What Nicarao Exclusivo is...

Понедельник, 01 Марта 2010

Following some interesting questions received concerning our Nicarao Exclusivo maduro wrappers... Here are some explanations...

THE METHODS – Generally talking, there are 3 ways to produce maduro wrappers.


The painting - Some producers artificially darken the colour of the wrapper with a liquid that is naturally produced by soaking fermented leaves' stems. I could not give more details as I really do not know this method.


The burning - During the fermentation of thick wrappers, the temperature increases quickly and speeds up the process of colour darkening. This phenomenon occurs so fast that it is called 'quemar la capa' in Spanish, literally 'to burn the wrapper'. Much time is 'saved' but the aroma's richness is lost by rushing the reactions and the consequent thermal runaway. An additional consequence - positive here - is a quite good combustibility result of the massive destruction of organic contents.


The natural - Both fermentation's temperature and its evolution are closely controlled. The temperature among the leaves in the fermentation unit (pilón) - necessary for the process to happen - is increased slowly thanks to a close control of the phenomenon by regular and numerous cycles of 1) temperature increases generated by the fermentation's dynamic, and 2) fermentation unit turning (to cool down the leaves and limit the process' speed). All this is normally done over a longer period of time than for common wrappers.

Hence, it is a 'normal' fermentation but longer and with a closer control on temperature.



WHAT ARE WE LOOKING FOR... – By producing a maduro wrapper of quality, we are in fact looking forward having 3 main characters:

- nicely dark in color,

- interesting in aromas, and

- well combustible.


And those parameters are somehow antagonist, so difficult to have in one same leaf... Let's analyze why and how we produce a nice maduro and not just by looking to the dark color...



THE COLOR – The dark colours emerge after the drying (process modifying the green leaves into brown leaves) and the fermentation (process increasing the darkness of the leaves colour and fixing it). The bigger the leaves' organic fraction, the darker its colour after the process. This is why a maduro wrapper must be thick.

--> Agricultural leaves for nice coloured maduro wrappers should be taken in high primings (high on the plant).



THE AROMAS – The dynamic of the aroma is pretty comparable to the one of the colour: aromas come with the organic fraction of the leaves and are 'released' by good processes.

--> Agricultural leaves for well aromatic maduro wrappers should be taken in high primings (high on the plant).



THE COMBUSTIBILITY – The burning quality comes mainly with the mineral fraction of the leaves. The closer from the soil, the bigger the mineral fraction of the leaves.

Burning is more difficult if the leaves have high content in organic molecules, therefore so if they are aromatic and potentially dark in colour.

--> Agricultural leaves for nice combustible maduro wrappers should be taken in low primings (low on the plant).



THE CHALLENGE – It becomes obvious that having an optimal balance of those 3 parameters within a same leaf is pretty difficult.


Agricultural leaves to produce maduro wrappers are pretty thick. They come from high primings where the organic fraction is important and the mineral one low.


As they have a more important organic fraction, to become maduro wrappers thick leaves require a more important fermentation than for normal wrappers. As this biochemical process is more intense, the temperatures generated must be more carefully controlled. If not, permanent damages could be caused to the aromatic molecules by the thermal runaway of the fermentation's chain reactions.


In the other hand, to have a complete fermentation of thick leaves, a certain depth into the process needs to be reached, and then as well as certain levels of temperatures.


But to be full and to avoid the aromatic destruction at the same time, this natural fermentation must both be very slow and be lead on an extensive period of time.


The optimal way to do is:

1- having a good control of the temperature

2- turning the fermentation unit more often as the thermal ruaway can appear quickly and rise temperature high and fast

3- reconstructing the fermentation unit with a different distribution of the leaves in order to have a new start of the fermentation


This smooth and long cyclic process insures a slow but complete fermentation and therefore both a color darkening and an aroma improvement, without damaging the latter by a brutal temperature increase. The process being complete and balanced, the combustion quality will normally be more than satisfactory.



CONCLUSION – Our Nicarao Exclusivo maduro wrappers are all done this very natural way. The Nicarao maduro leaves are fermented 24 months whereas normal wrappers are generally fermented from 9 to 11 months.


And on top of this we give our Nicarao Exclusivo maduro wrappers an additional 2 years of aging! Pretty unique in the industry.


Producing such a maduro wrapper - with even dark brown color, good aromas, and nice combustion - is excessively difficult to make because it is a real challenge.

It not only requires expertise and passion but also time, time and time...



Didier Houvenaghel