The majority of a cigar is made up of fillers, wrapped-up bunches of leaves inside the wrapper. Fillers of various strengths are usually blended to produce desired cigar flavors. In the cigar industry this is referred to as a “blend”. Many cigar manufacturers pride themselves in constructing the perfect blend(s) that will give the smoker the most enjoyment. The more oils present in the tobacco leaf, the stronger (less dry) the filler. Types range from the minimally flavored Volado taken from the bottom of the plant, through the light-flavored Seco (dry) taken from the middle of the plant, to the strong Ligero from the upper leaves exposed to the most sunlight. Fatter cigars of larger gauge hold more filler, with greater potential to provide a full body and complex flavor. However, this effect can be diminished because of the generally poorer burn characteristics of thicker cigars (greater than 50 ring gauge), and the fact that these cigars burn cooler. This can prevent the full spectrum of flavors from being easily detectable. When used, Ligero is always folded into the middle of the filler because it burns slowly.
Fillers can be either long or short; long filler uses whole leaves and is of a better quality, while short filler, also called “mixed”, uses chopped leaves, stems, and other bits. Recently some manufacturers have created what they term “medium filler” cigars. They use larger pieces of leaf than short filler without stems, and are of better quality than short filler cigars. Short filler cigars are easy to identify when smoked since they often burn hotter and tend to release bits of leaf into the smoker’s mouth. Long filled cigars of high quality should burn evenly and consistently. Also available is a filler called “sandwich” (sometimes “Cuban sandwich”) which is a cigar made by rolling short leaf inside long outer leaf. If a cigar is completely constructed (filler, binder and wrapper) of tobacco from only one country, it is referred to in the cigar industry as a “puro” which in Spanish means “pure.”
Binders are elastic leaves used to hold together the bunches of fillers. Essentially, binders are wrappers that are rejected because of holes, blemishes, discoloration, or excess veins.
A cigar’s outermost leaves, or wrapper, come from the widest part of the plant. The wrapper determines much of the cigar’s character and flavor, and as such its color is often used to describe the cigar as a whole. Over 100 wrapper shades are identified by manufacturers, but the seven most common classifications are as follows, from lightest to darkest: