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That Old Black Magic

Maduros created using time-honored methods are sparking a rebirth for the mysterious dark-wrapper cigars
David Savona
From the Print Edition:
Sharon Stone, July/Aug 2004

(continued from page 3)

"Normally you turn the bulk at 115 degrees. Broadleaf, you can have it at 120-plus," says Eiroa. "Broadleaf takes forever."

Ernesto Perez-Carrillo, who makes maduro versions of his La Gloria Cubanas and El Rico Habanos, is still fermenting Connecticut broadleaf from the 1999 crop. He plans to use it this year. Connecticut shade, by comparison, can be ready in one year.

Some folks have been known to take a shortcut. "We've never been believers in the painted black maduros," says Eiroa. He describes one fast method of making a maduro known as the cooking method, which is done using a setup reminiscent of a stove-top espresso coffeemaker. "Picture one of those coffeemakers with the coffee in the bottom," he says. "Steam comes up into this one pot with the tobacco inside. The vapor leaks in and adds color to the tobacco. Another method is dipping the tobacco in dye—food coloring or whatever—or you put dye on a sponge."

Rushed methods, such as the ones Eiroa describes deliver maduros with unnatural colors, the darkest blacks and the eggplant purples. Eiroa shuns them, preferring the old-fashioned way. "We like the raw flavor of tobacco," he says. "We're very proud of our farms and what they produce."

The maduro cigars that are painted have drawn the contempt of savvier consumers. "Of course," writes PRCCaption on the cigaraficionado forums, "maduros are only good as long as they weren't painted that color."

Thankfully, the process of painting and rushing maduros to market was far more prevalent during the cigar boom than it is now. Most of today's maduros are the product of a great deal of patience and know-how on the part of the cigarmakers and tobacco growers responsible for the product. If you sit down tonight and light up a maduro cigar, there's a good chance that its outer leaf was planted in the ground many years ago.

"I have enjoyed cigar smoking for 40 years—moving from machine to handmade non-Cubans to Cubans when I can afford it. I'll always take a maduro when I have the choice as I find them fuller and more interesting in flavor," writes new poster Fodya on cigaraficionado.com. "I would probably smoke less if maduros went off the market."

Happily for Fodya—and other cigar smokers—there's little chance of that ever happening.


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