by Gary Laden and Nick Syris, CRT
To follow is a question and answer session about Candela wrapped cigars between Smooth Draws Radio co-host Gary Laden and his co-host Nick Syris, a Certified Retail Tobacconist.
GARY | Nick, so just what is Candela wrapper.
NICK | A Candela wrapper is one distinctly green in color. But to get the green color, blenders and rollers do not use paint, dye, stain, or otherwise alter the wrapper in any artificial way. It’s all in the curing and, although Candela wrapper is not as popular as it once was it has been around for a long time.
GARY | So how do they create these green candela wrappers?
NICK | As we know all tobacco starts out green in the fields. But the green color of candela has everything to do with its quick aging process. Candela’s vibrant color comes from a markedly different curing process than other tobaccos.
While most cigar tobacco is fermented in bales or pilones over extended periods of time, candela is actually baked. Over three days the leaf is hung from the rafters in a barn with high temperature fires burning on the ground level with temperatures reaching as high as 175 degrees.
This process cooks out the sorts of compounds that fermentation leeches out, but without the yellowing and decomposition of the chlorophyll. The result is that candela keeps its green hue.
GARY | Let’s take a look at the history of Candela wrapped cigars.
NICK | Stanford Newman in his book Cigar Family writes that only 5 percent of Cuba’s wrappers turned green under normal curing conditions. While extremely well received, candela cigars were rare.
During world war II, Cuba assisted the allied war effort with two major products – sugar and cigars. The legend is that the Cuban tobacco farmers and cigar producers were trying to develop faster methods for producing cigars for the troops. The creation of candela seems to have been an accident or a result of experimentation.
In the Partido region of Cuba, where the process originated, cigar producers sometimes used heat in their barns to combat excess humidity. If the temperature rose too high, the tobacco turned green in the heat. Eventually they perfected a way of heating the barn and turning an entire barn’s worth of wrapper green, in just three days. The troops enjoyed the look and the flavor.
GARY | The troops returning from the war had developed a taste for mild cigars and the green wrapper, didn’t they?
NICK | Yes they did. After World War Two.there was a great demand by American smokers for light tobacco. Back in those days, only Cuban cigars were sold stateside, so you really had more full bodied cigars. Many smokers were craving the mild Candelas of the war.
At that time, one of the largest selling brands was La Corona. To appeal to this mild market, the company began selling Candela wrapped smokes to the U.S. Very quickly, the amount of this tobacco couldn’t meet the huge demand so, instead of fully curing it, they froze the light tobacco to keep it green. Then, they’d fire cure it to get it the greenest shade possible. This created a tremendous demand, and other Cuban manufacturers followed suit.
By 1958 candelas were the hot cigars in America. Candela had a huge following. It was as an easy to produce wrapper tobacco and it made for cheaper and faster cigars for the masses. It became so popular that it became known as American Market Selection or double claro. And up until the early 1970s, Americans smoked millions of cigars, and nearly all of them were as green as a well maintained golf course.
GARY | But if Candela wrapped cigars were so good what happened to them?
NICK | The Cuban Revolution happened and, in February of 1962, right after sending his aids out to search Washington D.C. and northern Virginia for every box of H. Upmann Candela they could find and by the way they found over 1000 boxes, President John F. Kennedy signed the Cuban Embargo into law.
After the embargo, they tried this same process with domestic tobaccos and tobaccos from the Dominican Republic; but they had a rather sour taste, while the old Cuban fire-cured tobacco had a sweet almost pineapple flavor, so the popularity of the non Cuban double claro quickly faded and English Market Selection, a brown wrapper, that we all know, became popular.
GARY | So, what kind of numbers are we looking at.
NICK | Compared to the staggering 90% of pre embargo green wrapper smokers, today these wrappers only consist of 2 to 3 percent of total sales of all cigars. They are smoked mainly by older guys who refuse to give them up, or on special occasions like Saint Patrick’s Day.
GARY | Is there a unique flavor profile of candela wrapped cigars?
NICK | So much of the taste profile is based on the blend, however Candela generally is mild, with a bright set of flavors, almost hoppy like beer can be. There is a sweetness and tartness, almost like lemon grass or lemon lime zest. Cedar is often prominent and a hint of pepper is common. It can be a bit herbal and some say they taste grass or hay.
GARY | What brands or lines should we be looking for at our local cigar shops.
NICK | For the fifth consecutive year, the Alec Bradley Black Market Filthy Hooligan, a seasonal release for St. Patrick’s Day has been released. The Cigar returned for 2017 in the same barber-pole candela format that was introduced last year. Numerous retailers have received the cigar into their inventory.
The Alec Bradley Black Market Filthy Hooligan 2017, as we mentioned features a barber pole wrapper featuring intertwined Honduran Candela and Nicaraguan wrappers over an Ecuadorian Sumatra binder and a filler of Panamanian and Honduran tobaccos. The cigar is being released in a 6 x 50 format in 22 count boxes.
GARY | Got some more recommendations for Candela wrapped cigars?
NICK | Rocky Patel’s The Edge Candela Toro
Rocky Patel has made an addition to the The Edge lineup in the form of a toothy, light green Candela wrapper. A tasty blend of Honduran long-fillers resides beneath each iridescent wrapper to compliment the delicate flavors with consistent construction and a perfect draw.
If you can find them, try the MoyaRuiz Cigars Pickle Juice. Pickle Juice was introduced in the spring of 2016 as a seasonal release available in time for St. Patrick’s Day. The packaging features a plastic jar to resemble a pickle jar. What makes Pickle Juice unique is that only 500 jars were made available for purchase. Each jar was numbered and only available during St. Patrick’s Day. A special selection of 50 retailers were chosen to sell Pickle Juice, receiving 10 jars per store.
GARY | Candela wrapped cigars. Try few and see if they’re something you’d enjoy to change things up a bit.