4. Kinds of Cigars

a. American-style cigars
For well over a century and a half, the majority of cigar smokers in the US smoked what may be considered American-style cigars. Originally all hand-rolled, by the early 20th century, most of these cigars were being machine-bunched as well as machine-wrapped, which kept their retail prices below about 10 cents per stick. Their fillers used American variety tobaccos, such as Pennsylvania Red, Little Dutch, Lancaster Seedleaf, Glessner, Swarr, Maryland, and even burley varieties. The binders tended to be American binder-class tobaccos, such as Wisconsin Seedleaf, Comstock Spanish, Pennsylvania Broadleaf, and Connecticut Broadleaf.

American preferences for wrappers were focused on light-tan claro leaf, with thin, Indonesian Sumatra wrappers taking the lead in the late 19th century, soon replaced by the newly developed Connecticut Shade Grown. There were also Florida Sumatra, Dixie Shade, and several others. Dark wrappers were nearly all Connecticut Broadleaf or Pennsylvania Broadleaf. Following World War II, the popularity of green wrappers, called candela, increased (presenting the image of a “cleaner” cigar habit), and displaced nearly all-natural wrappers for about a decade in the 1950s. [Candela wrappers are flash-cured while still green, retaining the leaf’s chlorophyll, and completely lacking in any natural cigar flavors.]

Most American-style cigars are delicious and enjoyable, but fundamentally different in taste and aroma from cigars made with predominantly Central American and Caribbean varieties of the leaf. The introduction of Honduran and Nicaraguan cigars in the late 1960s and early 1970s began to make inroads into the popularity of American-style cigars (in the US), but only among a niche clientele. They did, however, eliminate the popularity of candela-wrapped cigars. “Natural” and soon, “Cameroon” wrappers became the favored wrapper on American-made cigars. [Cameroon wrappers are a variety of Indonesian Sumatra Deli leaf grown in the African country of Cameroon.]

The so-called cigar boom of the late 1990s-with its celebrity-endorsed reviews and numerical cigar ratings, spelled doom for the American-style cigar, and eventually, by about 2017, for the entire cigar manufacturing industry in the US, which has nearly ceased to exist, with the exception of the mega-companies owned by Swedish Match and other multi-national corporations, Some are still smokable, but most of the sales go to flavored and scented cigars..

b. Caribbean-style cigars
Since the late 19th and early 20th centuries, cigars from Havana, Cuba have been blessed with an aura of being the best cigars in the world. This is despite the fact that, until the early 1920s, tobacco grown in Cuba was a collection of random, poorly selected, varietal cultivars. Seedling suppliers there were careless and haphazard in what they produced and distributed, and growers planted whatever they received, performing “selection” of leaf on the maturing plants, and sorting the resulting leaf for various, different uses. But the combination of soil and climate in Cuba, especially in the Vuelta Abajo, is ideal for the production of cigar tobacco, and the majority of what was grown was loosely derived from prototypical Habano-type tobacco, later named the Vuelta Abajo variety. Most subsequently developed strains, Corojo, Criollo, Criollo 98, etc. were derived from the Vuelta Abajo variety.

Much of the credit for transforming that production into world-famous cigars was due to the talents of the cigar blenders and the skilled rollers (torcedores) of Havana’s cigar factories. They performed the most polished blending and the most consistently beautiful and smokable cigars available anywhere.

With the US embargo of Cuba-extended to cover everything, by John Kennedy in 1962, as well as the nationalization (appropriation) of the Havana cigar factories by Fidel Castro’s government, many of Havana’s finest cigar experts migrated to Florida, Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua, and other countries, taking their talents and knowledge with them. While premium cigar manufacturing has since languished in Tampa, Florida, and Miami, the “Cuban” cigar industry has gained a second life in Central and South America.

All the output of these reborn “Cuban” cigar manufacturers in countries outside of Cuba has focused throughout their existence on producing Cuban-style cigars. A similar style of the cigar has been made in the Dominican Republic, and for a while, in Puerto Rico and even the Canary Islands. All of the these-true Cuban cigars, Central and South American cigars, as well as those made on various other islands of the Caribbean, can now be globally considered as cigars of the Caribbean Basin, or Caribbean-style cigars.

Their general characteristics are darker wrappers, relatively stronger fillers-most from Habano or Habano-derived tobacco varieties-having a broad, somewhat rounded leaf, and a highly polished appearance. While the possible combinations of components and size and cross-section are infinite, they all unmistakably resemble one another.

c. European-style cigars
Although Caribbean-style cigars are popular throughout Europe, traditional European-style cigars remain. These are typically small cigars-cigarillos that are intentionally manufactured to be stored and smoked dry. They are usually not intended to be stored in a humidor. These cigarillos often came in small tins of 10 cigars, and are machine-made.