almost as good as sex
I started smoking cigars sometime around five years ago.
The catalyst was a D/s cigar play demo put on by a couple, folks I consider to be dear friends. It was a memorable night. An evening where I picked up an enjoyable hobby with rituals easily incorporated into a BDSM lifestyle.
It was also my introduction to the “kinky kabin”. Now, one of my favorite venues for play, it’s a remote cabin about a mile and a half hike from the nearest trailhead. Some call it “the cabin where no one can hear you scream”, a moniker that’s almost literally true. But, to me, it will always remain the kinky kabin, a place that’s truly near and dear to my heart.
Cigars are also near and dear to my heart these days. Call them a guilty pleasure if you will, but do not doubt for a moment that they are a great pleasure to me. No, it’s not quite as good as sex or BDSM play. But, it’s not far from being a close second.
differing tobacco flavors
When considering the flavor of a cigar, there are a great number of factors that will combine to affect the smoking experience.
For starters, a vast number of different tobacco varieties are grown around the world. Each variety has a distinctive flavor it imparts. Some are inherently spicy or peppery, others smoke much sweeter. There is a lot of nuances, far more than I can really describe here. I must also admit, while I’ve studied some plant breeding, I’m relatively ignorant when it comes to tobacco strains. But, I do know that the particular strain of tobacco used is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to flavor.
The country/region/province/state where the tobacco is grown will be another significant factor, regardless of the strain. Cuba is famous for cigars because of the growing conditions on the island. Honduras, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Sumatra, Mexico, Brazil, and the United States are the highlights on a short list of places where great cigar tobacco can be grown. I’ve also smoked cigars that included tasty Italian and Turkish tobaccos. Climate and soil are the keys to diverse flavors here.
Just growing and harvesting the tobacco is an art of its own. Upper leaves (sun leaves) which absorb the greatest amount of sunlight have a significantly different flavor profile than the lower leaves (shade leaves) from the very same plant. There are unique names for each different cutting, but that’s more specialized than I’d like to get for today’s topic. Add to that, there’s even a particular growing technique used to grow tobacco under partial shade, creating a distinctive look and flavor of its own.
flavors, flavors, flavors – decisions, decisions, decisions
Once the tobacco is grown, the art of curing comes into play. It is during the curing process that the different bundles of tobacco leaves are turned, graded, and sorted a number of times. Different strains of tobacco are cured, once again, using a variety of methods. This has another significant impact on the tobacco’s flavor.
Some premium tobaccos spend time inside oak casks and barrels during the curing process.
Others are placed inside special chambers with spices, essential oils, and floral essences, creating a somewhat controversial, but popular, form of “infused” cigar. Some tobaccos are fermented during the curing process, once again creating flavor variety.
The variations are becoming endless, aren’t they?
Once the tobacco is cured, another art form comes into play. Cigars are rarely created with a single kind of tobacco, they are blended with a variety of different leaf.
I don’t wish to get too technical with a confusing array of cigar terms, but one or two seem necessary here. If all the leaf is used in a cigar was grown in a single country, then the cigar is called a puro. While puros are a common form of cigar, it’s also common to find cigars blended with tobaccos from a variety of different countries.
rolling, rolling, rolling …
Once the blend of a cigar has been decided upon, then it’s time for the cigar to move into production. I consider the rolling of cigars to be yet another skilled art.
Cigars are constructed using filler (often themselves a blend) and a binder leaf, all artfully rolled inside an outer leaf called a wrapper. Wrappers are the most visually appealing leaf, as they are a cigar’s window dressing. Wrappers are often (but not always) the most dominant leaf in a cigar’s flavor profile.
The cigar’s construction is yet another factor in its ultimate flavor. Cigars are rolled into a pretty wide variety of shapes and sizes, this is called their vitola. In that way, cigars are kind of like cocks. Some are long and thin, others short and stubby. Even with the same blend, each style tastes different too.
Yes, I can guarantee that size matters. So does shape. (And yes, I’m talking cigars…)
Cigar Advisor’s Flavor Wheel
Which brings me, finally, to the point behind this somewhat long-winded opus on cigar flavor.
I obviously have great affection for my cigars. In relative terms, however, I’m still relatively inexperienced at discerning all the wonderful nuances in a cigar’s flavor.
But, I’m not a total neophyte either. I once trained, at a 4-star restaurant, to be a chef. I was expected to be able to detect subtle nuances in food. You might say that I, at least, have a somewhat discerning palate.
At the same time, I am still learning. And, that’s where a reference like Cigar Advisor’s Flavor Wheel comes into play. It’s a great guide. The Flavor Wheel can help me to be a more discerning cigar consumer.
Feel free to click on the image, or the link (at the bottom of the gray box) in the quote, to get a peek at the full sized flavor wheel image. Also, know that Cigar Advisor is a wonderful reference, I look for each new article there with great anticipation. That publication’s sponsor, Famous Smoke Shop is also a great source for quality cigars at very competitive prices. It’s where I buy mine…
The Cigar Advisor Cigar Flavor Wheel
The cigar flavor wheel – it’s how cigar lovers talk to each other. Are you wondering how to identify and taste the different flavors in your cigar? Or maybe you’ve been reading some cigar reviews, and want to know how the writer sensed certain tastes. With a flavor wheel, anyone can get into cigar tasting, regardless of your experience level.
And that’s why we’ve created this updated cigar tasting wheel…we wanted to give everyone a way to identify and discuss the flavors found in cigars. everyone in the cigar world, from blenders to smokers, uses a flavor wheel – these words provide everybody with a common vocabulary that we can use to discuss specific qualities of the cigars we smoke. You know that a cigar tastes like more than just burning tobacco; the smoke can be characterized by notes of earth, nuts, cream and many more nuances.
How to use our Cigar Flavor Wheel
We didn’t make up these spots on our cigar flavor wheel. They’re all very real, each of them a flavor sensation that either we sensed while reviewing a cigar, or was mentioned in a review by someone whose opinion we trust.
Think of the wheel as a visual glossary of the most-often mentioned cigar flavors, organized into categories – or even more appropriately, families. each color-coded part of the wheel is loaded with words that match up with the qualities you might sense in a smoke. That way, when you try and describe the things you like about your cigar, we can understand more clearly – because we know what those flavors taste like, too.
What the Categories Mean
The primary categories of the cigar flavor wheel are at the center. From there, we break those outward into subcategories. Related categories appear side-by-side, and we’ve color coded the groupings to reflect the feel of each family: green for plants, yellow for spices, etc.
To use this flavor wheel for cigars, fire one up and start at the center – as you smoke, think about the basic flavors you’re sensing. Then you can proceed to narrow down these general observations into more specific flavors, as you move toward the outer rings of the wheel. That way, you can note which cigars have the flavors you like (or the ones that don’t), and discuss your experience with other cigar smokers.
Note – I am not affiliated with Famous Smoke Shop or Cigar Advisor in any way. The links I’ve provided are for my reader’s convenience only.