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What Gives a Great Cigar Balance?

There is a fine line between ligero and other types of filler tobacco that can dramatically affect the strength and flavor of a cigar
James Suckling
From the Print Edition:
George Lopez, January/February 2010

It was the killer cigar. I didn't really know it until the morning after. Smoking the double corona after a couple of bottles of fine Burgundy at dinner with friends in Hong Kong, the cigar tasted great. It seemed to help me digest all the rich food and opulent wines. But, oh how wrong I was! It was like the old days in Los Angeles when we spoke about someone being "coyote ugly." It's easy to get deceived when you have had one too many. Even a cigar can leave you with the wrong impression late at night and slightly under the influence.

I woke up the next morning with a headache and a drippy sinus. I was clammy and could not breathe properly. I was sure that if I had been passing through the Hong Kong Airport, a health official would have stopped me on suspicion of having some sort of terrible respiratory disease. Luckily, I had no flight plans for a few days.

I should have known better. My friend told me that he was going to offer me "a killer cigar" following our meal at his apartment overlooking the skyline of Hong Kong. He even warned me that it was the strongest cigar he had ever smoked in his life. And he is a cigar merchant, so he should know.

"Bring it on man," I said, with false valor, which was obviously reinforced with ample quantities of fine wine, delicious food and attractive company. "You can't possibly give me anything that could hurt me," I added.

The last thing I really remember was lighting up the 1994 Ramon Allones Gigante, and sitting back and enjoying the rest of the night. The view was beautiful. But the next day I felt like I had a hammer hitting my head, instead of a double corona in my mouth.

Ouch! Was that cigar made from pure ligero-the strongest tobacco in Cuba!?

I couldn't remember the last time I smoked a cigar so powerful. It must have been in the mid-1990s, when I smoked a 1993 Bolivar Belicoso Fino from a cabinet box. If I remember correctly, I was with London cigar merchant Simon Chase and we both turned slightly green as we smoked the small torpedo.

"That's a cigar that is going to need some age," said Simon, looking as if he had been in the gym for a while; a small bead of sweat growing on his upper brow. I think the cigar finally lost some of its rough edges after about five or six years of age in my cellar.

It was about the same time that I saw my other cigar-mad friend, actor Peter Weller, hunch over after smoking a 1993 Cohiba Siglo I. The little cigar was so strong that Peter had to go for a walk "to get some air" one evening in Siena, Italy, smoking outdoors after dinner. I just couldn't believe that such a small Cuban could do in "Robo Cop."

And there was the time when Alejandro Robaina, the famous Cuban tobacco grower, told me about this gringo loco who came to visit his plantation and demanded the strongest cigar Alejandro had in his personal humidor. The tobacco grower wasn't going to argue, but warned the American to go easy on the robusto. Tranquilo amigo, he said. Tranquilo. It was made of pure ligero and the guy ended up losing his lunch in the garden next to the veranda where my Abuelo Cubano sits and smokes in his rocking chair each day.


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Comments   1 comment(s)

MAURICE ANTONIUS KOKS — SANTIAGO, DOMINICAN REPU,  —  January 19, 2011 5:49pm ET

let me give a small comment on this issue,
in Cuba they don't use the term viso for filler tobacco, apart from that, what is called Seco in the DR, Nic & Honduras is comparable to the Cuban Volado, Seco in Cuba is comparable to Viso in Nic / DR / Hon, and yes Ligero is Ligero but here you will always have ligeros which have more texture/body then others, apart from that there are tobacco's which are making the bridge between the different type's, so a seco with body and a viso with small body are the same thing. in my humble opinion all a matter of clasification, and before anything you have to smoke it, some tobacco in appearance looks light, but can be more strong while smoking or has strength in another register. it's almost like music, throw it through a spectrum analizer, and you see strength in the midrange, or for example in the subrange, where you " as with tobacco " you not hear/taste the bass, but feel it in the stomach and/or head


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