When a cigar is created, it’s important to know the different grades (or thicknesses) of the tobaccos that are being used. The reasons why are evident the moment you put the cigar to your lips and take that first puff. Depending on the thickness of the tobaccos blended into a cigar, it will have a direct impact on flavor, strength, aroma, and evenness of burn.
Here’s a brief overview of the different types of leaves on a tobacco plant and how each of them influences the smoking experience.
Ligero is the top leaf of the tobacco plant. It has a very strong flavor. This is where the nicotine is sent after it’s produced by the plant’s roots. Because it’s on top, it also gets more direct sunlight, which in turn protects the lower leaves from sunlight and makes the Ligero hardier. It also has more time on the plant than the other leaves.
Visus leaves are found in the middle of the plant. These tend to be more medium in strength, and the flavor they produce is the most complex of all other leaves.
Seco leaves are found on the lower part of the tobacco plant and tend to deliver a milder flavor. Seco burns well and is responsible for much of the enjoyable aroma that contributes to the cigar smoking experience.
Volado (or low-priming Seco) is the part of the tobacco plant that’s responsible for combustion. The Volado leaves are thinner and burn easier. When they’re lit, they help keep the other leaves around them burning.
When a cigar is made, it’s important to place the thickest of the tobacco leaves in the center and the thinner leaves around the outside. If this isn’t done properly, and if the thicker leaves aren’t packed into the middle of the roll, the cigar will burn unevenly.
Most mild-flavored cigars use a combination of Seco with some Visus. Medium-flavored cigars are typically rolled with a more even mix of Seco and Visus, often with a small added amount of Ligero. Bolder, more full-bodied cigars are heavier on the Ligero.
Striking a specific balance between all the different tobacco leaves results in a wide variety of flavors and aromas when you smoke, as well as how well and how evenly the cigar burns.
In the future, we’ll get more into detail about how tobacco is harvested, and how the priming (or removal of the leaves) takes place.