Like wine varietals, cigar tobacco’s flavors can differ from country to country and climate to climate. Weather and soil make a difference, and knowing some basic things about your cigar—like where the wrapper leaf is from—doesn’t just make you sound classier than your friends, it means you’ll be able to replicate a good experience.
With that in mind, here’s a basic cigar geography lesson. Flavor country is a real thing.
Tobacco production is a complicated business in Nicaragua, where varied growing regions create very different flavors. “I find Nicaraguan tobaccos (depending on the seed and the region), to be fuller bodied than other countries,” says Tatuaje brand owner Pete Johnson. “In Jalapa you find more tobacco that gives a great aromatic quality and can sometimes have a mild floral note. In Esteli you find more tobacco with a heavier spice. This tobacco gives a great natural pepper note to blends.”
What you should smoke:Don Pepin Original, Tatuaje La Verite Vintage
The most common wrapper leaf on the market hails from the Pacific Coast where the clouds protect which leaves from the sun, creating a more even burn. “The quality of the wrapper is amazing because of the growing conditions,” says Johnson. “The veins in the leaf are smoother. Ecuador tobacco adds a softer elegant quality to the smoke.”
What you should smoke:L’Atelier, Aging Room Quattro F-55
One of the largest producers of cigar tobacco, the Dominican Republic is known for woody, peppery tobaccos of widely varying strengths. “It has a tinge to it that I use sparingly in several of my blends,” says Room 101 brand owner Matt Booth. “It can be overpowering so I try to use a dash here and there so to speak.” Dominican tobacco ranges from milder smokes like those in the Davidoff White Label line to the FuenteFuenteOpusX line released in limited quantities by Arturo Fuente.
What you should smoke: FuenteFuenteOpusX,Davidoff Grand Cru
Photo: Walter Bibikow / JAI / Corbis
Bold and beautiful, the cigar tobacco produced by Honduras is often spicier and more flavorful than anything available elsewhere. “It is grittier,” says Booth. “I find it to be harsh in a pleasant way. When I want to add more octane to my cigars I use Honduran Corojo in the filler.” Honduran tobacco has a finer side though, exhibited by Alec Bradley’s award-winning Prensado line.
What you should smoke: CamachoCorojo, Alec Bradley Prensado
There are two major types of tobacco made in America: Connecticut Broadleaf and Connecticut Shade. Shade is a mild leaf, found in lots of blends like Macanudo. It’s accessible, though it can be papery in taste. On the opposite side is the darker, robust Broadleaf. “Broadleaf is naturally sweet and has a nice earthy quality to it,” says Johnson. “I call it sweet dirt because of the rustic sweet flavor. The natural sugars in broadleaf create cigars with a juicy quality that keeps your mouth moist when smoking.”
What you should smoke: La Dueña, Rocky Patel Private Cellar
Our neighbors to the south produce a less common cigar tobacco typically used for the cigar’s wrapper, or as a limited ingredient in the filler blend. Johnson says “Mexican tobacco has a natural sweetness and is very earthy. Very similar to Connecticut Broadleaf but Mexican can tend to have a mild chalky character.” A Mexican-wrapped blend is always a great next step up for the guy trying to expand his horizons.
What you should smoke: Casa Fernandez Aganorsa Leaf Maduro, La Aroma de Cuba Mi Amor
There are smaller players as well: Peru, Costa Rica, Colombia, and Brazil all produce cigar tobacco used sparingly in some great blends. But none of those countries have the market share of the ones we’ve discussed. The only remaining one that does is Cuba and buying Cuban cigars isn’t a matter of knowing the taste profile you want. It’s about knowing a guy who knows a guy.
Photos by Liu Jian Ming / Redlink / Corbis