What Do the Veins in Cigars Mean?
Oftentimes, the more snobby premium cigar smokers among us will point out a veiny wrapper as something to lose points over.
To be fair, the question of whether or not a veiny phallus is aesthetic or not is centuries (if not millennia) old and one might immediately believe that they’re being picky. That's because while there is a certain degree of validity to the fact that veiny cigars have a more rustic aesthetic than a cleaner wrapper, it certainly can’t affect the performance and overall smoking experience of the cigar… or can it?
The truth is, whether they know it or not, the snobs have a genuine point, and it’s not about aesthetics. It’s common knowledge that a combination of seed type and sun exposure will determine the thickness of the veins in all the leaves from a single plant, further, the level of priming does so as well, as the leaves on the top receive more light exposure.
From the outset, those variables already bring into play a series of costs, material limitations, and production decisions that manufacturers can take into account when designing or programming the production of a cigar; a cigar that has to burn properly regardless of how good it looks.
Veins matter because the thicker they are, the more they affect the balance of a cigar’s combustion and subsequently take a toll on the smoking experience. A combination of wrapper leaf and binder that can burn properly are crucial to making the filler combust; cigars burn from the outside in, it’s not a hot core burning the outside, it’s a fiery hug from the binder and wrapper that keep the slower-burning fillers lit consistently.
Performance failures like tunneling are entirely due to an imbalance in the combustion rate in which the filler burns faster than the wrapper, and if the chemical composition of the wrapper and binder are correct for combustion, the next variable is obviously moisture content which is concentrated in the veins. So with all that said, the ideal wrapper leaf must surely be a thin-veined, shade-grown, low-priming… right? Well, not necessarily.
After combustion, arguably the most important trait a handmade cigar can offer is flavor and aroma. It just so happens that many of the richest leaves in flavor are also thick and veiny with a high moisture retention capacity. Rolling with these leaves is likely to be a gamble so it’s not unreasonable for these leaves to be rejected by manufacturers in order to ensure that their cigars burn correctly. In some instances though, the manufacturers take the time and care to peel the thicker veins in the underside of the leaves, as well as carefully stretch the wrapper as much as possible, all without destroying the leaf lamina.
While it does take more skill and time on behalf of the roller, it almost guarantees improved aesthetics, performance, and flavor. However, the results of this technique are mixed in the sense that a bolder, more colorful, and flavorful leaf from a high priming can be used confidently at the expense of having the factory rollers spend more time with each individual cigar bringing the cost up.
Ultimately, having minimal veins in a cigar isn’t the end-all-be-all; it is, however, a testament to either careful material selection or superior craftsmanship, and those two traits do determine whether or not a cigar stands above the rest. Minimal veins won’t indicate that a cigar will be superior, but they do speak clearly for the manufacturer’s intentions behind production.
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