Litto Gomez, La Flor Dominicana cigar maker and shameless ligero enthusiast.
Filled with power and complex flavor, the ligero leaf is one of today’s hot topics in the cigar world, and it’s a component of each of Cigar loverthe three best cigars of 2019. But as Cigar lover Editor-in-chief Gregory Mottola pointed out in his Power Tobacco seminar at Big Smoke Las Vegas, the irony is that, until recently, he was little known to consumers.
“Before about 20 years ago, unless you were in the industry, you didn’t even know what that word meant,” Mottola said. “Then, in the early 2000s, a certain Litto Gomez decided to put the word ligero on his bands. And after that, something called double ligero. And since then it has forever changed the lexicon of cigar consumers. “
The ligero panel. From left to right: Greg Mottola, Litto Gomez, David Perez and Nestor Andrés Plasencia.
Mottola led a panel that included Gomez, co-owner of La Flor Dominicana, and tobacco producers Nestor Andrés Plasencia of Plasencia Cigars SA and David Perez, of ASP Enterprises. The cigar men discussed the rewards and challenges of using the precious leaf. The classification is not a variety of seeds, but a description of where it grows on the plant.
The name ligero means “light”, but that description has nothing to do with flavor. He describes how ligero leaves get more sunlight because these leaves come from the top of the plant.
Perez, who grows ligero in Estelí, Nicaragua, said that due to the location of the leaf on the stem, it takes 15-20 days longer to mature than the lower leaves. However, this is the aspect that amplifies the strength of tobacco due to greater exposure to the sun. Due to its potent flavor, ligero is currently in high demand and therefore aims to produce around 35-45 percent ligero leaves each year.
Perez added that the quest for power means sacrificing volume. Farmers who are looking for more ligero often stretch their plants, resulting in fewer leaves and allowing the plant to focus its power on the leaves rather than the seeds that are in the flower.
David Perez, of ASP Enterprises Inc. Perez is known to cultivate some of Nicaragua’s most powerful ligeros.
Plasencia said that as a young man, his father passed on the wisdom that the most important person in tobacco business is the one who crowns the flower of the plant, because this decision determines the type and quality of tobacco that the plant will produce. “Human contact,” said the tobacco producer, “is the most important thing. Those who do it with passion have the best tobacco.
Gomez, who started making sweet cigars with a Connecticut wrapper and Dominican filler and binder, said he started his own farm in the Dominican Republic because he wasn’t happy with the strength of ligero tobacco. available in this country. One of the reasons was that farmers were reluctant to grow fewer leaves in an attempt to harvest a greater percentage of ligero by allowing the upper leaves to get more nutrients, and therefore flavor, from the soil. .
“If you tell a farmer to remove four to six leaves from a plant, he’ll tell you to go to hell,” Gomez said.
Perez added that this logic on the part of the farmer is not necessarily sound as they sell tobacco by the pound, not by volume. Ligero, with its high concentration of oils, is thicker and therefore tends to weigh more per leaf.
Mottola asked the panel if certain seed varieties were more important. Perez responded by saying that ASP grows up to 150 tests per year that involve crossing varieties. Less than 5% of work. “Once you hit it,” he said, “it’s like touching the lottery”.
Perez said that while there are many types of leaves that rival ligero in strength and flavor, he only considers tobacco to be ligero if it comes from the Habano seed. Its main objective, however, is that “I want to taste the Nicaraguan soil”.
Gomez said that while the Habano seed is important, ultimately he bases his blending decisions on his own tastes. “I don’t want to mix something that tastes like someone else’s cigar,” he said. “All manufacturers are very proud of what they do. It is ego in the best sense of the word.
Talk ligero with some of the most savvy men in the tobacco world.
Mottola wondered if the ligero had ever been used for packaging. Plasencia said he did so even though the treatment was longer. Gomez said the wrapper leaves also take much more care when growing and harvesting.
Another major concern with fermentation is water quality, Gomez said. “If I can’t drink this water, this water can’t touch my leaves.”
“Time in this industry is of the essence,” Plasencia said. “If you rush it won’t be good.” Perez noted that cutting corners on fermentation time is a disaster. “It’s a really bad hangover,” he said.
Gomez pointed out that one of the challenges of blending is pairing leaves that will burn at similar rates, and that’s where the importance of good fermentation comes in.
Save this date
The next Big Smoke will take place in Hollywood, Florida from April 3-4, 2020, with Big Smoke meets WhiskyFest, an event combining the best of cigars and whiskey.
The Big Smoke Las Vegas returns to the Mirage from November 20-22, 2020.
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