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I Love the Smell of Ligero in the Morning

Jun 13, 2008 | By David Savona
I usually start my day with a cup of black coffee. But I recently tried a much more potent pick me up—a trio of cigars made of straight ligero, which I smoked at 10 a.m. and chased with a bracing cup of espresso. Now that’s a hearty breakfast!

Most of you know that ligero is the name given to the strongest type of cigar tobacco, the leaves that grow highest on a plant. They are the last to ripen and they exhibit all the power that nicotiana tobacum can give. They’re the guts of a filler blend, the backbone of powerful cigars, like a hearty dose of pepper in a flavorful dish. But just as it’s unpleasant to eat straight pepper, it’s no picnic to smoke straight ligero. So what the heck was I doing?

I was doing what Alan Rubin, owner of Alec Bradley Cigars, does on a regular basis when he comes up with new tobacco blends. He has his cigar men make up little cigars made entirely of one type of tobacco. Then he smokes that component to take note of its flavor. Later, he combines them to come up with blends.

We were essentially deconstructing an Alec Bradley Tempus, the new hit cigar from Rubin. We were smoking most of the components that go into the cigar, one of which recently scored 94 points in Cigar Insider.

Rubin calls these little things puritos, and the first was made entirely of ligero from a small Nicaraguan farm called Membraño. We torched them up, and the smoke dialed in on the center of the tongue, with a very heavy mineral flavor, especially at the start, and lots of oily wood notes. It was very strong. After that, we fired up a purito made of ligero from Jalapa, a part of Nicaragua known for more elegant tobacco. True to type, this ligero was milder than the first, although it still had considerable power. This was nutty, kind of sweet, with a coffee bean flavor, and it hit in the back of the tongue. The third, ligero from Trojes in Honduras, near the Nicaraguan border, started with a wet leather flavor, with roasted nuts and charcoal. This one had a real sneaky strength — after a while, I started to feel it in my belly.

Straight ligero, before lunch? Ouch. That’s strong stuff.

To show how much of diversity you can get from one tobacco plant, the fourth purito we puffed was made from a leaf of viso from that same Trojes farm. Viso is the mid-strength type of tobacco. (Seco is mildest, viso is stronger, ligero is strongest.) Huge difference — just moving down the tobacco plant that little bit gave us a cedary sweetness that the ligero didn’t have, and that mineral flavor again.

Smoking three linear, unbalanced powerhouses wasn’t easy. Check out the video.

But then there was the reward — we lit up a Tempus, and tasted how the four leaves (and at least one more) came together. There was that mineral flavor, now the sweetness, and always in the backbone the considerable power. All areas of the tongue were hit.

It was quite the experiment.

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