Developing Your Palate

kuzi16kuzi16 Posts: 14,616 ✭✭✭
I cant believe that i did not post this here. i wrote it a long time ago but it may help some of the new guys. Im sure a few of you have seen this before. I was gunna link to it on another thread but i couldnt find it. so here ya go:


I am by no means an expert on the topic of cigars but (being a cook and a wanna-be wine connoisseur) I do know a bit about taste.
(**edit: its been years since i tapped out this article. i now know way more on cigars than i do of wine. whoda thunk it?)
When you taste food most of the taste comes from smell. All that the human tongue can actually taste is salt, sweet, umami, and bitter. To develop your palate you need to develop you sense of smell. This may seem like a difficult task but it isn’t hard. It just takes practice. One thing that helps is knowing what you are looking for.
Like many of you, I do enjoy a glass of wine. since wine is a great parallel to cigars when it comes to taste and so many people are familiar with it i will use it as an example.

I like to taste all the little flavors going on in the wine, but being able to identify them took practice. Here is how I taste wine:
1) Pour glass less than half way full.
2) Swirl and look for impurities (cork from opening) and to release aroma, and took for "legs"*
3) Take a sniff of it. not a deep sniff but several shallow sniffs the way a dog smells things. **
4) Take a small amount in and hold in the mouth
5) Smell again
6) Swallow

When I do this I can smell everything in the wine and identify what is in it.
But, how do I know what to look for?
Good question.
Look up what other people say about the wine. If they say it has a black cherry smell to it, go out and buy a black cherry. (Try it: Blackstone Merlot (i think its still under $10 a bottle) does in fact taste a bit like black cherry) Cut the cherry in half and place it in a wine glass and smell it. Then pour the wine in another glass and smell it. Notice the similarities. After a while you learn to point out taste on your own.

How does this relate to cigars?
Another good question.
Read reviews. If someone says it has a hint of coffee then smell some coffee while smoking a cigar. I recently red a thread here where someone said they could taste Macadamia nuts. Buy that cigar and some macadamia nuts. Smoke the cigar and eat the nuts. Notice how they are the same. How else are you supposed to identify a taste if you don’t have a reference point? Basically, you need to learn the common smells and tastes of cigars. (Nutty, pepper, leather, and so on)

Develop a smoke strategy. Much like my wine tasting, I have found a way to taste cigars better then when I first started. I feel the cigar, I look at it closely and I spend a lot of time smelling the cigar pre-smoke. Before I clip, I lick the cap. after lit and while puffing I make sure to blow a bit of that puff out through my nose . All of this helps me understand the cigar better.

Read reviews, buy the flavors mentioned, try the cigar, and decide for yourself. At worst you’ll enjoy a few good smokes.

that was most of the original document. now a few years on id like to restate how important it is that you learn how to get smoke through the nose. when you get a bit of it through the nose your sense of smell can really go to work for you. You will start to see complexities in cigars that you thought were simple and you may even start to not like cigars you did before. it opens a new world up to you.

i would also like to make a point that if you familiarize yourself with common flavors and tastes in cigars such as Cedar, Coffee, Leather, Earth, Nuts, Sweet, Spice, Pepper, etc, the easier it will be for you to understand cigars. smoking a ton of cigars helps, but if you have no concept of what anise is supposed to taste like then how will you identify it in a cigar? developing your palate is more than about cigars. its about understanding taste and smell in all aspects of your life.

**i thought that i would add this bit by Alex to my thread because he pretty much hit the nail on the head when it came to my cigar journey and the journey of many of you out there.
Alex Svenson:
I have a theory on how a smokers palate progresses over time. Most often they will start by trying and enjoying less intimidating blends. Mild up to medium as they master the art of smoking and the action itself. Drawing, swirling, using the nose. They are not able to differentiate the flavors but rather are able to identify a cigar as one they like or dislike and make some generalizations about the overall flavor but have a hard time picking up individual components. Now the smoker tries ventures into stronger territory, more medium and medium to full bodied cigars. By now he has the basics down on how to smoke and falls in love with all new blends and brands (cursing that he filled his humidor up with all that mild stuff). By now the flavors are more pronounced and through experience, the smoker can more easily identify nuances and things like finish and competing aromas. At this point you know what flavor is, you know what you like and you cant get enough of it. You try everything and really develop a taste for full bodied cigars as you seek out richer and richer flavors. After this stage, you have sworn off mild cigars but then the day comes that you light up a medium or medium to full bodied cigar and you swear it is the best you have ever had. At this time, you realize that the flavor you thought you were detecting was merely the training wheels on the bike. The training wheels are off and you are riding by yourself. You detect all the richness you love in your full bodied blends but in a smooth and non overwhelming format. The lighter body allows allows you palate to zero on literally dozens of aspects in cigars you never thought existed. Now you pick up some rich mild cigars, maybe even stuff you thought you no longer liked and threw out years ago and find new characteristics you never thought the cigar had. You go back to some lesser strength favorites then back to some full bodied. Holy *** you say, you are now pulling even more richness out of the full bodied stuff!! Now you buy a big cabinet humidor, your wife leaves you because you spent your retirement money on cigars and you are really off the races LOL. In all seriousness though, from here a smoker does settle in on what he really likes the most. Could be medium, could be mild and could be full. That said, while the lock in on a strength profile they like, the dont smoke it exclusively. they appreciate some cigars or brands at all strength levels because they have mastered the concept of "flavor". For example, I prefer medium to full or full bodied cigars as my regular smoke of choice but there are some mild and medium smokes in the humi for when the occasion calls for one. Cigars I think have every bit as much flavor as some of my full bodied favorites. I want to go on record now having said all this that this is a major generalization that I think pertains to many smokers but certainly not all and this theory is based solely on my observations over many years. It is also my experience that this progression takes on different forms and different intervals for each person. Some people progress right to full bodied cigars in a matter of weeks and some stay in the initial stages much longer. There are not certainties in this hobby nor rules. Everyone is different. That said, I do believe that the idea of mastering flavor is really the pinnacle of cigar enjoyment. Frankly, it is hard to describe in words. It uses all the senses. For those who may not know what I am talking about, I cant describe for you exactly what it is like, but I will tell you, you will know the day you "get it". It is like an epiphany. You will literally go back and resmoke every cigar you have already tried and it will be like you never smoked it before. It did not happen for me until 2003 really.
... as i said in that epic thread "for me it was in 2008 and i was smoking a Zino Classic."
that was the mild cigar that i just happened to pick up.

the other thought that i really wanna highlight here is the last few lines of Alex's post:
That said, I do believe that the idea of mastering flavor is really the pinnacle of cigar enjoyment. Frankly, it is hard to describe in words. It uses all the senses.

at some point you will have an understanding of a cigar when you smoke it. it wont just be something you taste.
developing your palate is fun and part of it, but there is far more to it than taste.

i would also like to push this from a post later in the thread to the first post:
kuzi16:
Ive been meaning to put these up here for quite some time. I think some of you may already have these.

image

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*edit on 9-19-09
**edit on 1-5-11
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Comments

  • Are you suggesting I chew on my leather shoes while smoking a cigar? :oP
  • kuzi16kuzi16 Posts: 14,616 ✭✭✭
  • kuzi16kuzi16 Posts: 14,616 ✭✭✭
    no but smelling fresh leather wont hurt
  • ScramblerScrambler Posts: 746 ✭✭
    This is an awesome resource. I had seen it somewhere else in the past, but forgot about it. Thanks for reviving it here, I'll definitely utilize these suggestions.
  • LukoLuko Posts: 2,004
    Yeah, what he said. Thanks for the insights.
  • DiasFlakDiasFlak Posts: 342
    great post thanks for this one!
  • Bad AndyBad Andy Posts: 848
    I knew we kept you around for something...lol.
    This is some great info. I enjoy wine and food a lot, cigars only add to the whole experiance. I never thought to relate the 2 quite like that. Although wine and cigars are similar in other ways. Thanks for this knowledge.
    So I shouldn't use my boots as a referance for leather!?
  • kuzi16kuzi16 Posts: 14,616 ✭✭✭
    Bad Andy:
    I knew we kept you around for something...lol.
    well, we knew it wasnt for my stunning good looks...
  • madurofanmadurofan Posts: 6,152
    Good thread kuzi. As always very informative.

    Andy as far as chewing on your boots I wouldn't recommend that, we know where you've been lol.
  • Bad AndyBad Andy Posts: 848
    I've been sweating in those things since I got here...tasty.
  • madurofanmadurofan Posts: 6,152
    It does remind me of a review I think it was from urbi .... tasted dirty belt, LMAO!
  • kaspera79kaspera79 Posts: 7,259 ✭✭✭
    madurofan:
    It does remind me of a review I think it was from urbi .... tasted dirty belt, LMAO!
    Yeah, we have heard some interesting taste comparison around here. Make me wonder what you guys have been chewing on when you don't have a cigar in your mouth..
  • la-henryla-henry Posts: 74
    kaspera79:
    madurofan:
    It does remind me of a review I think it was from urbi .... tasted dirty belt, LMAO!
    Yeah, we have heard some interesting taste comparison around here. Make me wonder what you guys have been chewing on when you don't have a cigar in your mouth..
    Some night's, thinking about it gives me nightmares.
  • kuzi16kuzi16 Posts: 14,616 ✭✭✭
    as far as a leather taste goes... i think of what its ike to walk into the local leather shop in the mall. i think it may be wilsons leather. they used to be all over the place but for some reason i dont remember seing one recently
  • madurofanmadurofan Posts: 6,152
    kuzi16:
    as far as a leather taste goes... i think of what its ike to walk into the local leather shop in the mall. i think it may be wilsons leather. they used to be all over the place but for some reason i dont remember seing one recently
    This is kuzi's way of walking outside and shaking his head at us, lol
  • Bad AndyBad Andy Posts: 848
    Go into a boot shop, its the same way.
  • urbinourbino Posts: 4,517
    Or a kinky sex shop.
  • kaspera79kaspera79 Posts: 7,259 ✭✭✭
    urbino:
    Or a kinky sex shop.
    How did I know you would bring up the rubber/leather imporium. I think I will have to take your word on that one Urbi.
  • j0z3rj0z3r Posts: 9,403
    Speaking of leather.... When you guys taste "leather" on a cigar, do you actually get the taste of leather like walking onto a boot store, or is it more of a taste that you could only describe as "leather(y)" but not exactly leather? Did that make sense? I wonder about this because I've never tasted leather specifically, but I have tasted a flavor that I would call leathery multiple times.
  • kaspera79kaspera79 Posts: 7,259 ✭✭✭
    j0z3r:
    Speaking of leather.... When you guys taste "leather" on a cigar, do you actually get the taste of leather like walking onto a boot store, or is it more of a taste that you could only describe as "leather(y)" but not exactly leather? Did that make sense? I wonder about this because I've never tasted leather specifically, but I have tasted a flavor that I would call leathery multiple times.
    Different noses and tastes, and ways of expression. That would probably qualify for what people call leather.
  • urbinourbino Posts: 4,517
    j0z3r:
    Speaking of leather.... When you guys taste "leather" on a cigar, do you actually get the taste of leather like walking onto a boot store, or is it more of a taste that you could only describe as "leather(y)" but not exactly leather? Did that make sense? I wonder about this because I've never tasted leather specifically, but I have tasted a flavor that I would call leathery multiple times.
    I've only tasted it once -- from a La Aurora Preferido, IIRC. I keep waiting for something like the smell when you put your baseball glove over your face, but haven't found it yet.
  • kuzi16kuzi16 Posts: 14,616 ✭✭✭
    thats a great question. usually its on the side of leather, not out and out leather. i also have a tendency to simplify my tastings so that a very new cigar smoker can see what im getting at.
  • wilbr11wilbr11 Posts: 49
    Kuzi, this was a WONDERFUL help. I had a 5 Vegas "A" last night that was an ENTIRELY different experience while trying this. I fell in love with it!!
  • kuzi16kuzi16 Posts: 14,616 ✭✭✭
    it is one of my favorite cigars.
  • I have to be honest...before joining this forum I've always had a cigar just to sit and relax for an hour or so...didn't give the taste of the cigar much thought.other then liking a milld cigar over a maduro. AFTER coming to this site and reading various threads..I'm trying to taste the cigar more and figure out the flavors in it..etc...How long does it take to determine what a cigar tastes like? I had a Carlos Torano Signature last night and I took my time smoking it. Trying to get the taste..etc, but in all honesty..it tastes like every othe maduro I had. Any help would be great.
  • kuzi16kuzi16 Posts: 14,616 ✭✭✭
    it all depends on you. You have to train yourself to undertand flavor and become very familiar with different flavors. to me it came easy. Flavor has always been a big part of my life. Wine, Beer, Cigars, and not to mention food are what i spend about 90% of every day dwelling on.
    It takes time to learn, but dont be discouraged. You already have started down that path. You have pointed out that you dont like the taste of a maduro cigar. You also pointed out that you like the power of a mild cigar. based on that information you can find other cigar that you will like. I reccomend the Cusano 18 Double Connecticut, and the 5 Vegas Classic. both are fairly mild in body and both are very flavorful cigars.

    I also reccomend that you start yourself a cigar catalog. you dont have to post the catalog like i have in the review section but keeping a catalog will force you to focus on the cigar more. I found that this was my best tool for discovering what i liked and didnt like in many cigars.

    good luck
  • Thanks Kuz....Last week I received the sample pack of nubs and just ordered the sample pack of ccom. cigars....I do enjoy RP, monte cristo, r&j ...I'll have to try the 5 vegas 5..and the others you suggested....As for the log..I actually save the labels of the cigars I like..but will start writing this down. Thanks for the advice.
  • Dave_OhDave_Oh Posts: 1

    From reading the blurbs about enjoying the A series 5 Vegas I would have to recommend the Rocky Patel Sun Growns!!   They are heaven in a roll. They develop the full time you smoke...

    What a joy!!! 4 me with a nice port!! Or Brandy Manhattan.

    Dave

     

  • kuzi16kuzi16 Posts: 14,616 ✭✭✭
    thats actually one of the RPs that i do like. Im usually not a huge fan. (im a gurkha kinda guy) the sungrown, however, is outstanding.
  • madurofanmadurofan Posts: 6,152
    kuzi16:
    im a gurkha kinda guy
    This comes from spending so much time in Ohio, the water there has destroyed his sense of taste.

    LMAO ... I'm just playing. Wait until you try the Summer kuzi
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