When we smoke a cigar, we expect a flavourful experience. A premium cigar is expected to be packed full of a variety of flavours that develop and come together throughout the experience of smoking to create a complex aroma and incredible taste.
Cigars can contain a whole host of different flavours at once. This can include sweet, spicy, nutty, earthy and floral notes. These can all be apparent at once or develop throughout the course of smoking a cigar.
For example, a cigar might open with earthy notes, that develop into espresso and cocoa hints, that finish with a caramelised sweetness.
Cigar Flavour Wheel
Take a look at our cigar flavour wheel below to see some of the common flavour profiles and notes present in cigars.
Common Cigar Flavours
While there is an almost infinite number of flavour potentials in cigars, the below are some of the most popular in premium smokes.
Earthy notes may seem a bit out-there in terms of flavour – it’s not so easy to identify as saying that something tastes like strawberries, for example.
When we talk about earthiness in a cigar, this is more in reference to the aromas we experience, rather than the cigar actually tasting like mud! Earthy notes could bring in aromas of freshly mown grass, hay or mustiness.
While individually, these may not sound like wildly pleasant aromas or tastes, in combination with the other flavours present in a cigar, this can make for a really complex and interesting smoke.
Like earthiness, leather may not sound like a good thing for a cigar to smell or taste like, but again, it can add a real complexity to a smoke.
Think of the smell of a new leather jacket and how that could work well when paired with the notes of an espresso!
Nutty flavours are common in milder cigars and can add a creaminess and richness to your smoke. Nutty flavours work well with many other flavour types; for example, nutty notes are very complimentary to cocoa, coffee and dried fruit flavours.
When a cigar is labelled as spicy, this doesn’t usually mean that it will taste like a curry! Instead, think of pepper, clove, cinnamon, anise and liquorice, which all have intense flavours that can leave a bite on the tongue.
Spicy notes play very well alongside earthiness, leather, wood and coffee, amongst many other flavour potentials!
Cigars and coffee work well together naturally, as tobacco and coffee beans are grown in very similar conditions and locations.
Coffee offers a very diverse tasting experience in cigars – sometimes it may be used like an espresso, rich, dark and bitter – whereas other times it may present as a latte, sweet, creamy and flavourful!
Coffee works wonderfully with many other flavours, especially sweet, spicy, earthy, nutty and leathery notes.
Some cigars have a natural sweetness to them, based on the way the tobacco is grown and matured. In many cigars, you will find hints of cocoa, dark chocolate, or other sugary notes like molasses, caramel and maple.
This won’t be an overwhelming or sickly sweetness, but rather a lovely hint that can balance out the other flavours, such as bitterness, earthiness or spiciness!
Cigars can often present woody notes, with cedar often being mentioned as a tasting note. Often, this can be an impact of the cedar-lined humidor in which cigars are typically held.
The wood from a humidor can begin to impart woody notes into the cigar when it has been stored there. This is not a problem and only adds to the complexity and enjoyment of a cigar!
How to Taste a Cigar
It’s all very well describing a cigar with ten different flavour notes, but not everyone knows how to differentiate all of these tastes to identify the flavours present in a cigar.
Here we take a look at some of the factors to consider when trying to find the tasting notes of a cigar.
The words we see on the flavour wheel are the kind of terms we will use when talking about flavour. Flavour refers to the specific descriptors, such as dark chocolate, espresso, black pepper, nougat, leather etc. As you can see from the flavour wheel, the flavour descriptors we can use for cigars is almost endless!
When you buy cigars online, the product description may include tasting notes. If it has lots of tasting notes, then it is likely the cigar is complex.
As you smoke a cigar, the tasting notes you will experience will likely develop or transition from the start of the cigar to the end as you smoke it. This is to do with how close the heat from the lit end of the cigar is to your palate. As the cigar burns, the heat will get closer to your mouth, and the flavour is amplified and more intense.
If you want to experience more flavour from your cigar, then take it slow and steady, with longer draws. This helps to keep the cigar from getting too hot, which makes it easier to detect the flavour.
When it comes to taste, we have flavour receptors for bitter, sour, umami, sweet and salty tastes. We want our cigars to be well-balanced, with none of these profiles being overwhelming.
The tobacco used in a premium cigar should be complementary and work wonderfully together.
Strength refers to the amount of nicotine in the cigar. Tobacco leaves have different nicotine content depending on where on the plant they are taken from. The composition of a cigar using different leaves can create cigars of different strengths.
The body of a cigar will have an impact on the texture and mouth-feel you experience while smoking it. A mild cigar might feel creamy, soft and silky, whereas a full-bodied smoke might feel woody, oily or spicy.
The difference between a mild and full-bodied cigar could be likened to the difference in feel between a light beer and an aged Scotch, in terms of how it feels on the palate.
Aroma has a huge impact on the experience of your cigar and can be a great help in identifying flavours hidden within the smoke.
Try retrohaling your cigar, pushing smoke through your nose, to get a more intense aromatic experience.
Cigars can have a short or long finish. After finishing your cigar, you may notice the taste lingering on your tongue for a while, giving you an aftertaste – this is a long finish. Many full-bodied cigars have a long finish.
A cigar with a short finish doesn’t linger, instead finishing once you have finished smoking. Mild cigars will typically have a short finish.
If you’re planning on smoking multiple cigars, make sure you smoke the milder one first, as the lingering tastes of a long finish can overwhelm or mask the tasting notes of the second cigar.
Tips for Tasting Cigars
Struggling to find flavours when you look for them in your cigar?
Cleanse Your Palate
Residual food, drink or smoke on your tongue or in your mouth can confuse or dull the flavours present in your cigar. Cleanse your palate with a glass of water (sparkling is best), to help sharpen your palate and stay hydrated.
Don’t Worry if You Can’t Taste
As long as you are enjoying the cigar you are smoking, many people simply do not care about the specific tasting notes of a cigar.
A lot of people report just tasting tobacco and smoke – which makes complete sense! If you are happy enough with enjoying your cigar without thinking more in-depth about the very specific tasting notes, then that is not a problem at all!
The best way to learn about tasting notes in cigars is to smoke them and experiment with different brands and vitolas! Explore our range of cigars online and discover a world of flavour!