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3rd December 2017Everything You Need to Know About Binder Tobacco
While the binder is often the least revered of the tobaccos that make up a cigar, due to its lack of contribution to the overall flavour of the stogie, it is actually one of the hardest working leaves in the bunch. The blend of this leaf with the rest of the tobacco is paramount to the overall quality of the cigar, and here’s why.
What is binder tobacco?
First of all, it’s important for us to know what the binder tobacco is and what it’s function is within the cigar. Primarily referred to as the capote, which means ‘cloak’ or ‘cape’ in Spanish, the binder layer acts as a blanket to the filler tobacco, holding it in place and ensuring an even burn from foot to head.
Where does binder tobacco come from?
Generally, binder tobacco is harvested from the base to mid-region of the tobacco plant and so is lighter in colour and flavour. Often these leaves are thicker, which allows them the elasticity to be manipulated to the mould and, of course, the strength to hold the filler tobacco leaves in place and provide the protection necessary when rolled.
What does binder tobacco taste like?
While binder tobacco leaves are very light in flavour, what little flavour they do have must compliment the taste of the filler leaves and the wrapper, making selection a fine art.
How is the binder tobacco prepared?
Once the tobacco leaves are harvested, they then need to be dried. This is a lengthy process that begins with the sewing and hanging of the fresh leaves. Thick thread is used to attach pairs of leaves and they are hung in curing barns on slatas, rows of sticks that suspend the leaves and keep them separated.
Wrappers and high-quality binder leaves are often hung on thicker, smoother wooden sticks, called cujes, without being sewn, to prevent them from cracking during the curing process. It’s important that the leaves stay intact as cracks or holes will prevent them from performing their primary function – holding the fillers together.
The curing process takes a minimum of 2 years, while more robust priming leaves can take up to three years or sometimes even longer.
How is the binder layer wrapped?
The binder is rolled and sealed with vegetable gum before the bunch is placed in the mould to prepare for final wrapping. It’s integral that the binder leaf has some absorbency and give to allow the air to flow more freely through the lit cigar.
How does the binder layer contribute to a cigar’s appearance?
The precision of the application of the binder leaf is integral to the quality of the cigar. It must be silky smooth to provide a sturdy foundation for the wrapper. If not, the cigar will likely present with soft spots or a lumpy and blemished appearance.
Why are binder leaves so important?
Quality binder leaves give the cigar its premium label as, without them, they would never burn easily.