“I have never tasted cinnamon in a cigar. Neither have I tasted nutmeg, leather, fruit, or a hint of straw. Cigars taste like cigars…” The quote, in a book by author Tad Gage, is attributed to an unnamed cigar company executive.
It doesn’t take the team at CSI to figure out where this barb is aimed. We use tasting descriptors in every issue of Cigar Aficionado, and this is hardly the first time someone has taken a swipe at them.
Saying cigars taste like cigars is about as useful as saying wine tastes like wine. If all cigars tasted the same, what would be the point of sampling different brands? Of blending tobacco from various countries? From different parts of the plant?
When I first started smoking cigars I didn’t think much about things like vanilla, leather, wood or spices when I smoked. I thought about strength, and I thought about construction, and of course I noted if the cigar tasted good or tasted bad. But once I began studying the notes in Cigar Aficionado, first as a reader and then as an employee of the magazine, I took a little more time with what I was smoking to try and see if the flavor descriptors worked for me. When I found a cigar sweet, I thought about the sweetness—was it sweet like a chocolate bar? Like cocoa powder? Did that rich taste remind me of that cup of cappuccino I had the other night? Was that aftertaste on that Connecticut-shade cigar creamy?
Tasting notes are a tool. They help describe the sensations a cigar blend brings to your palate and assist in letting you know what to expect from a cigar beyond simple descriptors such as “good,” “rich” or “pleasant.” Before I was a cigar taster, I was a curious cigar smoker, and when I found flavors that appealed to me in cigar ratings I found ways to buy cigars that went beyond the rating itself.
Tasting notes helped me. What about you?