A Wrapper's Contribution to Cigar Flavor Part 1: Cigar Geometry
by David "Doc" Diaz
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
There is a question that is often asked of me and I have often asked this same question of cigar manufacturers… "How much does the wrapper contribute to the overall flavor of a finished cigar?" The answers have varied from manufacturer to manufacturer, but it is generally accepted that the smaller the ring gauge on a cigar, the more the wrapper will contribute to the flavor. But why is this the case and what other factors contribute to how the wrapper will affect the overall flavor in a cigar?
Some time ago, I had the opportunity to sit with Hendrik Kelner Jr., part of the management team at Davidoff, who has studied this question at length. When I asked Hendrik how much the wrapper contributes to the flavor in a cigar, his answer was, "It depends." He said that, on the average, the answer would probably be around 40%, with some cigars being affected more or less than that average depending on various contributing factors. The factors that have the most influence on how much a wrapper leaf will contribute to the overall flavor of a cigar include, cigar length and ring gauge, composition of the filler blend, and wrapper leaf placement. In this first article in a three-part series, I will discuss how length and ring gauge are related and how cigar geometry helps us to understand the relative contribution of the wrapper to overall flavor.
How Length and Ring Gauge Affect Flavor
A bit of geometry will help us better understand the mechanics of how a wrapper can influence the overall flavor of a cigar. A typical cigar is a cylinder of tobacco encased in a wrapper. By determining the ratio of wrapper to filler tobacco, we can then compare the relative contribution of the wrapper to the flavor in a cigar and use that figure to compare the contribution of the wrappers in cigars of differing lengths and ring gauges.
To demonstrate how a cigar's length and ring gauge will affect cigar filler volume and wrapper surface area, it is helpful to set up Reference Cigar. This reference will serve as the standard by which we can measure and compare various cigars. For the purpose of this discussion, I will use a 6-inch by 50 ring gauge Toro as my Reference Cigar. This represents a common unit for length and ring gauge. Wrapper surface area and filler volume of all other cigars will be expressed as a percentage of the reference values. By using the Reference Value as a comparison, we will have a way to describe and better understand the relative contribution of the wrapper to the overall flavor.
The chart below shows some examples of how differing lengths and ring gauges can affect the volume, and wrapper surface area.
COMPARING FILLER VOLUME AND WRAPPER SURFACE AREA IN
CIGARS OF DIFFERING LENGTHS & RING GAUGES*
Figure 1. Comparing cigars of same ring gauge
In Figure 1, you will see 4 different cigars with the same ring gauge (RG), but different lengths. You can see that the length of these cigars ranges between 4.5-inches for the Petit Robusto to 7-inches for the Churchill.
The chart shows that both the filler volume and wrapper surface area of the Churchill are 16.7% and 15.6% larger, respectively, than the Reference cigar. On the other hand, the Petit Robusto's filler volume and wrapper surface areas are 25% and 26.5% smaller, respectively, than the Reference.
While the volume of filler tobacco and wrapper surface areas can vary considerably ACROSS the 4 cigars, the difference between the wrapper surface area and the filler volume within the SAME cigar is very small, suggesting that, in cigars of the same RG, changes in cigar length will impact the wrapper/filler ratio very little. Thus, when comparing cigars with the same RG, but different lengths, you can expect the filler volumes and wrapper surface areas to increase and decrease in nearly equal proportions.
Figure 2. Comparing cigars of same length
Figure 2 shows a much different picture. When comparing cigars of the same length but different ring sizes, not only does filler volume differ more drastically from our reference cigar, but there is also a larger difference between the filler volume and the wrapper surface area within the SAME cigar. This demonstrates that, when comparing cigars of the same length but different ring gauge, the wrapper will contribute more to the flavor of the cigar because wrapper surface area increases substantially, relative to filler volume, as RG gets progressively smaller. This substantiates the belief that the wrappers on smaller RG cigars contribute more to the flavor of a cigar than larger ring gauge cigars. Further, this chart demonstrates that RG is a much more important indicator of wrapper/filler ratio than cigar length.
Figure 3. Wrapper to filler ratio comparisons
Figure 3 compares the Wrapper/Filler ratios (WFR) of 7 different cigars. Four of the cigars (including Reference cigar) had the same length but different ring gauge, and four (including Reference cigar) had the same ring gauge but different length. The chart shows that, in same length cigars, WFR increases substantially as the ring gauge gets smaller and decreases substantially as ring gauge gets larger. The 6 x 38 cigar has a 30% higher WFR than the 6 x 50 reference cigar and has a 46% higher WFR than the 6 x 60 cigar. Thus, the wrapper in the smaller RG cigar contributes substantially more to the flavor.
On the other hand, when comparing cigars of the same ring gauge and different lengths, the WFR changes very little as length changes, indicating that the wrapper contribution to overall flavor would not be appreciably different (either positively or negatively). Therefore, since changes in ring gauge affect WFR more drastically than changes in length, the wrapper's contribution to overall flavor is more influenced by changes in ring gauge than by changes in length.
In the next part of this three part series, I will discuss how tobacco
characteristics (wrapper and filler) and position of tobacco leaves
on the plant can affect the flavor of a cigar and can determine the
wrapper's relative contribution to the overall flavor.
*Author Notes: The implications drawn from the included charts are based on a few of assumptions. The first is that a cigar is a CYLINDER of known VOLUME. Some cigars are more cylindrical than others. (i.e., parejo versus figurado shapes), but none are a perfect cylinder. The Wrapper Surface Area calculation assumes that a perfect cylinder has a top and bottom covering and a single layer wrap-around covering. Though a cigar is wrapped in such a way that the leaf overlaps itself, there is not bottom covering of the wrapper on the foot of the cigar and the top covering (i.e., cap) is usually trimmed before smoking. The addition of the bottom and top piece into the surface area calculation is offset by the fact that the wrapper overlaps itself. This is not a perfect comparison, but the calculation will be reliable across cigars.
Another assumption is that all the cigars listed in the chart possess the same wrapper, and filler blend and in the same proportions, with the only difference being the length and/or ring gauges.
The final assumption is that VOLUME represents the filler of a cigar. What is missing in the chart information above is a measurement of MASS. Volume is just an empty void, or space that will be filled up with something, like tobacco. Mass represents the VOLUME of the cigar, times the DENSITY. Obviously, if you smash or "bunch" the tobacco more completely, it will have more density and hence the cigar would have greater mass. In that way, you could put more tobacco into the volume of the cigar cylinder. Because MASS could not be measured, Volume was favored as the representative of cigar filler.
About the Author
David "Doc" Diaz is the publisher and the editor of the Stogie Fresh Cigar Publications. He has served as an educator, researcher and writer and has taught in the Health Education and Health Science field for over 30 years. He possesses an earned doctorate from Nova Southeastern University. Doc is a Certified Master Tobacconist (CMT), having received this certification from the Tobacconist University and is a member and Ambassador of Cigar Rights of America (CRA).blog comments powered by Disqus