Smoke: Green Days
Cigars and clothing share a pair of fundamental truths: A product that is in fashion soon will be out, and one that is out of fashion someday will return. Accordingly, the candela, a cigar wrapped in a light green leaf, is staging its comeback.
Candelas—including high-quality, handmade examples—found favor with millions of smokers in the 1960s and ’70s, becoming by far the most popular cigars in the United States. However, by the mid-1980s, only inexpensive, machine-made cigars were wearing green, and in the 1990s, candelas were absent from the cigar boom. Some high-end brands—most notably Hoyo de Monterrey—kept a candela or two in their line, but only a scant few tobacconists bothered to stock them.
Although it can be difficult to locate a tobacconist whose humidor contains even a single stick of candela, several major companies have resurrected this nearly forgotten smoke. A couple of years ago, La Gloria Cubana and Graycliff began making candelas; they have since been joined by Arturo Fuente, CAO, Camacho, Don Tomás, Puros Indios, and others. Most smokers may continue to ignore candelas, but an enthusiast with a sense of adventure and an appreciation for history might find them irresistible.
“A candela bears more of a fresh green leaf flavor, as compared to a natural wrapper, which bears more soil-related, earthy flavors,” explains Daniel Nuñez, president and chief operating officer of General Cigar, whose brands include Macanudo, La Gloria Cubana, and Hoyo de Monterrey. A candela fan will praise the wrapper’s mild, sweet character and its springtime aroma. The taste is not for everyone, though; one smoker of our acquaintance declared it reminiscent of a roll of grass clippings.
The difficulty in producing the candela wrapper may share some blame for its decline. The process is quicker: Candela leaves are dried in a heated shed for three to four days, instead of being air-dried for six weeks and then fermented for two to six months, as are most cigar wrappers. However, the dried leaf is so delicate that it requires special care. “The candela leaves are very fragile and cannot take much exposure to light, especially fluorescent and incandescent light,” says Graycliff CEO Enrico Garzaroli. “The leaves must stay as unstretched as possible, in a dark, air-conditioned place. You have to ship them refrigerated or by air. And the cigar roller must have dry hands. If not, you will see blemishes as the cigar ages.”
In appraising the candela, you might start with the Macanudo Jade, which is the smoothest, mildest candela we have sampled. If the Jade pleases, move on to the bolder flavors of the sweet Puros Ache, the tart Graycliff, and the robust Hoyo de Monterrey. Whether you ultimately relish or reject the green wrapper, as a cigar smoker, your curiosity—or sense of nostalgia—should demand that you experience a candela or two.