As one of Cheap Humidor’s staff cigar reviewers, one of the most common questions I get asked by cigar newbies is, “How do I develop a more sophisticated palate?” Other than the obvious answer of smoke lots of cigars, I came up with this post on How to Develop Your Cigar Palate in three steps in order to hone in on the flavors you are experiencing.
Focus on the Big Differences
When I first started smoking cigars, I couldn’t identify any flavors except tobacco. My cigar mentor asked me what a certain cigar tasted like and I replied, “It tastes like a cigar.” The first step I took to narrow down what I was tasting was to smoke two polar opposite cigars.
Try smoking a mild, creamy, Connecticut wrapped cigar (think MonteCristo Classic, Macanudo Café, or Rocky Patel Connecticut). Then smoke a full flavored, full strength Habano wrapped cigar (think LFD Air Bender, Ortega Serie D, or Diesel Unlimited). I actually smoked the two at the same time, but double fisting cigars in a lounge will earn you some strange looks so you can just smoke in succession. This stark contrast of flavor and aroma will allow you to focus in on the base flavors of each: cedar and cream for the first, and earth and pepper for the second.
Focus on the Tongue
Now that you can differentiate large flavor differences it will be easier to hone in a little closer. The human tongue is divided into 5 areas of flavor sensitivity. The back of the tongue is great at tasting bitter flavors, while the middle and tip of the tongue will detect sweet flavors. Try holding the smoke in your mouth for a second and pay close attention to where the sensation is focused. Is it a full mouth of flavor or is it specific to one area? Are the flavors tangy, sweet, or salty?
Focus on the Flavor Wheel
Now that the flavors are getting more specific, try smoking a cigar while looking at the flavor wheel. Take the time to go through each flavor and see if you can detect even a slight hint of it on the tongue or in the nose?
Many flavors can be easily detectable through scents. Take lavender as an example. Have you ever eaten the blossom of lavender? I have, and I don’t recommend it. Food grade lavender used as a spice is delicious, but lavender blossom alone and raw is terrible. When I say a cigar has the flavor of lavender, I mean it tastes like the SMELL of lavender. If it tasted like a lavender blossom TASTES I would put it out immediately.
If you are not familiar with some of the flavors on the wheel, head to the spice aisle of the grocery store or to a garden nursery. Think you can’t differentiate between black, white, and red pepper? Think again. Taste it, smell it (carefully), and get familiar with it. Soon you will be picking up flavor profiles like a pro and you will understand how to develop your cigar palate.
Photos via kaplaninternational.com & cigarinspector.comHow to Develop Your Cigar Palate by Kayla Becker