Consulting the Cigar Flavor Wheel

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.

Cuban Flag

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?

Acid Kuba Kuba – an infused cigar

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.

Cigar Flavor Wheel | Famous Smoke

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.

Aging Room M356 Mezzo

Michael's Cigar du Jour

small batch

The Aging Room M356 Mezzo I’m smoking today is an irreplaceable part of my collection.

Of course, that is exactly what a cigar collection is there for – smoking.

It’s not likely that I’ll ever again find another M356 to purchase.  This particular cigar is long ago sold out.

The M356 is what’s known as a small batch cigar.  The cigar’s component tobaccos are available in only limited quantities.  When the blend’s tobaccos are used up, production is complete.  It’s the cigar world’s version of a limited edition.

And yes, in case you were curious, knowing all that makes smoking this cigar that much sweeter.

When you blend a cigar you’re creating a profile of flavors. Not much different from creating music, where you take the musical notes and arrange them in different ways to create a melody and harmony that reflect your own feelings. It’s the same process really. If I’m using tobacco or using musical notes, I’m looking for the same thing in the end.

Rafael Nodal

wears the DR flag

The Aging Room M356 Mezzo is produced by Boutique Blends in the Dominican Republic.  The tobaccos used to create the M356 are themselves sourced from the Dominican Republic.

For the cigar aficionado, this means the cigar is a “puro”.  That’s a term used to indicate all of the component tobaccos in the cigar come from a single nation.

The Aging Room M356 actually goes well beyond the puro concept.  In fact, all the tobaccos used in this cigar come from a single farm.

We are not producing cigars for everyone. We are introducing new blends for educated consumers that are looking for cigars with complexity and character.

Rafael Nodal

getting to know you

The folks at Tabacalera La Palma, where this cigar is made, certainly know their craft.

This is a beautifully constructed cigar.  

Tight and seamless, the wrapper is a rich chocolate brown with a light oily sheen.  It doesn’t show in any of the pictures, but there is an ever so slight tooth to the wrapper’s texture.

The cigar’s aroma is dark and earthy.  It’s a difficult scent to place exactly.  But, it’s certainly rich and intoxicating.

I’m not sure I’ve ever felt this way about a cigar before.  It almost seemed a shame to actually light it up.

The toasted foot continues with the intoxicating effect.  Again, it’s a special aroma that is hard for me to properly describe.  Rich and heady, it’s like cigar incense.

Now I can’t wait to get started smoking this beauty…

the burn

As I mentioned in my previous cigar du jour, I’ll probably never be the type to pick out subtle hints of raspberry, or mango, flavors from a cigar.  (Unless it’s infused…)

But, I can say that this stick is full of wonderful flavors even I can taste.  It started off medium in flavor and body, but the Aging Room M356 Mezzo got subtly stronger over time.

The draw is dead-on perfect.  Smoke production is very satisfying.  The cigar’s flavor is rich, earthy, and nutty.  This may very well be the most complex (and satisfying) Dominican puro I’ve ever smoked.

2016 #14 Cigar of the Year – Rated 93
Cigar Aficionado nominated this line as one of the Top 25 Cigars of 2016 – the second time since 2011. It’s a testament to what a great cigar it is and highlights the skills of master blender Rafael Nodal. The Aging Room Small Batch M356 Mezzo Toro Habano is an outstanding medium to full-bodied cigar. This stunning M356 puro (named for the day the blend was created, Monday, the 356th day of the year) is expertly crafted with a rare blend of Habano-seed Dominican Ligero long fillers and binders wrapped in a light brown Habano wrapper. Because of the rare tobaccos used in their blends, Aging Room cigars are created in limited release small batches that sell out quickly.

Thompson Cigar

Description of M356ii

Aging Room M356 Mezzo – as good as advertised

If I were giving this cigar a score, it would easily rate in the low 90’s.  Perhaps as high as 93-95.

Yes, it really was that good.  Truly a cigar that lives up to the “hype”.

Perhaps I could describe this as the Goldilocks experience.  Not too strong, not too weak…  It was just right.  Flat out delicious.

It burned with an almost razor sharp edge.  The aroma was excellent.  This stick appealed to all my senses, and no issues with burn, etc., invaded the experience.

This was everything the cigar experience is supposed to be about.  Just an awesome smoke.

last dance?

I was just a little sad to see this cigar finish.  This was likely the last Aging Room M356 Mezzo I’ll ever smoke.  And, I’ve very much enjoyed every M356 I’ve had the privilege to try.

It’s not quite the end of an era.  My inventory shows another M356 tucked away waiting to be reviewed.  It’s in one of two large footlocker humidors that hold my cigars for review.

But, it’s a different vitola.  And, truth be told – size matters.  (Not just with cigars…)

A cigar’s filler-binder-wrapper ratio is altered with every different ring size it’s rolled in.  As much as a torcedor might try to keep a mix consistent, a smaller ring cigar cannot have as much filler as one rolled an inch around.

This is why cigars are produced in such a widely varying array of sizes.

tradition continues – M356ii

Truth be told, I do have a few of the Aging Room M356’s successor waiting around to be reviewed.  The M356ii is said to be a very worthy heir.

Once again, it was rated in the top 25.  This time it was for 2016.

Now I won’t lament smoking my last Aging Room M356 Mezzo.  I get to look forward to enjoying the M356ii…

Cohiba Red Dot Robusto

Michael's Cigar du Jour

what’s in a name?

Tonight’s cigar to savor is a Cohiba Red Dot Robusto.

Just so we are clear, it’s not the Cuban Cohiba.  Instead, it’s the one produced in the Dominican Republic.

Perhaps, you are wondering about the name confusion?  It’s a real concern for the makers of the original Cuban version.

There’s even a longstanding lawsuit regarding the duplication of names.  But, as long as the legalities are still being argued in court, this particular blend will continue to carry its iconic name.

Technically this cigar is simply named Cohiba.  But, it’s commonly known as the Cohiba Red Dot.

I’m smoking the 5 x 49 sized Robusto.

catalog description

Here is the listing for the Cohiba Red Dot via Famous Smoke Shop:

Cohiba cigars combine long-aged Dominican Cuban-seed fillers, rare Indonesian Jember binders and savory African Cameroon wrappers hand-rolled into a rich-tasting, perfectly-balanced and creamy-smooth smoke. It is not surprising that this luxurious red dot Dominican blend is often the one preferred by aficionados for their medium body, rich flavor, smooth taste, and redolent aroma. Cigar smokers of every experience can enjoy this icon of great cigars at much lower than Cuban cigar prices, too!

Famous Smoke Shop

Cohiba Red Dot Robusto – first impressions

This certainly isn’t my first dance with a ‘Red Dot’.

Although it’s not a regular in my everyday cigar rotation, the Cohiba has been a component in a number of different cigar samplers I’ve picked up through the years.

I also picked up a 5-pack of the Cohiba Red Dot Robusto at a cigar auction site a year or two ago.

In general, I prefer fuller flavor cigars with Nicaraguan leaf.  Dominican cigars (in general) do not have the powerhouse punch that many of their Nicaraguan cousins may pack.

But, they do have their charms.

I’ve been consciously working to expand my palate the last two years.  My tastes are certainly growing the more varieties I try.

As expected, construction is nearly flawless.  The cigar’s unlit aroma is pleasing, no barnyard smell here.  To my nose, it’s simply the rich aroma of well-aged tobacco.

Well, it’s time to do more than just admire this cigar…

light it up

My Cohiba Red Dot Robusto draws smooth and even.  Smoke production, while not what I’d categorize as copious, is certainly strong enough to satisfy.

Every Red Dot I’ve ever smoked has had a great aroma.  I usually get compliments when lighting one up in mixed company.  No exception to that tonight.

This particular sample has been in been in my humidor for more than two years.  The cigar’s already well-aged tobaccos have had more than enough time to blend.

The cigar’s flavor is quite good.  Honestly, I’ll probably never be the kind to finesse hints of raspberry or other exotic flavors from my cigars.  What I can tell you is that it’s a medium bodied and medium flavored smoke.  Quite nice.

My Cohiba was smoked down to a tiny nub.  It’s remained smooth until the end, picking up some strength to its body towards the finish.

It’s a good cigar.  It’s refined, smooth, and creamy.

The Red Dot is not quite as distinctive in flavor as my absolute favorites.  But, it’s still very good.

If I was giving a score, the Cohiba would probably rate somewhere in the high 80’s.

Happy Hump Day!

believe it or not, I used to smoke camels

It is said, that it’s best not to ignore an insistent camel…

I’d better play along.

I don’t know camel…

What day is it?

Happy Hump Day!

If you smoke cigars, enjoy a good one today!

(And please, don’t tell our humped friends, that when I smoked cigarettes, I smoked Camels!)

A Conversation With Alpha

A Conversation With Alpha

We had a small celebration of sorts yesterday.

One year ago today Serafinas was officially collared as my slave. We could neither afford, nor did we have the energy to put together anything big this year to celebrate, so we simply invited our very dear friend Alpha Bull down to visit.  Our friendship with Alpha is by far the deepest we share in the community, which itself is significant.

But, the invitation was full of other meaning as well.  In addition to giving the formal toast after the ceremony, Alpha was the man chosen to bring a blindfolded and nearly naked Serafina down the aisle to me, on a leash. To top everything else off, Alpha had given us a case of Naked Wines as a gift at the ceremony, and I’d promised to share one bottle with him on the event’s anniversary.  I’ve actually held back the entire case, thinking that as long as the wine holds out, we can sample a bottle every year on the collaring’s anniversary.

For yesterday, Sinnjara supplied a very delicious Rye Whiskey she picked up just for the event, as she’d once heard me mention that Rye was one of Alpha’s favorite drinks.  Serafina slaved over the stove for two consecutive days to produce a chocolate cake-pie and a Lemon Meringue pie.

Me? I supplied the cigars.  Sinnjara smoked a Tatiana Mocha Caramely, Serafina had a CAO Cherry Bomb Cigarillo, while Alpha and I savored the pairing of Sinnja’s rye whiskey with a Joya De Nicaragua Antaño 1970 Lanceros.

Also, mirroring my efforts at the collaring ceremony, I grilled meat.  I’ve been cooking meat over a grill since the 1970’s, I did it professionally while supporting myself as a youth.  It’s not only something I’m good at, it’s a joy for me to do as well.  Slow cooking meat over a grill is almost as relaxing as enjoying a fine cigar.  Pairing the two together (not to mention the addition of Sinnjara’s Rye) is always an outstanding experience for me.

000169colorAs we were sitting around discussing the news, the topic of rape play came up.  It seems that a mutual friend of ours acted out a rape fantasy with a lady at the Kinky Kottage, so Alpha was sharing the story as he knew it.

Now let’s be honest, rape play isn’t an everyday topic here, but, truth told, it’s relatively common as a fantasy.  I’ve seen estimates that more than 50% of women have, at some time in their life, fantasized about forced or coerced sex.  The popularity of what I call “bodice ripping” harlequin style romance novels is proof positive that it’s not an uncommon fantasy at all.  Certainly, it’s a marketable niche to say the least.

Now I do want to be clear about one thing – in talking about “rape play” – we are discussing a special niche within BDSM, the realm of consensual non-consent.  Because rape and force fantasies are so common, a lot of protocols have been developed within the community to try and make fulfilling the fantasies relatively safe.  Even with that said, any kind of consensual non-consent is edge play.  It’s not anything to be taken lightly, or to be done without some serious forethought.

I have a very dear friend who hopes to live out rape fantasies.  I’ve pledged to help her live them out, and I’m not the kind of man to give my word like that lightly.  But, because she has become a dear friend, I’ve begun to wonder if my role in fulfilling her fantasy will only end up being advisory. I may have to help organize her rape, but not be able to take part myself.

Why?

000179BWWell, the proposition was put forth yesterday, that for a lady to really have her fantasy fulfilled, it’s best done by someone she doesn’t know, a stranger.  It’s pretty logical if you think about it.  If Dee and I feel affection and sexual attraction for each other, it’s not like anything I do with her could be realistic enough to fulfill the fantasy.  Oh I could hurt her, she could struggle, we could have some really nasty rough sex that verged on the non-consensual.  That sounds like a good time to me.  But seriously, how can it be non-consensual if there is any kind of preexisting attraction?

It can’t!

That’s one key difference between real life and fantasy.  In the real world, a high percentage of rapes are committed by individuals who might be considered friends, or at least part of a shared social circle.  While there may be women who fantasize about being raped by a friend, that’s not how the fantasy usually works . . .

It was such a fascination conversation that we had, I’d like to continue it here.  What are your thoughts on consensual non-consent and rape play?