Sam: The top of the plant will be the strongest, because it’s closest to the sun. We call that ligero. As you move down the plant, the flavors get milder. Next is viso, then seco, then volado. The strongest leaf is used as the middle because it burns slow. But it also burns harsh. All the layers around the middle create a way for you to draw without getting a harsh taste—you get the full flavor of the entire plant.
Michael: To blend, you have to use some ligero, because it gives you strength, body, intensity, and will slow combustion. The strongest tobaccos burn slower; they’re smaller and thicker. The secos and the velados get longer and thinner as you move down the plant. They’re going to burn faster, have less strength, but they’re great to add balance and stimulate combustion. If you made a cigar with all velado, it would burn super fast, super hot, and have no real body or flavor. It’d probably smell really nice, but that’s it. If you make a cigar that’s all ligero, it’s going to be strong as hell, it’ll burn super slow, if at all, and have no finesse.
Making a good cigar is about balancing the right leaves and putting them in the right order, so that the ligero is in the middle of the bunch with the milder tobaccos surrounding it, ensuring an even burn.
You can make a cigar, theoretically, out of just one plant but you won’t have complexity as far as other countries of origin, other harvest years or vintages, or other seed varieties. Leaf position is important to understanding behavior, but knowing the countries involved, the harvest year, the seed varieties involved, is important for understanding flavor.