Bethume?


Recommended Posts

Hi Everyone,

Stumbled across a topic I have very limited familiarity with today and was wondering if perhaps anyone could shed some light on it. I've read about bethume before, namely in relation to the Royal Jamaica cigars, which reported the use of bethume in the filler tobacco in order to increase sweetness and at times with reference to non-cuban maduro processing.It generally seems to carry negative connotation with consumers, though I don't necessarily see it that way. I stumbled upon an old Cigar Aficionado article which mentioned Avelino Lara utilizing an old family recipe for bethume when he began making cigars in the Bahamas, and I would assume he did so prior to leaving Cuba as well. So how frequent a practice is this? Especially in the Cuban cigar industry? Forgive my ignorance, but perhaps the practice is partially responsible for the diversity of flavor profiles among different habanos, such as the fruity nature of Ramon Allones or nutmeg notes in Diplomaticos? I'm not saying the cigars are flavored, simply that perhaps the practice aids in the expression of flavor notes that may otherwise become lost within the strength of the tobacco. If anyone is familiar with the actual practice and how cigar makers utilize the concoctions (e.g. is it something added when the tobacco is fermenting in the pilones, before or after?) I would greatly appreciate it. As I've said, I really know nothing about this and would love to learn more.

Thanks

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Forgive my ignorance, but perhaps the practice is partially responsible for the diversity of flavor profiles among different habanos, such as the fruity nature of Ramon Allones or nutmeg notes in Diplomaticos?

The bethune is NOT responsible for the specificity of each marca, as it is used during the fermentation process, BEFORE the tobacco is allocated to a specific production.

The betune is a sweetened concoction used to slow down or accelerate or alter the fermentation, not to flavor the cigar itself.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The bethune is NOT responsible for the specificity of each marca, as it is used during the fermentation process, BEFORE the tobacco is allocated to a specific production.

The betune is a sweetened concoction used to slow down or accelerate or alter the fermentation, not to flavor the cigar itself.

Smallclub,

I had come across that information as well, but it leaves me a bit puzzled. If for instance you are sourcing tobaccos from different farmers, and some of those farmers utilize bethune for the fermentation of their crop, wouldn't you then have to allocate that farmer's crop to the same marca year after year in order to maintain a consistent blend? I can perhaps give credence to the notion that the main intention of bethune may not be to alter the flavor of the tobacco (and this will likely vary given the various recipes used), but I have a hard time believing that it would not have ANY impact on the flavor of the tobacco. For example, certain non-cuban manufacturers admit to the utilization of a tobacco stem and water solution during the fermentation of their maduro leaves, stating that this aids not only the darkening of the leaf, but also adding a spicier taste. If simple tobacco and water bethunes can affect flavor, then wouldn't concoctions containing other ingredients such as fruits or spirits do the same?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

i haven't come across the use of Bethume (addition of sugared water in the commercial fermentation process) in Cuba. That doesn't mean it is never done as I know of individual vegueros who love it for their own farm cigars.I know one who loves using crushed sugarcane juice in spraying the fermenting pile of leaves (again for his farm cigars which is mostly for personal consumption).. He prodces some excellent cigars which are rich and sweet if somewhat one dimensional.

Commercial central fermentation is tightly controlled and as far as I know only water is used.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Smallclub,

I had come across that information as well, but it leaves me a bit puzzled. If for instance you are sourcing tobaccos from different farmers, and some of those farmers utilize bethune for the fermentation of their crop, wouldn't you then have to allocate that farmer's crop to the same marca year after year in order to maintain a consistent blend?

You're missing this point: farmers don't ferment the tobacco they sell to Cubataba.

Once the leaves have dried, they leave the farm and became the responsibility of a specialized "agency" which distributes them in escogidas where they undergo fermentation(s).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You're missing this point: farmers don't ferment the tobacco they sell to Cubataba.

Once the leaves have dried, they leave the farm and became the responsibility of a specialized "agency" which distributes them in escogidas where they undergo fermentation(s).

Smallclub,

Thankyou for clarifying that and for your patience with my lack of knowledge on the subject, I had not realized fermentation was handled by a seperate entity.

Rob,

Thanks for your input as well, I greatly appreciate the insight. It's interesting that vegeuros would use the process for their own private cigars. I know that here in the states, if a manufacturer acknowledged the use of bethume it would be perceived negatively by "aficionados" (though likely ignored by the mass market), but to know those in Cuba who are responsible for growing some of the finest tobacco on the planet sometimes utilize it for their own pleasure is kind of ironic.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Smallclub,

Thankyou for clarifying that and for your patience with my lack of knowledge on the subject, I had not realized fermentation was handled by a seperate entity.

Rob,

Thanks for your input as well, I greatly appreciate the insight. It's interesting that vegeuros would use the process for their own private cigars. I know that here in the states, if a manufacturer acknowledged the use of bethume it would be perceived negatively by "aficionados" (though likely ignored by the mass market), but to know those in Cuba who are responsible for growing some of the finest tobacco on the planet sometimes utilize it for their own pleasure is kind of ironic.

Well, some people have a sweet tooth and there is nothing wrong with that :D

Hamlet Paredes, one of the top rollers in the world and an excellent blender in his own right also has a humidor complete with his custom cigars and a glass or rum. the rum infuses into the cigars over the months. He loves it as a change of pace. Aficionados would scowl. Hamlet couldn't give a rats arse and so it should be !LOL!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I thought adding sugared water would have sped up the fermentation process rather than slow it down...

Maybe not to speed it up or slow it down, but to keep it going so it doesn't stall. A lot of home brewers would attest that there are nuances to fermentation such as sugar levels, nutrients and PH to create the proper conditions for successful fermentation. :fishing:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well, some people have a sweet tooth and there is nothing wrong with that :D

Hamlet Paredes, one of the top rollers in the world and an excellent blender in his own right also has a humidor complete with his custom cigars and a glass or rum. the rum infuses into the cigars over the months. He loves it as a change of pace. Aficionados would scowl. Hamlet couldn't give a rats arse and so it should be !LOL!

The El Aljibe restaurant keeps a humidor behind the counter, not in the shop, with shop rolled cigars and a glass of rum inside. I tried a couple last year, I found them too sweet for me and a pungent aroma. Now these weren't rolled or blended by Hamlet but they weren't for me. As you say though, to each his own.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 4 years later...
Just now, Hutch said:

...how long/hot (and even how many times) the leaves are fermented...and, IMO, what is in the mixture that is sprayed on the leaves.

Again, No! The fermentation process occurs BEFORE the leaves are allocated to a specific production. As for " the mixture that's sprayed on the leaves", that's a ridiculous idea, not only the mixture goes under very high temperatures in the pilon, but do you seriously believe each marca has its secret recipe of sauce????

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm going out on a limb here, so take this with a grain of salt (or a pinch of tobacco) if you will. But as far as I know (and I may be way off and I'm too lazy to go look it up right now), the dry curing occurs very soon after picking, and then fermentation may go through two or three rounds until the ammonia is sweated out and the appropriate chemical reactions are concluded. And then there is an aging period, which could be a couple of years or longer. AND THEN finally you have blending, which is where the specific taste of the vitola is engineered (so to speak) from the raw materials they have available. The blender effectively decides the precise mix of tobacco to use for specific vitolas they will produce out of the dried, fermented, aged tobacco that is brought to them.

It's basically the same with blended whisky, you have the multitude of whisky varieties that are already distilled, and then a blender mixes them together to create the blend. It may go back into another barrel after blending to let it mix and settle some more, but it is whisky that is used as the raw material to make blended whisky.  

 

Fire away!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I can remember hearing stories of dogs roaming the escogidas in Cuba, urinating on the piles of tobacco to impart the "barnyard" aroma and extra flavour.

These stories were on cigar forums where not many of the members had been to Cuba.

I've told this story before but I remember my first time in Cuba in 2010, I was in a despilallo/escogida with Simon Chase, where he asked one of the managers if "Betun" was sprayed on the piles. He did ask it in such a way that he wouldn't have been surprised by either a yes or no answer.

The manager said no, only water was sprayed on the piles.

As far as I know, betun has been used in Cuba but that is usually consisted only of water in which tobacco stems had been soaking.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.

Community Software by Invision Power Services, Inc.