Q & A: Flavored vs. Infused Cigars?
9/14/11 | by JZ of San Antonio, TX
9/14/11 | by JZ of San Antonio, TX
For years, I've wanted to write about an extremely secretive process solely used in aging the tobaccos selected for America's best-selling brand, Macanudo. This proprietary process, known as "the winter sweat," is such a well-kept secret that not even I was initially granted access to learn about it. After repeated requests to reveal the inner workings of this amazing procedure, I finally received the go-ahead to write this article as I was graciously awarded a rare, behind the scenes look at the "winter sweat" process.
Aging and fermentation are the single most important processes when preparing premium tobacco for blending. During this time, tobacco blooms its character and unique qualities, the ones that lend to those tasty, unique, and smooth flavors prevalent in any premium cigar. Every manufacturer utilizes secrets processes in blending, aging, and fermentation, which they guard carefully. In many cases it is these secrets that create a signature trait or flavor profile from brand to brand. Ever pick up a cigar you weren't familiar with and thought, "This reminds me of an AJ Fernandez or a Pepín García cigar?" What you're noticing are subtle, specific nuances imparted into the tobacco during the aging and fermentation processes. While Macanudo may not be what many would consider a "boutique brand," they employ some of the most unique procedures when processing their tobacco to ensure an unmatched level of quality and consistency is maintained.
"Winter Sweat" is a process reserved only for the Connecticut-shade wrappers destined for use in Macanudo cigars. A time honored tradition since 1968, the tobaccos are harvested in Connecticut in the summer months and cured in their native climate before shipping to the Macanudo factory in Santiago, Dominican Republic. Once in the Dominican, the leaves will slowly ferment much like any other tobacco in Latin America over a period of 2 to 3 years. However, to allow the tobacco to age at both hot and cold temperatures, the tobacco is shipped to a facility in Hatfield, Massachusetts to take advantage of the naturally colder and drier climate. During this time, the temperatures in the warehouse drop below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, pausing fermentation, thus putting the tobacco into a dormant state.
"The process stops the buildup of ammonia in the leaves during the winter and helps promote the release of ammonia during the other nine months of the year when it's back in the Dominican," says Jhonys Diaz, the man in charge of the Macanudo factory in the Dominican. "It's an extremely laborious and costly process to move the tobacco back and forth, but it's worth it for a brand that's so dear to our hearts. This time-honored tradition is over 40 years old and still considered part of the reason why Macanudo is the most recognized and best-selling brand in the US market today," he adds.
I travel all over the world studying tobacco and cigar making and I can say, without a doubt, that the "winter sweat" process is one of the most unique procedures I've ever come across and only a brand as big as Macanudo possesses the resources to execute such an intricate and costly procedure in the name of perfection. I suppose that's why you haven't seen any other cigar makers attempt to replicate the "winter sweat" process and perhaps why they were finally willing to share the specifics behind its inner workings. To properly ferment tobacco, temperature control remains incredibly important and for most, it's dictated by the local climate where Mother Nature can hold factories and their tobacco inventories hostage at will. By using the "winter sweat" process, Macanudo has found a way to seemingly allow the climate to work for them in all cases rather than against them by making their tobacco mobile, moving it with the seasonal changes in the northern hemisphere.
In my frequent interactions with consumers, it always amazes me how many of the most fascinating and interesting parts of cigar making never make it to the ears of the enthusiast who will ultimately be lighting the actual cigar. The truth is that the "winter sweat" process is only one of the many unique and often secretive procedures employed by Macanudo. To find out more information you've never realized about your favorite smokes, follow us at Cigar.com as we unveil why cigars are truly the ultimate, affordable luxury; crafted by hundreds of hands over several years before they find their way to your humidor and ultimately, your palate.