The art of tasting a cigar
Smoking a cigar is a divine experience. While for most, it is enough to just sit back and relax after lighting up, a lot of us also like to explore and push our palates to understand exactly what we are drawing on. This blog aims at helping you do just that by teaching you how to taste your cigar while smoking it.
A Habanos is packed with flavours; not to be confused by strength. A Habanos with mild strength can have full flavours. Strength often has to do with the tobacco content in the cigar whereas the flavours have to do with what you taste and smell while smoking the cigar.
Speaking of smell, the nose plays an equally important part in tasting a cigar. In the case of premium cigars, it is the olfactory senses that take the wheel and guide your palate in the journey to smoking the finest Cubans. How else would you explain someone how to recognize the taste of earth and leather?
Dissecting the flavour wheel
These are mostly induced by your olfactory senses and get you flavours like “earthiness”,” the taste of leather”, or musty notes”. Some other notes include those of hay and salt.
Wood & Vegetal Notes.
Cigars often hold notes of “Cedar or wood” and that has to do with how they are stored in cedar lined humidors. This obviously isn’t a problem, infact it adds to the wonderful complexity of what a cigar should taste like. Some other flavours under this category include grass, oak and grain
Most well balanced cigars would have a natural sweetness & creaminess to them to balance out the bitterness or harshness of the tobacco. Not in an artificial sense but more in a natural way that pays homage to the way the tobacco is grown. Some examples of this sweetness would be hints of cocoa, dark chocolate, or other sugary notes like molasses, caramel and maple.
A personal favorite of mine; When you find a cigar that has flavours of nuts mixed with sweet notes of cocoa, life really doesn’t get better than that. The nuttiness adds a creamy texture to the smoke which is also why you would find this flavour profile in most mild cigars.
Cigars & coffee work very well together and that may be due to the similar kind of condition and locations that they are grown in. Like the strength in coffee varies, the strength in tobacco does too and you often find the varied types of coffee flavour, ranging from milky to espresso while smoking a Habanos
Herbs & Spice
When a cigar has spicy notes, it usually means that it adds a bite to your palate with spice comparisons to clove, pepper or even cinnamon. These notes often complement earthy cigars or cigars with flavours of coffee wonderfully, leaving the heart wanting more.
It’s not possible to try and cover all the essence and nuances of a cigar, given how each palate is different and may taste differently. While the above mentioned flavour profiles are the most prominent, you also have other taste impressions like that of Vanilla, citrus, cheese, dates, bread and even floral notes.
Tips & tricks to taste a cigar
Cold Aroma & Cold Draw – Smell and taste the cigar before you light it up. Your olfactory senses heighten your sense of taste it you allow it. Your nose may pick up aromas that your palate can’t and that will help you experience your Habanos better.
If you put the Habanos in your mouth before lighting it, you would also be able to ascertain what kind of smoke you would be expecting. Sweet or even bitter tastes signify a well balanced cigar. However an acidic taste signifies a young cigar or a poor quality cigar.
Take your time – Needless to say a cigar ought to be smoked when you have a moment to just BE. Take your time. The longer you take between draws, the more you can understand the flavours. This also makes the aftertaste more prominent and just overall enhances your experience of smoking a Habanos. You will also note that the closer you get to the end of the cigar, the more the flavours will be intensified.
Cleanse your palate – A cigar is best understood on a clean palate. It is best to drink some water or coffee to cleanse the palate and then proceed to smoke.
Balance – To understand this one we must first revist our 6th grade biology class and remind ourselves of how our sense of taste falls in 5 diferent profiles – Sweet, Sour, Bitter, Umami and Salty. The key to a good cigar is that the flavours should complement these profiles. If a particular profile is heightened, the flavours become overwhelming and not enjoyable to the palate.
Lastly, there is no particular way a cigar is supposed to taste. A palate is a palate is a palate and each one of us taste things differently. So if you don’t taste anything but tobacco and nicotine, even then – you are doing wonders. Just sit back and BE.