Let's Talk About Cigar Fillers

A cigar is composed of three parts: the filler, the binder, and the wrapper. Each of these parts play a vital role in the construction of the cigar. If one part is off, it will greatly affect the quality of the cigar. The filler is considered the heart of the cigar. It’s what gives the cigar its size, how well it draws, and if properly blended, the filler adds to a cigar’s flavor. So, let’s talk about the filler.

A cigar’s filler, also known as the guts (or tripa), is the central part of the cigar. In its simplest form, a filler is a bunch of tobacco leaves that are bound together by the binder. If properly constructed, the filler will allow for a good draw and an even burn. The leaves are folded in such a way as to create a passageway for air to flow down the length of the cigar, through which the smoke is drawn after the cigar is lit. A “tight” cigar is one in which the passageway does not allow for sufficient air flow. This creates a slow, uneven burn. In the case of a “loose” cigar, the air flows too freely, and it creates a fast, hot burn. A skilled cigar roller knows how to avoid these problems. It is why experienced cigar rollers are highly regarded in the business. 

The tobaccos used for the filler will help determine the cigar’s overall flavor and strength. Typically, filler tobaccos are sun grown so that their leaves are heavier and thicker. Filler tobacco is classified as either a) short filler: made from the remains of long filler production or leaves that have holes or breaks in them, b) or long filler: made of whole tobacco leaves that have been cut in half.

Like the cigar’s wrapper and binder, the tobacco used for filler must undergo an aging process before it can be used. In the case of a full-bodied tobacco, the longer it ages the better its taste improves. Whereas, light and thin tobaccos can deteriorate if allowed to age for too long.

Fillers are usually blended by combining two or more tobacco leaves. The goal of every Master Blender is to create a blend in which the taste of the tobaccos used comes through. When you start smoking a well-blended cigar, the strongest tobacco will dominate a milder one. At some point, the other tobaccos’ flavors will become more pronounced and achieve a perfect balance.

There are three major types of cigar tobacco fillers: Cuban, Brazil Bahia Mata Fina, Java. Each variation has its own specific flavor and taste. Cuban fillers are full bodied and have the richest and most complex aroma. A Cuban filler is so unique that it is easily recognized when smoked. Brazil Bahia Mata Fina is a medium- to full-bodied tobacco with a pleasant fruity flavor. Java tobacco is mild, slightly bitter and with some spicy flavors. By blending various tobaccos, a Master Blender can create whole new flavors and tastes that differ greatly from the individual leaves themselves.

 “Ligero,” “Seco,” and “Volado” are terms used to describe stalk position. Based on where on the plant the leaf is stationed will determine its use. Leaves found at the top (Ligero) get the most sun exposure. Therefore, these leaves provide the strongest and fullest flavor and are used as wrappers. Leaves found in the middle (Seco) and bottom (Volado) part of the plant get less sunlight. This means they have a subtler flavor and strength. Typically, Seco and Volado leaves are used for fillers.

In conclusion, the filler plays a vital role in determining the cigar’s size, draw/burn, and flavor. Leaves from the middle part of the tobacco plant are used for filler. A leaf’s position on the stalk will determine the filler’s flavor and strength. Blended fillers are created by combing two or more leaves together. A great deal of knowledge, skill, and patience goes into blending. It is the dream of every Master Blender to create a blend so unique no one else can imitate it. The next time you fire up a stogie, take some time to admire its filler. Because without it, your cigar is just a smoke.

By Luzzie Normand
Co-Founder & Editor; Neptune Cigars Inc.
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