How to Get More Out of Your Cigar

Brandon Hayes

It’s no secret that cigar aficionados have a special relationship with their favorite smokes—yet some people struggle at the periphery of achieving a deeper enjoyment and appreciation of cigars. Whether this describes you, or if you’re someone who just wants to enjoy cigars more than you already do, here’s some information we think will be uniquely helpful. First, let’s start off with the basics.

The Five Basic Tastes

Before you can get far in your quest for a deeper understanding and appreciation of cigars, you first have to have a knowledge of the five basic tastes, or flavors. These are:

  • Sweet
  • Salt
  • Sour
  • Bitter
  • Umami (or savory 
cigar mouth taste diagram

Telling the Difference Between Tastes

Aside from knowing what the five basic tastes are, it’s also important to know how to tell the difference between these flavors. The first step is identifying where the sensation is striking your palette. The image below is helpful in telling you exactly what you’re tasting based on where in your mouth you’re tasting it.

Don’t Just Smoke—Focus

There’s a certain ceremony about smoking a cigar. Take your time and do it slowly. Distracted smoking, like when you’re hanging out with friends and talking, or on the course having a competitive game of golf, can limit your ability to focus on the experience. Focusing on your cigar leads to picking up small nuances in flavor that would otherwise be missed if you just blasted your way through it. Sit alone. Close your eyes. Savor each drag.

Experimenting in the Kitchen

The next time you cook, play around with the ingredients. We don’t recommend switching out the salt for sugar—nothing that crazy—but instead of just throwing everything together, take a few seconds to taste the herbs and seasonings individually. After you’re done cooking and the eating commences, see if you can still pick out the individual ingredients in your dish. This is a skill that can be immensely helpful when you’re smoking a cigar and trying to pick up specific flavors.

Cleanse Your Palate

Approach your cigar smoking the way wine connoisseurs approach tastings. Before you begin, ensure you’re starting out with a fresh palate. Don’t come to the smoking experience with garlic breath and expect to get the most out of your cigar. Some tips to keep your sense of taste fresh include drinking sparkling water and even having a piece of dark chocolate midway through the cigar to reset your taste buds. Smoking earlier in the day, rather than waiting until late at night, can also slightly improve the experience.

Smell the Aroma and Retrohale 

Much of your sense of taste comes from your nose. Smelling the aromas of the cigar makes the experience more enjoyable and can sometimes help your pick up additional flavors. If you know how to retrohale, do it a couple of times with each cigar. If you’re unsure what “retrohale” means, don’t worry—we’ll cover this in depth in the very near future. 

The Takeaway

Cigars are meant to relax you and bring you enjoyment. Don’t overthink it. Much of the time, just sitting in a comfortable chair and smoking a cigar is enough to achieve a balance of both. But as with everything else in life, you should challenge yourself to open your mind—and your taste buds—and gain a deeper understanding of what you’re enjoying.

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