Tastes and Flavors of Cigars

How Many Different Flavors Can You Find in a Cigar?

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The master cigar blenders of the world work as diligently as do the distillers of single malt whiskey, vintners creating wine, master brewers of beer and the tea and coffee producers of the world.  It is both an art and a science.  The flavors are created by the soil of the growing region, the crops grown in tandem with the tobacco (such as coffee beans), the variety of leaves (from the hundreds of types of tobacco plants), where the leaf grows on the plants, the aging of these leaves after harvest, how they are aged, the blending of various tobaccos, the rolling process and finally the aging of the cigars.  Whew, that was a long-winded explanation but most of us smoking cigars don’t understand the complexity that goes into its creation.

Below I have created a list of terms from some of my previous articles as well as information that the About.Com Cigar Guide, Gary Manelski has created on his website to educate us about cigars.  I have grouped these terms into types of tastes that you might find.  Keep in mind that 75% of taste (flavor) really smells (aroma). In a previous article on the Padron Londres, I presented a short dissertation on the anatomy of taste and smell.

Food terms:

Spicy, sweet, salty, nutmeg, roasted, creamy, cinnamon and peppery as in a type of pepper like red, black, cayenne or others.  Being from New Mexico we are partial to “green chilies” however I have not yet come across a cigar that has that flavor.  Most of the words I am calling “food terms” invoke our sensory memory and I usually associate them with foods.

Dessert terms:

Butterscotch, caramel, toffee, cocoa, vanilla, chocolate both dark and milk. I separated these from “foods” because they are words related to specific types of “sweet” flavors that can often be a result of the type of region the tobacco is grown in and the aging process.  This is not to be confused with “flavor infusion” which is what the manufacturers of artificially “flavored” cigars do.

Fruit terms:

Very simply these would be the names of various fruits like apple, pear, grape, oranges, and any other fruit you can think of.

Nut terms:

There are lots of nuts out there (some of us write cigar reviews), but I have found these words very helpful in describing full flavored cigars such as walnut, cashew, peanut, almond, hazelnut and so on.

Earthy terms:

These words are some of my favorites such as woodsy, cedar, oak, pine, cut grass, green twigs burning, and even the word dirt.  On these terms, we are stepping into the realm of aromatic descriptions but please remember the relationship between smell and taste (75% of taste is smell).

Metallic terms:

I do not often use words such as these; copper, lead, iron or chrome.  Even though I have experienced some of these tastes in cigars my opinion is that none of them are desirable, at least not for me. I have read that in some cases the metallic flavor is a result of the storage of the tobacco or even the cigar.  Since cigar flavor is very personal there might be someone who is looking for these types of tastes.

Chemical terms:

I am a chemist and there is only one chemical term that I would consider a positive description of a cigar and that is “acidy.”  Some reviewers might call this “bitter” but it does tend to make you take notice of the cigar and place it into a “bold” category.

Beverage terms: 

This is an easy one and I use them a lot like espresso, Columbian coffee, French Roast, and all types of coffee related terms.  Of course, this category encompasses words that relate to wines, whiskeys, beers and other spirits.  These terms go along with pairing cigars to various beverages, which is something I like to do.  Smoking for me is all about relaxing and taking time out of the day to reflect and doing that with a hot cup of coffee, tea, or a cold beer or wine or scotch just enhances that smoking experience.

Other terms:

Leather, in my opinion, is not a taste I like in cigars, but there are many cigars out there that hang their hat on this term as a sign of a good cigar.  Go figure!

As you ruminate over the above terms try to imagine each of them with a “smokiness” attached to them.  Speaking of “smokiness” and let’s say “fruit” for example I can only relate my personal experience with these terms.  While in Afghanistan many of the locals spend their leisure time smoking hookahs with specially prepared dried fruits.  This is as close to a picture of a flavor that I can give you and hope you can try to imagine the other flavors in a similar way. 

I will end this article by saying that you never want to read a review that describes the flavor of a cigar related to any type of material produced from the South end of a horse headed North (or any other animal). 

If any of you come up with any new ways to describe the taste of your cigar, please share your thoughts and leave a comment here.