So what's the big deal about ligero? Well, to those who long for cigars with the fullest body and robust flavors like me, ligero IS a big deal - and we want more of it!
There are many premium cigars on the market that boast about the complexity of their blends and strong, prominent flavors. To achieve this, blenders rely on well-fermented ligero. And the more ligero blended, the more richer and robust flavors will be produced.
Each tobacco plant produces three major types of leaves:
Volado - These leaves are from the lower portion of the tobacco plant, just above the sand leaves (the leaves at the very bottom of the stalk that are most often coated with dirt that has splashed up from the rain). Volado leaves are of the mildest flavor.
Seco - Leaves from the middle of the tobacco plant that are slightly richer in flavor and darker in color compared with volado.
Ligero - Leaves from the first four to five rows at the top of the tobacco plant, which are the most robust in terms of flavor and strength.
Since ligero leaves are located at the top of the tobacco plant, they receive the most sunlight and collects the most nutrients from the plant, thereby making them the most potent leaves of the plant. During harvesting, tobacco leaves are picked over several weeks in stages (or primings) from the bottom to the top. As successive layers of leaves are picked, more nutrients from the roots are delivered to the fewer leaves remaining at the top, making them the strongest. Ligero leaves are quite hearty and very thick in texture, but burn slow and evenly, which is the rationale for using them for filler (especially at the core of the filler) as opposed to using them for wrapper.
Blenders add more ligero to their particular blends in efforts to produce more robust cigars with spicy and peppery flavor. These leaves are generally fermented longer than the others and aged longer (a minimum of two to three years) before rolling to gain full body with some smoothness, as the acidity content of the leaves become less during the aging process. Seco leaves mature in about 18 months; the much milder volado leaves mature in about 9 months.
You will hear manufacturers like Rocky Patel talk about sorting ligero leaves from bales from 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th primings, and ensuring that these ranges of leaf thickness are categorically sorted appropriately. Although all ligero, lack of attention to blending the leaves of the same priming will result in inconsistency in the strength and character of the cigars.
Some of the currently marketed cigars blended more heavily with ligero include:
La Flor Dominicana Double Ligero
Cain Straight Ligero
Oliva Serie V Melanio
Joya de Nicaragua Antaño 1970 and Antaño Dark Corojo
So, the big deal about ligero is flavor - and in the end, that's what it's all about...the flavor!