There are countless factors that make a cigar unique –– from the types of tobacco used to the altitude at which the tobacco is grown. These factors and more will affect the overall cigar-smoking experience. Another way to influence the flavor profile of a cigar is through different harvesting methods, and the most common way to harvest tobacco is through priming. Priming is a term used to describe the basic concept of working your way up from the bottom to the top of the tobacco plant.
A tobacco stalk contains three “zones” –– the ligero (the top), the seco (middle), and the volado (bottom). Leaves from each zone are not harvested at the same time, though. Rather, artisans will harvest tobacco leaves from the bottom up. Typically, this involves taking two or three leaves at a time from a plant over a few days. The first round of harvesting is known as the “first priming,” the second round, the “second priming,” and so on. On average, artisans complete about six primings per plant.
Primings and Flavor
Why does it matter when a tobacco leaf is harvested or from what zone it was taken? It’s all the same tobacco, right? The amount of sun a tobacco leaf receives and how long it’s left to mature can significantly impact its color, flavor, and combustibility. Leaves taken during the first priming sit closest to the ground. As such, they have some shade cover from the leaves above them. What’s more, they’re harvested first, so leaves taken during the first priming are usually lighter, frailer, and produce milder flavors than leaves taken in later primings. Since they’re harvested early, they retain more of the tobacco leaf's natural sweetness.
Macanudo Gold Label & Primings
Take Macanudo Gold Label, for example. Gold Label contains wrapper and binder tobacco taken only from the first and second primings. While it uses a Connecticut Shade wrapper, it doesn’t have the same flavor profile as other Connecticut Shade cigars. Instead, it has distinctive sweet, smooth, and creamy tasting notes. By the way, as an aside, make sure to check out Macanudo Gold Label 2023. It’s now available nationwide in the new size, Gold Nugget!
Back to primings, cigars that use more ligero leaves will usually be darker in color and produce bolder, richer flavors. Remember, “Maduro'' comes from the Spanish word for “ripe,” so it only makes sense that these cigars contain tobacco leaves that have matured for longer.