Developing Your Palate
Let’s talk about developing your palate. When I first started smoking cigars I couldn’t tell what flavors I tasted, and like most beginner smokers relied purely on my visceral reaction to the cigar. I couldn’t tell you why I liked or disliked a cigar, but I could tell you adamantly what I liked and disliked. For the causal smoker this is probably as deep as they care to foray into the world of cigars, but I was intrigued and wanted to gain a better understanding of what it was that made me enjoy one cigar over the other.
Initially I smoked a lot of Connecticut’s, but quickly moved to maduro’s finding that they offered a more flavorful and enjoyable experience at the time. As I continued to smoke I began to notice the difference in styles and strength, and was able to discern the types of chocolate, espresso, coffees and bitterness levels. In an effort to better understand what I was smoking I turned to google and found this flavor wheel to aid me in finding and identifying the different flavor profiles. I continue to consult with it when I pick up a favor I cannot identify and find it still helps me to this day.
So, here are a few tips that helped me along my cigar journey and hopefully you find them helpful to you as well. First, start with a fresh palate. You are best able to identify what you are tasting if you haven’t had a spicy meal, a prior cigar or engaged in some other taste intensive activity recently. Smoke with a glass of water the first time you have a new cigar and avoid drinks that will leave residual tastes behind. The key to picking out flavors is to have as fresh of a palate as possible. Next, I suggest you consult with a flavor wheel like the one above. I found this wheel in particular provided me with a wide range of flavors without being overly complicated like some of the others you will find, but as with everything else you may find one that suits you better as a smoker. Third, smoke slowly. I cannot emphasis this enough when you start out. Take even metered draws at semi-regular intervals.
I also like to clear the cigar stale smoke every third draw my slowly blowing through the cigar for two-seconds. This is key to avoid overheating, and uniformity in the flavors that you receive. If you are unsure of what a particular flavor on the wheel tastes like get out there and try it. I’m not suggesting that you go lick a variety of rocks to discern what mineral tastes like, but sampling chocolates, stone fruits, different varieties of pepper can be very helpful to identifying what you are tasting. Lastly, try a variety of different cigars. When I began smoking I stuck to a particular type of cigar, Connecticut’s and then maduros, before I ventured out and began trying new wrapper and region combos. Read reviews of a cigar while you are smoking it. This is a great touchstone in finding what you may like and trying to identify what the review in that instance found. While I don’t always agree with a reviewer I can most of the time the reason they found a particular flavor note in a cigar.
There is ultimately no right or wrong answer to what is a good cigar, and what you will enjoy from a particular cigar is subjectively your own. There is a lot more that I, or any other experienced smoker could tell you about developing your palate but I feel this is a good place to start in your journey into the hobby. So get out there and find what you like.