Have you ever asked yourself, why can’t I taste all the flavor notes that the so called pro’s taste when they are smoking a cigar?
Do you ever feel like, you are lost in a cigar lounge or a setting where you are with friends or business associates and you are smoking a cigar?
Well today we are going to share the experience together of learning how to be comfortable around other cigar smokers and taste all of the subtle nuances in your cigar.
Stop: Go Grab A Cigar, We Are Gonna Do This Together
I bet you didn’t know this, but most cigar smokers in the US only are able to pic up a few of the nuances (that’s flavors) in a cigar and roughly half just taste smoke, but they like it, even if they don’t know why.
They also will only smoke a certain type or brand ( maduro, Connecticut, Fuente, Davidoff).
The reason for this is that their pallets are not developed, so they know they like something, just not sure why.
Today we are going to take the mystery out of the equation and I am going to show you some techniques to help you to taste more of the flavors and put you ahead of the game.
We are going to share with you a well-kept secret that only the Groupos ( those are the pro’s, the master blenders) know about.
I am not just going to tell you to retro-hale, or make sure your pallet is clean, no I am going to share with you something that Deb and I just learned, that will probably revolutionize your smoking experience and we want to pass along to you.
We will also be sharing with you some tips and tricks to make for a better smoking experience as well as have you looking like an aficionado when you sit down with friends to enjoy a fine premium cigar.
We will start at the beginning and enjoy a cigar together, hopefully this will be a cigar smoking experience like you have never had before.
First, Let’s Look, Smell Ad Taste The Raw Cigar.
First, Let’s talk about the smell and taste thing! All of your life, you have been smelling and tasting things.
What you have been smelling and tasting are probably different from what I have been smelling and tasting.
That means that our olfactory senses are different. This is very important in cigars, because we all have different olfactory senses, it would stand to reason we sense a cigar differently.
What is most important, is that you get the most from your cigar and enjoy it, regardless of what the other guys experience is.
Here is an example of what I am talking about: Suppose you grew up in the mountains of the northwest and I grew up on a cattle ranch in Texas, you would probably easily identify woodsy things like cedar and oak, where I would most likely recognize leather and hay. This would affect what we sense in a cigar.
Same thing with someone who grew up in the southwest, they would readily pick out spices and someone from New England would notice maple and molasses.
See where I am going with this? I am not saying that there can’t be a cross over, but it wouldn’t be unusual for each to identify with what they grew up with, because the way we perceive flavor in a cigar, has very much to do with our memories.
The tobacco growers don’t mix leather, cedar or chocolate into the tobacco, it’s just what we are reminded of when we smell and taste the smoke.
So Now Let’s Talk About How To Smoke That Cigar
Let’s look at the cigar and appreciate some things about it.
How About The Color: Most cigars are some shade of brown and I actually go to a brown color chart and compare the cigar to it to see what shade of brown it is. You can do this too, if you like. I do it because I am doing cigar reviews and it helps the viewer to identify what shade of brown.
What About The Band: Is it fancy or plain? The band really has nothing to do with the smell or flavor of the cigar (unless you let the ash burn into it, then it might not taste very good), but interestingly, many cigar smokers purchase cigars because they perceive that a fancy band, must mean it’s a good cigar, not really, but I guess that band sells cigar or they wouldn’t make them fancy.
I personally don’t care about the band, except when I go to peel it off and it doesn’t come off easily, then I care!
How Does It Look: Does it have an oily sheen to it, is it toothy (that means, does it have a rough texture), are the seams tight, almost invisible? How about veins, are there hardly any, or are there many and are they large or small? This is kind of important, because too large can give the cigar a bitter flavor, or it might give it a great flavor (think about that).
However most blenders want that outer wrapper to look like a work of art.
What type of Cap does it have (that’s the part you stick in your mouth)? Some have a single, some a double and companies like EP Carrillo always use a triple cap. The type of cap, can influence the way the cut goes, we will talk about that later.
Does it have an open foot, closed foot or does the wrapper and binder allow the bunch to extend beyond the end of the cigar?
An open foot is just as it sounds, the wrapper and binder come to the end of the cigar.
A closed foot allows the wrapper to extend and close off the foot of the cigar.
They usually do this so that you can taste the wrapper alone when you first light up. You don’t want to toast the foot of the cigar on these, you need to light them directly ( this only lasts for a few seconds).
Now when the bunch is exposed you have the previous process in reverse, you taste the filler without the wrapper and binder ( this usually gives you about a half inch of smoking before the wrapper and binder start burning).
You don’t see this type very often, but if you run across one like this, you might want to give it a try. See if you can identify the difference as you burn into the wrapper and binder (After you learn the techniques we will show you today, you might be able to)!
One more thing I want to mention and I won’t belabor the point, but after you purchase your cigar, you might want to hold it up to your ear and roll it between your fingers and listen for any crackling, or no crackling.
There is actually a balance to this that comes with experience. I rarely do this, but probably should. This is to see if the cigar is too dry or too moist.
So Let’s Get’er Ready To Smoke
The first thing we need to do is cut the cap, so we can draw smoke through it. There are basically three types of cutters for cutting a cigar and I will mention all three and will show you in the video how to use them.
First you have a punch cut, which punches a little hole in the end of the cigar. This type of cut keeps you from getting tobacco in your mouth, but also limits how much smoke you can draw in.
Second is the V Cut, which is what I use most of the time, This type of cutter allows more smoke to come through and I find that usually it limits how much tobacco I get in my mouth. Some people don’t like this type of cutter, because they say it allows the cigar to squeeze together.
The third type is the most prevalent and the one I will be showing you a really neat trickabout how to use it is the straight cut or guillotine cut. This is by far the most popular and you will see it everywhere.
One very important thingI have to mention about cutting your cigar, if you are using someone else s or a cigar lounge cutter, you never put the cigar in your mouth before cutting it, that could spread germs, especially in these Covid times, also it’s just bad etiquette and gross!
Show how to lay the guillotine on a flat surface and cut the cigar perfect!
Now She’s Cut, Let’s Do A Cold Draw
While the cold draw isn’t imperative, it does add a nice touch and makes you look like you know your way around a cigar. I like to do a cold draw, because it Let’s you stimulate your sense of taste and no telling what you will find. Sometimes the flavor of the cold draw is totally different from when the cigar is lit.
All you have to do, is draw air through your cigar and concentrate on what you taste. Is it salty or spicy on your tongue or the back of your throat? Sometimes you might notice your lips are feeling a little numb, like with a jalapeno pepper.
Let’s Fire It Up And See How She Smokes
It is now time to light up. With a cigar with an open foot, you want to toast the foot. Typically, you hold the lighter at roughly 45 degrees from the cigar and far enough away so the foot is not in the direct flame and just catches the heat and browns the tobacco, kinda like a piece of toast! (wonder why they call it toasting)
From here you can continue toasting until the foot ignites, or you can put it in your mouth and draw in with the lighter at 45 degrees, or you can move more toward 90 degrees from the foot.
You will see people pointing the flame directly at the end of the cigar, and I have to agree with Hamlet from Rocky Patel Cigars, who I met at a rolling event. He told us: ( I am paraphrasing )
If you are in a dark room and you light a torch lighter you may notice that that flame is way out there and in the light you can’t see how far it extends, so if you point it directly at the foot you could be shooting that flame half-way up your cigar and burning the filler up. He went on to say, and then they wonder why their cigar isn’t burning right!
So if you are new to cigars, you should ere on the side of caution, especially if you are smoking an expensive cigar, which if you are new to cigars, you should not do, until you have mastered the techniques we will be sharing with you.
OK, Ya Got er Lit, How’s She Taste…. Wait A Minute!
Now, here’s one I have seen at least a hundred times and still amazes me. A guy (or gal) lights a cigar, removes the source of ignition while taking in a mouth full of smoke, Let’s it out and says… That’s a nice stick!
I find this little Fop-aw (that there is French) more revealing as to one’s knowledge of cigars, than anything else someone does.
Here’s the deal with that! Until that cigar has been burning for about a half an inch, the oils in the cigar have not heated up and begun unleashing all those wonderful nuances.
According to the Groupos (remember, those are the pro’s) you don’t even think about what the flavors are until that half inch mark, except for, lighting a closed foot, or a cigar with the bunch sticking out.
The closed foot, you only have a few seconds to taste, but with the extended bunch, you can wait until it is nearing the wrapper and binder, before experimenting with the flavor, thereby catching all of those pleasant nuances.
This Is What You’ve Been Waiting For ….. Drum Roll Please!
You have been smoking your cigar for a while now (at least you should have a half inch ash, unless it dropped or you bumped it off)
That brings up something I want to share with you (actually a few things)
First: you don’t knock the ash off of your cigar (I will show you the proper way in the video) What I mean is, you don’t tap it aggressively in the ashtray, this can damage the cigar
Second:You want some ash on your cigar, this insulates the cherry and keeps the oils flowing. I will explain this in more detail in the video.
Third:You never butt your cigar out in the ashtray, like a cigarette! This is very bad etiquette and highly frowned upon among cigar smokers. When someone does this it stinks up the room! The proper way to extinguish a cigar is to simply put it in the ashtray and let it go out naturally. This also makes clean up easier.
OK, back to what I was talking about: Once the cigar has burned down at least a half of an inch, you make sure you have some ash, at least a quarter of an inch and you take a couple short puffs to get it stoked and then you take in a big mouth full of smoke.
Puff out your cheeks and let the smoke permeate (fill up) your whole mouth. Then you start to slowly let the smoke out, while lifting your tongue towards the roof of your mouth, then you slowly finish letting the smoke out.
After the smoke is out, you rub your tongue on the roof of your mouth and concentrate on what you are tasting. You can look at the flavor wheel, to see if your mind points something out to you.
That’s how simple it is!
Bear in mind though, it’s not like you have a mouth full of Hershey’s syrup, or you are sucking on cinnamon stick. These nuances are very subtle, especially in the beginning, until you get the hang of it.
Just take it easy on yourself at first and see if you can identify something that will probably be the predominant taste throughout. Usually you can pick something out like cedar, leather or earth, these are quite common.
If you practice this each time you smoke, you will start to notice other nuances as your pallet develops.
Something else that you will want to do is, if you typically smoke a maduro or a Connecticut, for example, get out of your comfort zone. You can’t expand your pallet, if you smoke the same thing over and over (do you know what the definition of insanity is).
So, I mentioned the retro-hale earlier and we do want to talk about it.
To retro-hale, you simply take the smoke into your mouth and slowly let it out, while you still have some in your mouth, you change up and gently let it out through your nose.
Depending on what type of cigar you are smoking and how sensitive you nasal passages are, you may experience a burning sensation when you first attempt this. Do not get discouraged, this is normal, it takes time to get comfortable with smoke in your nose, but you have a ton of sensory points in there and they complement the rest of your olfactory senses.
Here is something I recently learned, only retro-hale and use the puff and tongue techniques about 2-3 times during a cigar, especially the retro-hale, because if you do it too much, you can actually desensitize your nasal passages and end up with a runny nose, like I did.
Let’s Talk About Complexity
You have probably heard people talk about complexity of a cigar and if you’ve been watching any of my reviews, I talk about it all the time.
Complexity is when a cigar has several different nuances or flavors that one can identify in their cigar.
One of my favorite examples of this is when a cigar starts out tasting one way and then subtly changes to something else and does this two three or four time in the course of your smoke.
Sometimes it might only be that certain flavors develop and then disappear, or may morph into something else. Recently I had a cigar that had a strong espresso flavor early on and then changed to a burnt black coffee and then changed again to a milk chocolate.
Not all cigars do this, but know this, the one’s that do are by design. The master blender wants you to experience his cigar, not just taste it in a general way, but for that stick to be something special, so naturally you will want another one.
You may think that, complexity equals affordability, but that is not always the case. I have smoked some inexpensive cigar that were pretty complex. I have also smoked some rather expensive cigars that had almost no complexity to them at all.
We Need To Discuss The Burn
The burn is how that cherry at the end of your cigar is doing. First off, when you first light a cigar, you want to make sure that it is completely lit, because if you start off with it uneven, it will burn incorrectly and cause your cigar to do weird things, like burn up one side, or down the middle. When, it does this you will not get the experience the master blender intended you to have.
You also want to make sure you cigar does not get too hot, this will burn the oils and leave a bitter taste in your mouth. This also tends to burn your mouth and make for an uncomfortable experience, particularly the closer you get to the finish and you may have to put your cigar out with quite a bit left that you could smoke.
Speaking Of Finish
There is a term used in cigars called the finish, this is not the finish I was referring to at the end of the cigar, but something totally different.
The finish I am referring to, is how long the flavor remains in your mouth after you let the smoke out. A short finish, is kinda disappointing, whereas a long finish is what you hope for, especially if you are catching a lot of nuances.
How Do You Relight Your Cigar
OK, so you got distracted talking to your cigar pals and your smoke went out, how do you relight it, well I am glad you asked, because there is a proper way to do this. Tobacco naturally has ammonia in it and most of this is removed in the fermentation process, but tobacco is organic and some can remain.
When you go to relight a cigar, you light your lighter while gently blowing out into the flame, this will burn up any ammonia and allow for a pleasant relight. Then you just draw normally.
Will This Guy Ever Shut Up
Folks, I could go on and on, because cigars are a very diverse subject. We could talk about what goes into growing tobacco, or how the Master Blender develops a cigar or a host of other things, different types of cigars, how they measure a cigar, the list goes on and on.
All I am really trying to do in this post it help you have an excellent experience with the cigar you are smoking right now. I have been smoking for about 11 years and am still the new kid.
This is a process that I believe I will spend the rest of my life learning about.
Rocky Patel has an excellent series of videos on his website that I will leave a link to, where you can find out a ton about how the tobacco goes from seed to the finished hand rolled premium cigar.
So How’d We Do
I hope you have smoked along with me and had an awesome experience.
Remember this: Cigars should be savored and not rushed. Smoking a cigar should be an experience, not just killing time away from the old lady ( I never say that, but somehow it fits here).
Developing your pallet takes time, but is well worth the time. If your gonna spend $5 – $15 on a cigar, you should get the most out of it.
Here is something else to remember: There is no real right or wrong way to smoke a cigar, you need to remember proper etiquette, but other than that, you just need to enjoy it!
As Always, feel free to leave comments, suggestions or questions in the comments section below. If this post helped you to have a better smoking experience, please let me know.
Until next time Cigar Pals