Having just finished smoking a fantastic, flavorful cigar that was blended with some bourbon by a friend of mine, I thought it was a good time to discuss a topic of some controversy (especially among cigar purists).
Those of you that have read this and other cigar blogs are very familiar when we talk about the flavor of a cigar. We talk about woody, earthy, leathery, cedary, caramel, and a myriad of other tastes that you can detect when smoking a cigar. These flavors come from the soil in which the tobacco was grown, the part of the plant from which the tobacco was taken, and environmental factors such as the curing, fermentation, and storage of the tobacco.
When we say “flavored” cigars, we mean a cigar that has had flavors artificially infused into the tobacco. You’ll hear people talk about cigars that are flavored with honey, vanilla, chocolate, coffee, and other flavors that people typically enjoy – though they may seem foreign and unusual in a cigar. Many cigar purists dislike flavored cigars, sometimes vehemently, because they feel that you’re detracting from the natural tastes and flavors of the tobacco where the master blenders work so diligently to create a unique interplay of flavors and textures for the discerning palate.
However, given that we repeatedly say to each other that it’s all about personal tastes and that we won’t judge you for liking or disliking a certain cigar, I find it a little hypocritical to judge people that, given choices, choose to smoke a cigar that’s artificially flavored. It’s akin to making fun of the guy at the bar that orders an appletini when everyone else is drinking whiskey and beer. It may not be the conventional drink for the setting, but a person can spend their hard earned money on whatever they want!
There’s also an element of machismo that plays in here. Almost universally, flavored cigars are regarded as the domain of women. Many people, when recommending a cigar to a woman, immediately go to the flavored cigars because they assume that a woman won’t have the discerning palate to appreciate the subtleties of a “real” cigar. When a man selects a flavored cigar, his smoking compadres may give him a ribbing for choosing a “girly” cigar.
Now, I will say that oftentimes, stereotypes are stereotypes for a reason. I’ve known many women, especially those who are casual smokers accompanying their significant other to the cigar shop, that go straight for the flavored cigars and love them. However, I know many women that smoke conventional cigars and have a discerning palate that makes mine look like as subtle as a sledgehammer (notably, The Lovely Lady of the Stick).
While cigar purists may turn their nose at flavored cigars, the market presence is undeniable. Possibly the most famous of the flavored cigar lines is the Acid line by Drew Estate. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a cigar shop not carrying these (including ours). The reason? People love them! The flavorings that go into them create a unique smoking experience, unlike anything that you’ll find in a conventional cigar. I’m going to focus on Acids here simply because they’re the flavored cigars with which I am most familiar. The Blondie, the Kuba Kuba, and the Tea-Infused are some of the most popular that I’ve seen. The popularity of flavored cigars is undeniable and the aroma of many of these flavored cigars seems very appealing. Pick one up and smell one, and you can’t deny that the smells of many of them are enticing.
Another category of flavored cigars (I separate them, although conceptually they are the same) are those blended with liquors. When I first picked up smoking, one of my absolute favorite cigars was the one blended with Courvoisier cognac, my favorite drink at the time. The rich flavors of the Courvoisier that made me love the drink played perfectly with the excellent blending and construction of the cigar and created a unique smoking experience. I love the flavor of Courvoisier cognac, and I love the flavor of a good cigar. I love drinking cognac while smoking a cigar. It shouldn’t have surprised me that I’d love the two together.
One of, if the, most expensive and highly regarded cigars in the world is, in fact, a flavored cigar. His Majesty’s Reserve by Gurkha is blended with cognac and retails for around $15,000 per box of 20. For all the negative images some associate with flavored cigars, you can hardly argue against it. So, ignore your smoking companions if they give you hassle (you have free license to tell them I said they’re idiots) and try a flavored cigar. It’s entirely possible that you won’t like it, but isn’t that a risk we take with every new cigar we smoke? I certainly wouldn’t recommend replacing your entire smoking menu with flavored cigars, as the wondrous complexities of conventional cigars are undeniable. However, I’d strongly recommend against not trying them because of a bad brand image that you may hold of them.
Now, there are some things to consider with flavored cigars. First of all, the short-filler versus long-filler distinction still applies. One of the reasons for the success behind the Acid cigars and those blended with various liquors is the fact that the construction and blending of the cigars themselves is still done very well. Second, the problem of palate fatigue when smoking several cigars in a day is magnified with flavored cigars. Your palate may be so coated with honey or vanilla that it won’t be able to tell a Padron 1964 from a Black & Mild, so be sure to rest between smokes or cleanse your palate between cigars.
One of the biggest concerns and frequent questions we hear here at CH is “can I store my flavored smokes with my conventional cigars?” The answer is a loud and resounding NO!
Storing flavored cigars with your conventional cigars will pass the flavorings to the conventional cigars – possibly ruining the cigar by introducing a flavoring element that the blender did not intend. Simple dividers won’t work either, as aromas are airborne (you don’t lick cigars before you buy them, right? You sniff them.) I would strongly, strongly, recommend that you purchase a separate humidor to store them. If flavored cigars aren’t your primary smoke, but you want to keep them around either for guests or for when the mood strikes you, then check out the inexpensive smaller humidors.
Check out some flavored cigars. They make a great stash for guests, whose palates for cigars may appreciate the singular dynamic of those delicious flavors. They also make a great, fun smoke to pair with various drinks and beverages.
Have you smoked a flavored cigar that you’ve enjoyed? Have you smoked a flavored cigar that you’ve despised? Let us know in the comments below.
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