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Learning Your ABCs: Cigars 101, Part II

Michael Frank
From the Print Edition:
Winston Churchill, Autumn 93

(continued from page 2)

The final factor that contributes to taste is proper construction. Beyond every other element of taste, even with the finest blend in the world, a poorly constructed cigar will be less enjoyable than a perfectly made cigar of only modest blend. There are many reasons why faulty construction destroys taste. First, according to Kelner, is the negative effect of a faulty draw. Kelner says that a loose draw (a cigar that burns fast, letting a lot of smoke pass through quickly because it is underfilled) will increase smoking temperature and destroy taste. He adds that a tight smoke "reduces the sensitivity of the taste buds," and on a fundamental basis, drawing less smoke means having less to taste.

Of course, even if a cigar draws evenly, a roller has to be sure to add the right amount of each tobacco in a blend to each cigar. "If he is off by a gram," says Carrillo, "it will change the taste of the cigar."

Even after making an honest effort to quantify taste, the men quoted here don't want cigar making to turn into a scientific process. Kelner instills great tobacco with more power than is logical: "A beautiful cigar touches all of my senses," and Carrillo says that when he is smoking a great cigar, "I don't ever want to put it down." Fuente, somewhat more philosophical than his two peers, praises a fine cigar for the solitude it brings: "You exhale and let the smoke out, and there is great peace in the silence." These men know that the cigars they produce become far more than the sum of their parts.

However, certain analytical observations can be made about cigars that these leaf mavens will own up to: A good cigar can be differentiated from a bad one by observing the leaf, the color of the ash and the burn rate-and by tasting the smoke for complexity and richness. By doing these things, you will understand the quality of your cigar. This does not mean you must stop romancing the stogie; you'll simply know your cigar better. And being more knowledgeable about what you love is, perhaps, the best definition of taste.

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