the most exquisite Cuban cigars. Once Castro took power, cigar artisans brought their craft to other parts of the world.
Cigars are composed of three different types of tobacco leaves. First is the filler, the tobacco that constitutes the bulk of the cigar, its insides. Filler can use long leaf or short leaf. Quality cigars use the whole, or long, leaf and are rolled by hand. Lesser cigars use tobacco scraps, or short leaves. These are usually machine rolled and are almost universally considered poorer quality with a lesser taste.
The binder is a stronger grade of tobacco that is used to pull all of the filler together before tying it all together with the wrapper. The wrapper is what the cigar buyer creates the physical impression that attracts the buyer, but just as important, it provides much of the taste of the cigar. Experts will differ over how much it adds, but suffice it to say, it does make a difference.
Wrappers that are grown in the shade have a lighter brown appearance and usually carry a milder taste. Maduro leaves, which have spent more time in the sun, are darker and most often have a sweeter taste. Many will assume that the lighter and dark wrapper shades affect the “strength” or harshness of the cigar, but that is usually determined by the filler.