What Are The Different Parts Of A Cigar?
In its most rudimentary form, a cigar can be divided into three functional parts, which consist of the head, foot and the body or barrel. The cigar’s head is the often-capped area, which touches your lips. Meanwhile, the foot is the part reserved for lighting and the body or barrel is the space in between.
As indicated in the illustration above, these physical areas of a cigar are made up of different types of tobacco. Each of these have their own functional and aesthetic characteristics.
Different Parts Of The Tobacco Plant
Before further exploring the different ways tobacco is used to make a cigar, it’s worth taking a quick glance at the tobacco plant. A single plant consists of leaves that are cultivated a series of priming’s as they ripen.
These are each harvested as layers from the bottom upwards in the following order:
Simply knowing these three parts and their characteristics will vastly improve your understanding of cigars and how they’re blended.
The first priming of a tobacco plant consists of the leaves found at the base sometimes referred to as the Mañanita and Libra de Pie. With a lower sun exposure than the other leaves, the Volado consists of very little flavour.
However, it’s a very thin and light tobacco that offers superior burning qualities than the following primings because it’s more combustible. Therefore, it’s included in a cigar’s blend to ensure an even and consistent burn when smoked.
In Cuba, the section just between the Volado and Seco is sometimes referred to as the Capote. This is the Spanish word for “binder” and offers a balanced leaf with characteristics of both primings.
As can be deduced from the name, the Seco is the second priming found in the plant’s middle section. Unlike the volado, it is coarser and offers a mild flavour. As well as the Seco, sometimes this area s referred to as Uno y Medio depending on the seed.
Additionally, the Seco is quite a large area and may include a “Viso” just above it. Both of these sections consist of a series of primings within themselves depending on the seed:
- Centro Fino: Fine leaves with a rich but restrained potency.
- Centro Ligero: Not to be confused with the Ligero, it features bulk of Seco leaves.
- Uno y Medio: The first Seco layer that often features Capote leaves.
A well-balanced and oily leaf, its flavours may be understated but it is considerably aromatic. As a general rule, the Seco can be considered a compromise between the thin Valedo below and thick Ligero above.
The leaves harvested from the very top of a tobacco plant are known as the ligero. Exposed to the most sun, it is a thick and heavy leaf that is extremely potent in flavour.
In order to maximise its potency, it is left to overripen as the last leaves to be cultivated. With the previous layers having already been harvested, the nutrients will slowly concentrate in these remaining leaves to provide a full-bodied flavour.
Nevertheless, the Ligero itself consists of several levels, which varies from seed to seed:
- Medio Tiempo: Three or four thick, small leaves at the very top that are the most potent.
- Corona: Top section of the Ligero beneath the Medio Tiempo.
- Centro Gordo/Centro Alto: Thick and potent leaves at the Ligero’s base.
Whilst the majority of the above primings are often used, the Medio Tiempo is quite rare due to its extreme potency. This may be included in some of the boldest and most intense cigars but lacks subtlety for the majority of flavourful blends.
However, because they are extremely coarse and thick, Ligero leaves don’t burn well. Therefore, it’s important that they are used in combination with lower portions to ensure an even combustion.
Overall, the Ligero is somewhat less aromatic than the Seco, which is why both are carefully used together for a harmonious blend. Whilst the Ligero offers potent flavours, the Seco provides enticing aromas.