Smoke: Wrappers Delight
Some experts insist that a cigar’s wrapper–the leaf that covers the cigar and that creates its appearance–contributes most of its flavor. Others claim that the filler–the compacted leaves inside a cigar–dictates the taste. Still others maintain that the wrapper, filler, and binder (essentially an inner wrapper) share responsibility. In the hierarchy of mysteries that have confronted mankind, this one falls somewhere below the question concerning the existence of a higher being and above the one about the chicken or the egg, or perhaps above the one about the chicken crossing the road. Nevertheless, unlike any of those, the cigar conundrum has been resolved definitively by Tabacalera Perdomo.
The company offers its La Tradicion Perdomo Reserve cigar in four varieties, all with the same Nicaraguan filler and binder, but each wrapped in a radically different leaf and blessed with its own unique flavor. “The wrapper is responsible for 70 to 80 percent of a cigar’s taste,” asserts Albert Argenti, Tabacalera Perdomo’s chief marketing officer. “With the Reserves, the filler and binder provide a core of Nicaraguan flavor that gives you the kick, the oomph. But on top of that, you have four distinctly different tastes because of the different wrappers.”
Cigar makers typically alter the binders and fillers to suit different wrappers, but Perdomo chose not to do so with the Reserves. “We’ve just always loved this blend,” says Argenti, explaining that the company introduced it in 1998 as a box-pressed (square) cigar. “There was something of a rage for box-pressed cigars back then, but that faded, so in 2003, we reengineered the same blend into a round cigar.”
The resulting La Tradicion Perdomo Reserve line began with the Cuban Café, which has a Nicaraguan wrapper that Argenti accurately describes as “spicy, leathery, earthy,” and the Maduro, which has a darker Nicaraguan wrapper with an even more robust flavor. As successful as the Reserves were, their powerful tastes dissuaded many smokers. In response, Perdomo wrapped the Reserve in a light brown Cameroon leaf, which yields a smoother, sweeter taste than the Cuban Café and Maduro. Then, last summer, Perdomo introduced an even milder Reserve called the Champagne, which sports a light Connecticut wrapper. The Champagne seems to fly in the face of Perdomo’s reputation for powerful cigars–to my palate, the flavor is indeed light. Yet the Champagne is as deep and complex as any of its brethren. I find it a welcome relief from the heavy-bodied smokes that dominate today’s market and often leave me feeling as though I spent the three previous nights on the town with both Jerry Garcia and Dean Martin.
The Tradicion Perdomo Reserve line not only provides a wonderful variety of flavors, it also settles the question of how much the wrapper contributes to a cigar’s flavor. As Argenti says, “That one little half-leaf makes all the difference.”