The cigar world is filled with delicious smokes, yet it can be hard to figure out just where to start. What is the right level of body for you? What is the ideal cigar strength? What flavor profile best suits you? What do these terms even mean?
This guide will help you answer these questions and more. So you can pick the perfect cigar for the occasion, develop your palate and experience, and have a lot of fun along the way.
Just what does “cigar flavor” mean? It should not be confused with cigar flavoring for starters, as you might find in cheap drug store cigars. These low-end cigars often use poor quality tobacco and other materials that need artificial flavoring to make the cigars more palatable.
Instead, think of cigar flavor as simply the natural taste of quality tobacco. It’s the type of tobacco, how it’s grown, cured, fermented, blended, and aged. All these factors play a part in how a cigar’s flavor develops.
While everyone has their way to define the different tastes that emerge, some of the most commonly noted cigar flavors include earth, coffee, pepper, spice, cocoa, licorice, and leather. The more cigars you smoke, the more you should recognize the various flavor profiles that cigars offer.
Picking out different tobacco flavors takes time, so don’t get frustrated if you aren’t noticing the flavors you expect or what others may have mentioned about the cigar. Our sense of touch, smell, and especially taste gather information about the tobacco’s nuances with every cigar we enjoy. So, be patient and challenge yourself to train your tastebuds. Gradually you will learn how to identify different flavors.
The best way to pick out the various flavors is to smoke slowly, taking only occasional puffs while allowing your palate to become immersed with the cigar’s character.
Puffing too fast can make for a hot and bitter experience, so don’t be in a rush. Just relax and savor the moment. Taking notes is a great way to keep track of different flavors, as well as aromas and any aftertaste you might notice.
Once you understand a particular cigar’s basic flavors, you can narrow the focus onto the more specific tastes that you can get out of a quality smoke. You can find these specific flavors on a cigar flavor wheel.
The cigar flavor wheel is a way to uniformly map out all the different flavors you might encounter with a cigar. If you are picking up notes of spice, for example, you will be able to use the wheel to determine better if it is a peppery spice or a sweeter spice, and then what specific spice you are tasting. Just think of the flavor wheel as a learning tool you use to identify specific flavors taken from broader taste categories. Using one is a lot of fun.
As you explore different cigar types and their differences in flavor, you can also note the different levels of strength. Strength simply describes the level of nicotine found in the cigar. It does not affect a cigar’s flavor, nor should it be confused with a cigar’s body.
Keeping track of whether a cigar is mild, medium, or strong helps you narrow down the right level to suit your taste. Once you discover the perfect range you will be able to enjoy the cigar’s flavor better. Over time your tastes might change, so understanding the differences in strength can prove especially beneficial.
Whereas strength describes the detectable levels of nicotine found in a cigar, the body describes the experience’s overall texture. Think of a cigar’s body as the weight of the smoke. A cigar can be light in body, medium, full or at any point in between. While cigar body is independent of strength, the cigar maker’s goal is usually to have the two to complement each other.
Consider how smoke settles on your palate, the roof of your mouth, back of your throat, and even your nostrils. Also, note whether it complements or hinders the flavor profile. This will help you gain a finer appreciation of the cigar blender’s craft and help you choose the right cigar for you.
The more tidbits you can extract from the cigar’s character, the better you can find the right smoke and enjoy the cigar smoking experience. So, experiment and open up your senses to the good and the bad of each cigar’s flavor, body, and strength. There is only one way to learn, so spark up and enjoy!