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2011 Big Smoke Saturday Seminars: Today’s Hybrids—The Tobacco Used in Your Cigars
Posted: November 2, 2011
When Christian Eiroa looked into the crowd of cigar enthusiasts gathered at the Big Smoke Las Vegas and confessed “My father is a degenerate gambler,” he wasn't revealing a family secret about a weakness for the town’s gaming tables. The former Camacho Cigars president was describing his father's passion for creating the new tobacco hybrids that are improving the cigars we smoke.
Eiroa said that rewards of finding the next-greatest strain are alluring enough that his father endures years of time-intensive, painstaking and often frustrating work, betting that his efforts will pan out. However, “If you grow something that has white veins, you’ve just wasted two years of your life.”
Plasencia, who holds a degree in agricultural engineering, explained that it might take seven to eight years from the time the idea for making a specific hybrid is hatched until it is successfully planted in enough volume to create cigars from. A hybrid is a marriage of two tobacco strains in hopes of reproducing the best characteristics of each. The panelists said that the variable include such things as width, height, flavor and durability.
While Eiroa’s family grows tobacco in the Jamastran region of Honduras and the Plasencias are the largest growers of tobacco in Central America, with operations in Honduras and Nicaragua, Quesada was the only panelist focusing on manufacturing rather than farming. Thus, he said, “I have a lot to learn from these young men,” and described how their advances had affected his job as a cigar manufacturer. “There’s never been such a wide variety of tobacco.” Choices he is faced with include different tastes, aromas and strengths of body.
Variety, however, also creates challenges for the cigarmaker, Quesada said. He told of having to create new blends to accommodate the new tobaccos. “When you put leaves together, you don’t know what will happen. It could be successful. It could be the dumbest thing you ever did in your life.”
Eiroa said that, while now prevalent, tobacco hybridization is nothing new. For an example, the Connecticut Shade wrapper strain that has long supplied the industry with elegant mild leaf is a hybrid. Because of the high price of wrapper tobacco, much of the focus of hybridizing is that direction, he said.
The tobacco grower’s son also described the relief provided to planters by strains resistant to fungus that is borne in the wind. “Blue mold can take your crop in a couple of days and it will take two to three years to redevelop.”
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