Secrets of Connecticut Shade
The hot new thing in the humidor is a wrapper leaf dating back more than 110 years
From the Print Edition:
100 Years of Fuente—Celebrating a Family Dynasty, January/February 2012
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Consumers may indeed be looking for less powerful smokes, but it isn’t quite that simple. At the same time, they’re demanding a level of complexity and flavor previously not associated with milder tobacco. This poses a challenge for cigarmakers to blend around Connecticut Shade wrapper in such a way as to maximize its flavor potential. Mild for mild’s sake is no longer enough. The idea of being both a mild cigar and at the same time flavorful may seem oxymoronic to some, but not to Christian Eiroa, a consultant to Camacho, a brand known for full-bodied smokes. He believes that he found the perfect middle ground when his company launched Camacho Connecticut a few years ago.
“The Camacho Connecticut has attracted new smokers to Camacho but we have also been able to keep the regular Camacho smokers,” Eiroa says. “Camacho Connecticut was a hit from day one. I believe that the consistency of the look, taste and flavor of the Connecticut wrappers keep customers turning to these cigars. This blend is strong enough to not be mild, but at the same time mild enough to not be strong.”
Regardless of Camacho’s portfolio of powerful cigars, the company’s best-selling cigar brand is a fairly mild Connecticut-wrapped smoke called Baccarat “The Game.”
“Connecticut seed wrappers are by far still the most popular for us,” Eiroa says. “Our Baccarat brand alone outsells every other cigar in the [Camacho] company. From our estimations, Baccarat “The Game” is one of the seven best-selling premium cigars in the U.S.”
One of the most common criticisms levied against Connecticut Shade cigars is their lack of flavor. For many, it is difficult to go back to a Connecticut cigar once they’ve become used to heavier, stronger tobaccos, but brand owner Rocky Patel doesn’t think that you have to necessarily sacrifice taste when blending a milder smoke. His Rocky Patel Vintage 1999 Connecticut brand uses a true U.S.A. Connecticut wrapper and is the best-selling cigar of all his Vintage series brands, including the darker, more powerful Vintage 1990 and 1992 cigars.
“We try to make a mild- to medium-bodied cigar with lots of flavor,” says Patel. “The blend of the Vintage 1999 has spice and pepper but with the Connecticut wrapper, it becomes creamy and smooth. That’s the beauty of the wrapper. It’s tough to smoke nothing but heavy cigars all day. Plus there are a lot more new smokers coming into the market that really want to enjoy cigars.”
While Patel’s Vintage Connecticut line uses Connecticut Shade wrapper from the United States, his new Connecticut line, called Xen by Nish Patel, uses Connecticut seed wrapper from Ecuador.
Xen by Nish Patel was created by Patel’s brother, Nish. It’s a box-pressed Connecticut-wrapped cigar, something that you don’t see much of in the market. “A high quality Connecticut cigar is the way to acquaint smokers with flavor without overpowering them,” explains Rocky Patel. “U.S.A. Connecticut is creamier and milder, but Ecuador Connecticut is thicker, more pliable and has more body.”
The Alec Bradley Cigar Co. took a different approach to the Connecticut wrapper in 2011. According to brand owner Alan Rubin, the Tampa-style cigar of the 20th Century, which was made with Cuban tobacco, was affordably priced, smooth and complex. He attempted to reproduce that experience when he released the Alec Bradley American Classic blend in May. Unlike many other premium Connecticut cigars, the American Classic uses a light Connecticut seed wrapper grown in the Jamastran region of Honduras. The cigars are rolled at Plasencia Cigars in Estelí, Nicaragua.
“Unlike Ecuador and U.S. Connecticut, Honduran Connecticut is thicker, so it can handle more fermentation, which results in more flavor,” says Rubin. “While it isn’t as aesthetically pleasing as the other Connecticut wrappers, it offers the flavor profile we were looking for with the American Classic blend.”
General Cigar also tried its hand with Honduran-grown Connecticut last year when it released the La Gloria Cubana Artesanos Retro Especiale in September, a first for the La Gloria Cubana brand. “We saw this Honduran Connecticut wrapper in the factory and we loved the look of it,” says Michael Giannini, brand manager for La Gloria Cubana.
Whether it’s Honduras Connecticut, Ecuador Connecticut or Connecticut Connecticut, the most talented blenders in the premium cigar business are ensuring that Connecticut wrapper stays in the domain of connoisseurship. Ultimately, how it tastes will depend on how it is fermented and blended, and there are no right or wrong reasons to smoke one over the other. Nor does the taste for lighter cigars indicate a pedestrian or amateur palate, as is so often the indictment.
It is true that lighter-bodied cigars can often be the entryway to more challenging, full-bodied tobacco as a cigar aficionado’s palate matures. But is it possible that smokers are reverting back to their first love? Or maybe the trend never really disappeared.
“Consumers who regularly enjoy Connecticut Shade cigars may not be the most vocal of cigar smokers, but they represent a significant portion of the market,” says Levin. “The guys who buy Ashton Classic or Cabinet don’t sit around the shop talking about how strong their cigar is. They quietly buy their boxes, and then they leave.”
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Charles Burns — May 6, 2012 10:05am ET
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