Decatur Wine and Spirits
Cigar Humidor

Choosing a Cigar Flavor

Cigars are composed of three types of tobacco leaves. Variations in these leaves determine smoking and flavor characteristics. Lighter colors are often presumed to indicate milder flavor; darker colors, stronger and sweeter flavors due to a longer fermenting process and the presence of sugars and oils.

Generally, cigars with lighter colored wrappers also have less of a smoky aftertaste while the darker wrappers are typically richer in flavor. Other factors affecting the taste may include added flavors, the tobacco type, the cigar’s age, the humidity, and the production method (i.e. handmade vs. machine-made).

But the flavor of a cigar is not the sole indicator of quality. Unlike cigarettes, cigars taste very little of smoke, and usually very much of tobacco with overtones of other tastes. Therefore, a fine cigar — especially one of Cuban origin prior to 1990 — can have virtually no taste of smoke whatsoever. Some of the more common flavors observed while smoking a cigar include: Spice, Cocoa, Chocolate, Peat, Moss, Earth, Coffee, Nut and Wood.

A. The outer wrapper
A cigar's outermost leaves, or wrapper, come from the widest part of the plant. As a result, the wrapper determines much of the cigar's character and flavor, and as such, its color is often used to describe the cigar as a whole. Colors are designated as follows:

  • Double Claro – very light, slightly greenish (also called Candela, American Market Selection or jade); achieved by picking leaves before maturity and drying quickly; often grown in Connecticut
  • Claro – light tan or yellowish. Indicative of shade-grown tobacco.
  • Natural – light brown to brown; generally sun-grown.
  • Colorado Claro – mid-brown; particularly associated with tobacco grown in the Dominican Republic or in Cuba
  • Colorado – reddish-brown (also called Rosado)
  • Colorado Maduro – dark brown; particularly associated with Honduras or Cuba-grown tobacco
  • Maduro – dark brown to very dark brown
  • Oscuro – black, often oily in appearance; tend to be grown in Cuba, Nicaragua, Brazil, Mexico, or Connecticut

Alternate designations include:

  • American Market Selection (AMS) – synonymous with Double Claro
  • English Market Selection (EMS) – can refer to any color stronger than Double Claro but milder than Maduro
  • Spanish Market Selection (SMS) – either of the two darkest colors, Maduro and Oscuro

B. The filler
The majority of a cigar is made up of filler, or the wrapped-up bunches of leaves in its interior. The more oils present in the tobacco leaf, the stronger (less dry) the filler. Types range from the light-flavored (dry) Seco, through the medium Volado, and on to the strong Ligero.

Large-gauge cigars have a greater capacity to contain filler, and thus have greater potential to provide a full body and/or complex flavor.

Recently some manufacturers have created what they term "medium filler" cigars. They do not use whole leaves but part of the leaves. The quality is usually much better than short filler cigars because the leaves are not chopped up and there are no stems and bits in the filler.

Short filler cigars are easy to identify when smoked since they often burn hotter and the smoker will be spitting out bits and pieces from the smoking end. Long filled cigars should burn evenly and consistently.

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