Behind The Scenes: The Art of Cigar Blending
WHAT IS CIGAR BLENDINGThere are different kinds of tobacco leaves, varying from age to where the leaves were harvested. Each leaf has its own individual flavour, which is then selected and combined to make an amalgamation of desired characteristics. Every cigar enthusiast has their personal taste preferences, so it's the job of the cigar blender to innovate flavours that would appeal to a variety of smokers. For iconic brands such as Cohiba, Montecristo or Partagas, the tobacco sourced should be of the highest quality - usually harvested from the Pinar del Rio plantations in Cuba. Though it might be more costly, it is totally worth it. The red soil in the area is filled with nutrients that help the tobacco leaf flourish and grow rich in flavour. One way in which the blender could select tobacco leaves is through its age.
THE THINKING PROCESS OF THE MASTER BLENDER
There is no 'set' way to blend cigars. Of course, there are many expert blenders in the industry; however, there is no one way to create a blend. According to Tommy Zarzecki's article from Cigar Advisor, some blenders create combinations depending on the mood they're in, some blenders start with a 'goal' in mind and some produce out of intuition. However, the 'flavour' is only one factor that a blender has to consider. A professional blender will recognise other elements, such as the draw and burn potential is a critical factor. If a cigar tastes good, but it smokes terribly, then why should one buy it? Every blender is different, but the 'best' blenders are those who are fully educated about the different properties of each kind of tobacco.
Hoyo de Mena Tobacco Farm, Cuba.
A cigar, as you know, is made out of different components, specifically, that would be wrapper, binder and the filler. Depending on what kind of leaves are used for each of these parts, it will make a significant difference to the ultimate smoking experience. When it comes to the filler leaves, there are different types of tobacco leaves to choose from; specifically, they are the Ligero, Seco and Volado leaves. Firstly, Ligero is considered to be the highest quality leaf and is usually found growing at the top of the tobacco plant. You will discover that cigars with a Ligero leaf will have stronger and spicier flavours, as this type of leaf tends to be more full-bodied and burns longer, just like the Bolivar Libertador LCDH. The second type is the 'seco' leaf, and this is usually found around the midsection of the plant and is considered to have quite a mild flavour. The seco leaf is attributed to determining the level of mildness, depending on how much is used for the filler. Now lastly, the final leaf is volado. Volado, in comparison to Ligero and Seco, does nothing for the flavour and aroma. However, it burns the easiest and therefore contributes a lot to the 'draw' potential of the cigar.
THE BINDER & WRAPPER
Next, the cigar blender has to think about the 'binder' leaf. The purpose of the binder is to keep all the filler leaves together and ensure that the smoke burns evenly. Since the binder cannot be seen and is only used for structural purposes, the lowest grade of tobacco is used. However, some higher tier blenders may decide to use the binder as an opportunity to add another level of complexity and flavour. And last but not least - the cigar wrapper. This part is the most expensive and thoroughly inspected than all the other leaves. The main reason for this is that it is the first thing an aficionado sees; therefore, it should look impeccable. The wrappers come in different colours from Candela (light) and Oscuro (dark). Depending on the type of wrapper, it affects the flavour of the cigar. For instance, for a 'Maduro' wrapper, it will taste a lot sweeter and richer. If you want to give a darker cigar a-go, we recommend you try the Cohiba Maduro Secretos.
With all these elements combined, the blender has successfully created a new cigar - magnifico! After that, the next step is to put the new Cuban cigar up for appraisal, this means taste and feasibility tests. Once that passes, there's the chance to be able to start commercially producing it in the factories. If you're still interested to learn more about the Cuban cigar industry, then have a look at our Cuban Cigar Blog: