Of Cigar Tasting - The Mechanics

 

In the language of cigar tasting, the so-called ‘mechanics’ include three main aspects that are usually observed during the tasting of a cigar: the draw, the combustion and the ash. They are also referred to as “construction” and probably drive the considerations that are most straight forward and easy to formulate.

Let’s have a glance at the mechanics aspects of a cigar.

Draw

The draw should be allowing the air to pass through the cigar with little resistance.

Too little resistance may cause the cigar to smoke too hot. A slow pace while smoking is probably the only behavior we can control to avoid any unpleasant consequences.

Too much resistance can frustrate and spoil the experience, even if the cigar’s flavors are not affected. It is often sufficient to massage the cigar in the areas where it is possible to feel that the obstruction is located. Obstructions are generally created when the cigar is rolled. The more love in our massage, the greater the chance to not be totally disappointed. You could say that this is another reason for which genuine cigar lovers are known for being patient and tolerant.

With experience, you gain more ability and know when it’s worth showing more love to the cigar or when it’s really wasted energy because the cigar is not reciprocating.

Combustion

Some people call this burn. It’s how long a cigar remains lit. From a tasting perspective, the cigar should remain lit as long as possible.

The relighting of a cigar, unless this is carefully done while the cigar is still warm, is not recommended. In fact, the re-ignition triggers a smoke affected by residues of the distillation that condensed in the remaining portion of the cigar. This generates more nicotine and potentially off-flavors.

One thing you can do, whether the cigar needs to be relit or not, is purging. When you note that some off-flavors replace the pleasant flavors, you can – while the cigar is lit or being relit – blow outwards through the cigar repeatedly. Basically, this is the contrary of what you normally do when you puff, meaning when you draw smoke from the cigar into your mouth. No guarantee that the off-flavors will totally disappear, but it’s good to give the cigar another chance. This can be precautionary as well, you don’t need to wait for the unpleasant sensations in order to purge your cigar.

The golden rule to apply before blaspheming anybody is: smoke slowly. Generally speaking, the smaller the gauge, the slower you need to smoke: there is an acceleration effect in the flow of air which naturally speeds up the combustion and raises the temperature level. Therefore, it is important to adjust the distance between the puffs to the cigar’s own pace of combustion.

The good burn depends on many factors: on the soil, on the tobacco processing, on the quality of the leaves, on the blend and on the rolling of the cigar.

Ash

The ash is the unburnt part of the mineral content of tobacco. The darker the ash, the less complete is the combustion. The more the cigar contains tobacco with multiple constituents, the more it will be difficult to complete the combustion.

Holding the ash, as far as you can, attached to the burning ember is good, it’s not just about showing off or competing. This helps moderate the combustion temperature. The longer the ash, the less oxygen reaches the burning end of the cigar which, in turn, reduces the burning temperature and cools the smoke. Pleasant flavors find a better environment in a colder combustion.

 

We wrote at the beginning of this article that the cigar mechanics, aka “construction”, probably enable the most straight forward and easy to formulate considerations on the part of cigar lovers at any level of experience. In fact, it is easier to observe that the cigar has a tight draw than to identify particular organoleptic characteristics through retro-nasal olfaction or through the palate.

However, a good tasting experience is mainly driven by the latter and the organoleptic qualities of a cigar are rarely affected by the quality of its mechanics. Read about our data-driven findings.

 


 

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featured image : Ryan McGuire

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