Cigars are meant to be savored and enjoyed slowly; they’re crafted to deliver a range of subtleties. For the novice cigar smoker, it can be tough to know whether or not the cigar taste is coming through like it should. Here’s what you need to know when it comes to enjoying your cigar properly.
Starting on the Right Foot
One of the best ways to start savoring your cigar’s flavor is to hold it in your mouth before you first put flame to the tip. A good cigar will impart a sweet or bitter flavor, even without being lit; this is the mark of a fine cigar. However, if your cigar tastes acidic or salty before it’s lit, you may have inadvertently gotten hold of a less-than-fine specimen.
Slow and Steady
Smoking a cigar is more about puffing on the cigar and holding the smoke in your mouth, rather than inhaling and exhaling quickly. Draw the smoke into your mouth, let it linger, then exhale and wait before taking another puff. This allows you to get the full cigar taste, from the initial flavor through the aftertaste.
Bring Your Nose into Play
Your nose is actually more sensitive than your tongue for some flavors, so make sure you’re exhaling part of your puff through your nose (called a “retro-hale”), rather than your mouth. Just take your puff as you normally would, and when you’re ready to exhale, let part of the smoke out through your mouth, retaining about half of it to exhale through your nose. If you haven’t used this technique before, start slowly. Mild cigars work best for novice smokers, because the smoke isn’t as acrid as that of stronger cigars. The milder smoke will help you learn to retro-hale without a lot of excess coughing.
Keep Your Palate Clean
Your palate shouldn’t be overwhelmed with other flavors before you start smoking your cigar. Water is the best drink for novice cigar smokers and won’t interfere with the flavor of the smoke. If you have a range of cigars to smoke, start with the mildest to avoid the more robust flavors from interfering with the delicacy of the milder cigar. When smoking a variety of cigars, it’s best to clean your palate with apple juice before starting a new one. The light, sweet flavor can help cleanse your palate and enhance your enjoyment of the other cigars.
This may seem like a direct contradiction to keeping your palate clean, and in some senses it is. But as you get more comfortable smoking cigars and knowledgable about the body and the flavors you enjoy, pairing a cigar with the right bourbon or beer can enhance your experience. It can help bring out the delicious flavor of your cigars and elevate your cigar smoking experience.