Cameroon, Africa is an ideal place to grow tobacco, especially wrapper tobacco. The soil is rich with nutrients so very little fertilization is needed for tobacco. The humidity and temperature are ideal and produces quite a bit of cloud cover. Cloud cover limits the amount of solar radiation hitting tobacco leaves which makes them blemish free and fast growing. Tobacco leaves that are protected from the harsh Sun’s radiation are much more delicate and thinner. These thinner tobacco leaves are ideal for wrapping a cigar but at the same time are much more difficult to roll.
A tobacco’s flavor comes directly from the soil where it is grown. Cameroon wrappers are very flavorful but lack the nicotine levels of sun-grown wrappers like a Maduro or Oscuro. I like very low levels of nicotine. I don’t want or need to get dizzy and jittery from a cigar. I just like the taste.
Here’s a Cameroon wrapped cigar from Rocky Patel.
Cameroon wrappers are light to medium brown in color. They have very little veins and feel really smooth to the touch. The have a ton of flavor but won’t kick your ass.
I see cigars that have a Maduro wrapper…What is that?
Maduro means “ripe” in Spanish. So Maduro wrappers are “ripe” wrapper leaves… but it’s a little more than just ripe. Maduro wrappers are specially ripened or fermented, for a longer period of time and sometimes years, to darken them and increase the flavor. So typically Maduro wrappers are bold in flavor and dark in color but this is not always the case. Maduro wrappers can be light brown and mellow in flavor. It really depends on the particular tobacco leaf and how it was fermented and for how long.
How are Maduro Leaves Fermented?
Fermenting is the process of changing the natural chemicals that stabilize the raw plant material. If tobacco leaves are not fermented, they will decompose quickly. Fermenting preserves the leaves. Fermented tobacco leaves can be stored for years in a humidor.
Maduro leaves are special tobacco leaves and are fermented differently based on the type of tobacco. Anyway, the Maduro leaves are bundled up and stored in a humidity controlled room. Some Maduro leaves are fermented at 120 degrees F while others at 150 degrees F. The longer the bundle or pile sits, the hotter it gets. This heat and pressure (caused by the weight of the bundle) cause a chemical reaction within the bundle. After a number of days or when a maximum temperature is reached, the bundle is broken down and turned. Then it ferments again and then broken down again. This turning/fermenting process can go on 5 or 6 times.
Maduro leaves are special tobacco leaves and are carefully selected in order to get a specific flavor or color. Leaves towards the top of the tobacco plant are stronger in flavor. Tobacco leaves exposed to lots of sunlight will be more oily and sweet. Oil is the plants natural defense against the sun’s rays. Sugar is produced in the leaves as a result of photosynthesis. Maduro leaves with rich flavor typically come from the top 1/3 of the plant. While milder Maduro leaves will come from the center or bottom of the tobacco plant.
There are 3 primary Maduro Colors
Colorado Maduro – are dark brown leaves with a rich, full flavor profile. Typically they are sun ripened and fermented longer. These leaves can also be called Dark EMS.
Maduro – are very dark brown leaves and exhibit bold and deep flavors. Sometimes they are referred to as “Spanish Market Selection” of “SMS”.
Oscuro – are very dark or almost black leaves and are pretty rare. They are very flavorful (full bodied) and smell magnificent. I love these wrappers.
Here is the fabulous Oscuro Maduro wrapper.
EMS stands for English Market Standard. This is another term or name used for Natural cigar wrappers. These are light colored wrappers such as tan or light brown. EMS or Natural cigar wrappers are used on high quality or premium cigars. On cheap cigars, the wrapper is paper like that used on cigarettes but tan in color. Real tobacco wrappers are responsible for up to 90% of the flavor. They are the heart of a good cigar. Cigar wrappers have to look good and provide bold flavors.
Even though dark Maduro wrappers are known for strong, full bodied flavor, some Natural or EMS wrappers can have quite a kick. Do not under estimate an EMS wrapper. They are not dull and boring.
Here are some samples of Natural or EMS Wrappers and Maduro Wrappers.
The first on the left is an example of a mixed Maduro and EMS wrapper. It combines some amazing flavors. The next 2 cigars have EMS wrappers and the last 2 have Maduro dark wrappers. Dark or Maduro wrappers are typically aged much longer than the EMS and therefore have much bolder flavors and more kick.