In order to appreciate the notes and qualities of a cigar, it’s important to know the factors that influence the features of the tobaccos that compose it. The Master Blender of La Aurora, Manuel Inoa, speaks of eight basic factors that influence the making of a quality cigar, with plenty of body and flavor.
According to Manuel Inoa, they are as follows:
- The land: the nutrients contained in the land offer distinct features, different aromas and varied flavors to tobacco. “Cuban, Dominican and Nicaraguan land are not the same”, he says.
- The variety of seeds: depending on the seed, there will be different sensations in the mouth and distinct emotions when smoking. “There will be very strong seeds, like the Cuban seeds, including Piloto Cubano, San Vicente, Criollo 98; and there will be very aromatic seeds, like the ones from the Dominican Republic”, he details.
- The climate: it is a relevant factor, since the tobacco is only planted in the soil in the Dominican Republic, Cuba and Nicaragua in November, December and January because of the sunlight. If there’s plenty of sunlight, the tobacco will be very thick, i.e., it will have lots of flavor, a lot of good properties, but it won’t burn well. If there’s a lot of rain, the tobacco will come out very thin, which is very good for combustion, but lacks flavor. “Climate is very important. Tobacco plants need the perfect amount of sun and rain”, says Inoa.
- The leaf level: depending on the position of the leaf in the plant, the flavor will be more or less intense. From the bottom upwards, we have the volado, seco, visoand ligeroleaf levels, with ligero(light) providing the strongest leaves, and seco(dry) the weakest. “Leaves from voladolevel are used for the picadura(short filler) and to be infused with artificial flavors to make flavored cigars (the flavored Príncipe cigars)”, Inoa explains. On the other hand, dry level leaves have a lot of wooden and earthy notes. In the visolevel, combustion is much better, and notes like nuts and tropical fruits stand out; while in the ligerolevel, there is much more strength, and darker and bitter notes, with flavors like chocolate, coffee or honey.
- The curing: it is the process undergone by leaves when they go from green to yellow and then brown. If it’s not done well, there will be problems in the smoke.
- The fermentation: on average, lasts between 1 year to 1,5 years, or even as much as two years. According to Inoa, on this stage “there’s a lot going on”, so, if anything fails, the smoke will fail to.
- The aging: lasts a minimum of two years if you want to use the tobacco quickly, but La Aurora takes its time and dedicates tobacco four to five years of aging in bales. Then, the tobacco is kept for another year in oak barrels, which provide notes of molasses or caramel, for example, and also of smoked wood, since these barrels are burned inside for their prior use in rum manufacture.
- The harvester: is of great importance. Depending on how he handles the land, we can have a problem four years later. For example, if plants are affected by fungi, worms or pests, if you make a mistake when applying antifungal treatments or pest prevention mechanisms, there will be metallic flavors in the smoke. “There are many bad flavors that can, in part, be blamed on the harvester”, he concludes.