Wrappers and Bimbos
Posted: Mar 27, 2008 11:25am ET
I have noticed some conversation in CA’s online forums, as well as other places, about the quality of wrapper recently in Cuba, and I am not sure whether they are talking about the past, present or future. All I can tell you is that I am always concerned about the leaf. Wrapper, the leaf used on the outside of the cigar, is always the Achilles’ heel of Cuban cigar production.
I remember in the 1990s when the production of wrapper was so bad that they didn’t have large enough leaves to roll anything much larger than a lonsdale. And that was during the heyday of double coronas. So big time big smoke lovers were not happy campers. I knew a Canadian millionaire who sent his private jet to pick up boxes of double coronas in Havana because no one else in the world had any!
But I think that there is a difference between not having wrapper and not having beautiful wrappers. For example, in the video with this blog I asked one of the sorters at the H. Upmann factory in Havana what he thought of the quality of wrapper and he said that that it was not very good. The hombre was one of a handful of workers deveining and classifying the wrappers into categories according to size, texture and color. The wrappers are then passed on to the rolling rooms to be used on cigars.
I think what the sorter was talking about, however, was the appearance of the wrapper and not the quality. From what I could see, they were lightly marked, instead of clean and beautiful. It’s sort of like having a beautiful woman in a slinky, sexy Prada frock with a stain on the front. It diminishes the pleasure to the eye – at least in public – but doesn’t necessarily ruin the evening.
And that’s a point. An ugly wrapper still can potentially deliver good flavor. I have smoked homely, ugly duckling cigars that delivered just as good a smoke as the gorgeous swans… So don’t be turned off.
Visa versa. I have had some of the most boring, stupid cigars of my life that looked beautiful on the outside but were bimbo smokes – no character, no flavor, no nothing. I was sorry I wasted my time with them.
The good news is that this year’s wrapper crop in the field and curing barns in Pinar del Río look fabulous. Check out my old video posted on February 13, 2008. Look at the size of those leaves! Mega. I only hope that the curing goes well and the processing such as fermentations goes right. A large part of last year’s crop was ruined due to bad curing and poor fermentations.
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