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Cigar 101

All About Oscuro Cigar Wrappers

J. Bennett Alexander Alexander's picture

J. Bennett Alexander

We all know Maduro cigars. They are defined by many smokers as having dark wrapper leaves. We know Double Maduro, and while some believe that means the outer leaf is doubly dark, the term actually refers to cigars that use Maduro leaves for both the wrapper and the binder. Then there’s Oscuro. The word simply means dark in Spanish, but that’s not all it signifies when it comes to a cigar that is usually much darker than any standard Maduro.

MADURO VS. OSCURO

Maduro in Spanish means ripe. This is true of the Maduro leaves used in or on cigars. They are ripe and often mellow because the leaves were exposed longer in the field and grown to be darker. Alternatively, they can be held longer in fermentation and become darker and sweeter. Still, they are usually a dark brown.

Oscuro tobacco leaves are closer to black in color, but that’s not all that matters when it comes to the leaves. Oscuro leaves are usually from the first priming on a tobacco plant. They grow at the very top of the plant and get the most sunlight. The longer they remain on the plant, the darker the leaves become after being fermented. Accordingly, some growers refer to the leaves left on longer as Medio Tiempo, or, perhaps counterintuitively, “half time,” because they were left on another fifty percent longer. These leaves are used in the Cuban Cohiba Behike to give that line a distinctive flavor. Leaving the leaves on the plant that much longer means they’re really starting to cure while still on the stalk. The result when it’s used as a wrapper leaf is that it’s thicker, darker, richer and sweeter in flavor.

TYPES OF OSCURO

To be clear, Oscuro is not a type of tobacco, but a method by which to let the leaves of different strains of tobacco grow darker. So, like Maduro, one will usually see heartier types of tobacco being used to create Oscuro wrappers. Connecticut Broadleaf, Mexican San Andrés Negro, Brazilian Mata Fina and Arapiraca, and Nicaraguan Habano are commonly made into Oscuro wrappers.

FERMENTATION

During the fermentation process, Oscuro leaves are left for shorter times at lower temperatures than a typical Maduro. Then the Oscuro process calls for putting the leaves in bales or barrels to be further aged. During aging, the leaves acquire an ever darker color, from very dark brown to pitch black. Technically, then, Oscuro leaves are defined more by the process than by the ultimate color.

THE DARK, POTENT SMOKE

Among our favorite Oscuro cigars, the La Aroma de Cuba Mi Amor Reserva, in Churchill, Corona Gorda, Gordo, Robusto and Toro vitolas (from $9 to $11-ish), is a great example of a very nearly black cigar. The original Mi Amor was the ‘#2 Cigar of the Year’ in Cigar Aficionado in 2011, while the Mi Amor Reserva scored 94 points and ranked in the ‘Top 25 Cigar of the Year’ in 2013. The wrapper is a San Andrés Oscuro from Mexico handmade at the My Father factory in Nicaragua. Under the wrapper is an aged recipe of Nicaraguan filler and binder tobaccos. This is a premier example of a full-bodied cigar with a lot of complexity and depth. You will taste notes of dark chocolate, peppers, caramel, and a smoky, woody flavor. The balance on the cigar is evident throughout.

The La Flor Dominicana Ligero #300 Oscuro, 5.75 x 50 (between $8 and $9) is a powerful Dominican Robusto with an Oscuro wrapper. The Ligero tobacco is very strong, but it’s tempered slightly by the sweetness of the super-dark wrapper. Don’t be fooled. This is a STRONG cigar.

San Cristobal Ovation is blended with an exquisite Oscuro wrapper, also a San Andrés leaf. Underneath it is a full-bodied recipe of well-aged Nicaraguan long-fillers. The cigar produces deep and rich notes of hickory, cocoa, and mesquite with signature Garcia family spices.

The My Father La Opulencia Toro, 6 x 54 ($11 +) was Cigar Aficionado’s number two cigar of 2018. Made in Nicaragua and wrapped with a San Andrés Oscuro leaf, this smoke delivers some earthiness, with notes of black pepper and espresso. If you like a hearty and spicy cigar, you’ll love this forceful Toro.

Finally, the Tatuaje 15th Anniversary Oscuro is available in a Belicoso, 5.5 x 52, ($19) or a Torpedo, 6.5 x 52 ($21). This is a Cuban-seed Oscuro wrapper grown in Ecuador with a core of Nicaraguan long-fillers. This potent cigar has lots of pepper, espresso, and dark chocolate notes. There’s a notable red chili pepper finish, but the cigar is smooth all the way through.

The bottom line is that if you like strong cigars, you should definitely have some Oscuros in your humidor. They are powerful, but are generally very balanced. These are the cigars you’ll love smoking late at night with a glass of dark rum. At least, I certainly do.

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