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Are Cigars Sometimes Dyed – Or Not?

by Bryan Glynn, August 10, 2011
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I have read many stories reports and reviews over the years of very dark maduro wrapped cigars being suspect for using dyes for coloring. This is presumably for marketing appeal, to even out the color of a wrapper, to make it more appealing to a consumer. Maybe to play on the myth of the darker cigars being stronger/richer/more expensive that many new smokers believe. In any case, I have not seen any official statement from any manufacturer that they do or do not dye or in some other way artificially color any of their wrappers so everything to this point seems to be people’s opinions.

I have done a couple reviews lately that I stated were dyed wrappers. One in particular was a Habano wrapper, not a maduro, not even a very dark brown color. During the review, very clearly on camera you can see a thick dark build up of a substance on my lips, fingers and all over my shirt. I stated it was dye but now I don’t think it may have been.

I wanted to test a few different shades of wrappers and see what happens when a good amount of moisture is applied, as was during the review conditions of the past few reviews. It has been unusually humid here lately and conditions have been near or at 100% humidity, certainly unusual conditions for most smokers to be enjoying a cigar in including me. Nevertheless cigars should and mostly do perform fine under these conditions except I seem to find them giving off this color mess.

In this short video I wipe a wet paper towel gently over some different cigars to see what happens.

Oh and sorry in advance for the clippy audio, the built in mic really sucks and I forgot about that fact.

According to Steve Saka, President of Drew Estate, a dyed maduro cigar should have a “significant” color difference between the outside and inside surfaces of the wrapper. I disassembled the Edge Maduro from this video, and this is what was there. I split the leaf in two, the exterior on the left, interior surface on the right. I see very little difference. That would indicate, according to Steve, this is not a dyed cigar.

This is from Alex Svenson of Cigar.com:

Im jumping on a plane and dont have long so here is a short answer…yes many do this. It is not a dye but they will soak tobacco in water then wipe the natural colored water over wrapper to even color. A true maduro is actually quite ugly. Some people may even steam their wraper to even the color. This is an accetable process so long as the wrapper is fully fermented and it is being done for asthetics. However, some unsavory companies do this to make a not fully fermented maduro look darker and use it as a short cut which is very bad. So it all depends. As for the bleeding, all tobacco bleeds, the daker ones more so than the lighter and sometimes it is not the wrapper, it is tar. Just my quick 2 cents. Some guys in the DR actually use Mineral Oil on the outside of their wrappers to make them look oilier. It isnt harmful per say, but yet another process. In terms of seeing cigars rolled in the factory and assuming it is died, the rollers who roll maduro have to wet the thick maduro wrappers to make them pliable. Often times, this creates serious tobaccco bleed on the hands and looks like die but it is alll natural.

  • Cliff

    On a premium stick, I would suspect that it is the natural oils coming to the surface, which is something that we look for when choosing it. That does leave something to debate though, since you said that one of the sticks leaving the residue was not intendend to be premium. Although it is possible that the company buys cosmetic seconds from another company and re-markets them in bundles…

  • No, the Label Your Cigar is made by them at their own factory, they are made to be resold as private labels, they just happen to sell them direct if you wish.

  • JJO

    I have to believe that the vast majortity of cigars out there are not dyed, and that these are natural pigments excreted under certain conditions. The uniform color on the RP’s, however, make me pretty suspicious of them.

    Now take back what you said about my Arganese! LOL!

    I recall Walt at Stogie Review doing a test like this on an Edge (I believe), and he had the same result.

    Good work, but unfortunately, this is probably a topic that will be debated forever, since no manufacturer is going to admit to doing it.

  • Hmmm botl.org just removed my post on this…

    • Well it seems the BOTL crew got sand in their panties and now prohibit anyone from linking to external blogs. I guess they think it’s 5 years ago when forums ruled the internet for content distribution 😉 Oh well, no loss.

    • Now they changed their minds again and allow links, only if the blog has a link back to BOTL 😉 A much more fair, cooler headed approach IMO!

  • I generally don’t smoke budget cigars; however, I have never smoked what I believe to be a cigar with a dyed wrapper leaf. Even leaves with exceptionally consistent pigmentation show some level of imperfection when scrutinized. Cigars from the same product line also vary in color somewhat between years of manufacture, though an adept blender can leave the flavor almost perfectly unchanged. A dyed cigar may be out there, but I have yet to come across it.

  • HappyTaro

    Your cigars are dirty… 🙂

  • Chaz

    Seriously informative article and video- thank you Bryan. Obviously Saka and Svenson are excellent sources- If they are just using natural “juices” after soaking the leaves to even things out, I generally don’t see it as a problem… still natural to me… and apparently you have no choice but to wet maduro leaves to roll them… and it makes sense that almost all leaves will bleed a little under the right circumstances. I remember playing in wet leaves as a kid and my mom would be upset about the stains… and of course grass stains…

    Makes me feel better that most premium sticks are probably not artificial. Keep up the great work!

  • cigly

    Bryan-
    thank you very much for allowing this issue some clear air and a forum for objectivity. I have queried numerous sales reps. at (5) online vendors and they all report that cigar coloring is common. One reports a friend taking a factory tour and observing a cigar “washing” station where coloring was applied. Another very popular, mass-marketed mfr. (personality) has been nicknamed “El Pintor”.
    Drew Estate is the only mfr. to have responded to a blogger’s email request sent to numerous cigar producers for disclosure on the subject, stating that they do not use artificial coloring, but have knowledge that others ‘do’.
    I have returned many cigars upon discovering a ‘coloring/flavoring’ on the wrapper and coming off on my fingers and passing the two-sided wrapper test seen here. Now, I only purchase cigars that are not dyed/colored, preferring an authentic experience that relects the craftsmanship featured on this site.
    btw: botl.org terminated a very active and interesting thread discussing cigar dying/coloring.
    Again, many thanks for allowing us to express what we know or have learned about this issue.
    -cigly-

  • cigly

    Bryan-
    I thought I would pass on to you more specifics regarding my recent
    comment left on your site.

    A rep. at an online vendor reports his friend toured the Rocky Patel factory and witnessed a washing station that brushed on a “coloring” in final production. I dissected the Olde World and the
    inside of the wrapper is brown, yet, the outside ‘presentation’ side is as close to jet black as I have seen on any cigar.

    “El Pintor” is revealed below.

    Here is a list of cigars that I have put through the “dye test” over the years:
    -Rocky Patel Olde World (chalky black coloring)
    -Perdomo Patriarch
    -Perdomo Lot 23 Habano
    -Casa Magna Colorado and Oscuro (Colorado flavored w/sticky,
    “sugary” coating/Oscuro really bad coloring)
    -Macanudo Cru Royale (heavy, syrupy sweet aroma and sticky)
    -Partagas (way bad)
    -Alec Bradley (sweet, pronounced “rainsiny” smell)
    -Aspira Corojo (same smell, lighter color)
    -Oliva
    -Cusano P1 (I removed the wrapper and lit it up! I really like
    Cusano leaf!)

    Comments found while researching the topic:

    Time was that Nick Perdomo was known (in a nasty, joking sort of way) as “El Pintor” (the painter) in some circles. My hazy
    recollection is that Tabacalera Perdomo claimed that the black crap that was staining people’s lips and fingers (including my own. once. never touched one of his maduros again.) wasn’t dye, but that
    there was some special tobacco-based treatment that their maduro leaf underwent. Never seemed like that wrapper was thick enough to be real maduro anyway. I don’t think he does it anymore, but I don’t know for sure.

    Got some black residue on me from a Santa Rosa once, when I bought one in a fit of desperation because it was hard to find anything decent to smoke.

    Only one cigar has made my fingers turn brownish, the Rocky Patel Olde World Reserve. I hope its not a dye job, and if it is, it’s a rather tasty dye.

    I’ve had the El Mejor Espresso do that to me, but also a few LGC’s, and RP OWR.

    The Bohemian line from Victor Sinclair is for sure dyed. I smoked one and not only got dark brown stuff all over my lips but all over my fingers also. I’m never going to spend another penny on those cigars.

    I had a Carlos Torano 1959 that burnt my lips black (didn’t want to put it out).

    The Padilla made maduro Obsidian that they make for CI stained my fingers, lips, and even the ashtray. It was a really good smoke, but that turned me off. The thought that they could be dyed crossed my mind, but I’m not sure that such a fine manufacturer would stoop to that level.

    I’ve had the Nestor maddie turn my lip and fingers before.

    I’ve smoked a boat load of the Onyx Reserves and I’ve never had any staining or anything like that. That doesn’t mean they aren’t dyed, just that I’ve never seen any evidence of it. I don’t know about any of the other in the Onyx line.

    The only cigar I’ve had that’s left “skid marks” was a La Gloria Cubana Wavell Maduro. I’ve had several and only had the one leave
    anything behind, so I’m not sure what that says.

    I wonder if it has any effect on the flavor? Obviously it could be construed (quite accurately in my mind) as a misrepresentation of what the cigar is, but does it have any effect on the taste? I
    don’t know.

    The Perdomo La Tradicion rosados were even worse, they turned your hands iron oxide red…..

    http://www.cigarpass.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=28228

    Having read the threads on botl.org it is obvious that a lot of people are angered by the prospect of cigar dying. It is also clear that botl.org is fearful of offending cigar manufacturers. Censoring a valid discussion such as this one is rediculous.

    My conclusion is that the coloring/dying of cigars is essentially a practice of deception. Additionally, I strongly believe that flavorings are also introduced into the coloring, natural or artificial-further complicating the issue. Either or both produces a counterfeit smoking experience. However sensitive the topic may be to the mfrs., it is we the consumer that are being mislead.
    Something is very suspicious here, and I believe shedding light on the topic is fully justified. I respect Drew Estate’s coming forth. They prove it is possible to produce a multi-brand line that has no coloring.

    I choose to vote with my dollars and to focus on the truth, and therefore, will not support mfrs. that value appearance to the
    degree that the final product is made to appear ‘as’ something that it is not.

    -cigly-

    • William Burke

      (Trying to parse what “chalky black” would look like.)

  • Chaz

    Good post as well. A very interesting topic. If the “washing” is just with water to draw out natural color and even things out, fine… but the prospect of anything else is bothersome to me.

  • cigly

    Ditto Here, Chaz!
    The practice really is “bait-and-switch”. After all, we’re the ones paying their way, so why shouldn’t we be treated w/respect?
    And I also agree totally that some of the “tea” obtained from leaves is fine to dab here and there for appearance. The marketplace just cannot handle the rustic nature of tobacco. I want good flavor and a good buzz. Sounds simple, I know.

    -cigly-

  • tastystoges

    Think about this. If you were a cigar manufacturer of premium cigars and you dyed your cigars with unnatural dyes, would you use water based dyes that come off easy? Of course not. The natural tobacco dye makes much more sense. It would be great if a cigar manufacturer made a video on this process. I think that would eliminate the myths and make everyone much more comfortable about this process they use. Which I believe to be perfectly fine.

  • battlesnail

    Drew Estate and other shit brands might do it but not respectable manufacturers like Padron.

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