Cigars and Perfumes II: Create Your Own Pairings
Encouraged by the interest shown in our previous article, Cigars and Perfumes: An Unusual Pairing, we decided to further drill-down in this magic world and write again about cigars and perfumes. We have involved a scientist and professional perfumer, Roberto Dario, who will enlighten us further on how to create our own pairings.

In our previous article, we provided a few specific pairing examples, for starters in this unusual pairing world. In line with our overall philosophy about personalization, in this article we will not provide pairings with branded products. Roberto will teach us how to categorize the perfumes. Categorizing is not to be seen as a limitation in this case, but rather as a help in understanding how to further pair cigars and perfumes. Roberto will also share what type of perfumes he thinks cigar lovers will appreciate. The rest is on us to individually test and identify our best pairings.

The basic, evergreen question

We risk to repeat ourselves in this topic, but there are many people who ask how to recognize smells. Therefore, we went straight into this with Roberto. What would you recommend to people wishing to develop their ability to recognize aromas?

We live in a world of smells but usually we don’t quite pay attention to them. We all have a powerful olfactory system that keeps working in the background, but the problem is that we seldom are fully aware of it. Everybody can train their nose to become more conscious of the invisible world of aromas and scents around us and, if guided by curiosity and passion, everybody can attain a good knowledge of them by learning to describe them.

So my first advice to develop the ability to recognize aromas and scents is to exercise the nose by paying attention to a few simple rules when detecting an odor:

  1. avoid saying (or use as less as possible) the phrase “ The smell of…”
  2. try instead to categorize the smell by describing it with simple adjectives as woody, earthy, floral, etc.
  3. name the odor sensations that first come to mind
  4.  write them readily when making the experience, so that you can fix the olfactory memory in your brain and recall it later in a similar experience.

The pairing philosophy

Choosing a perfume that can fit the invisible aura of cigar lovers can be intriguing because we need to match the scent developed by the cigar when smoked and the fragrance we wear, to make a kind of invisible layering that will boost and give originality to our personal scent.

To accomplish the task, we need to better know the scents characteristic of our perfume and those of the cigar world and try to outline which ones can go along in order to get the perfect match.

Perfumes classifications

To date, we see the number of perfume proposals growing very fast as more than 1000 new perfumes make their appearance on the market every year, thus making our choice very hard (it seems like we have another affinity with cigars here). However if we know a little about how perfumes are classified, we can then make it easier on us.

image : Roberto Dario

As a result of the growing number of fragrances that came on the market, different organizations decided to put an order by identifying a general classification. In 1990, the SFP (Société Française des Parfumeurs), defined 7 fragrance families, namely: Citrus, Floral, Chypre, Fougère, Woods, Oriental Amber, Leather.

Roberto describes each family, the main ingredients and their olfactory description.

Citrus – Fresh, light, toning, sparkling and dynamic notes underline the scent of this family, which include all the known citruses as lemon, bergamot, orange, cedar, mandarin, grapefruit. The Eau de Cologne fragrances are the best representation of this family.

Floral – The scent of the largest perfume family take on different characteristics depending on whether the perfume is made from a single flower accord or from a flowery bouquet: fresh, subtle and fine with lily of the valley, orange blossom, mimosa vs. opulent, narcotic, sensual, elegant, bewitching with rose, violet, jasmine, tuberose.

Fougère – It means fern in English. The family takes its name from the perfume Fougère Royale, made in 1882 by the french brand Houbigant; this fragrance was born from an unmistakable chord of fresh and persistent notes, among lavender, bergamot, oakmoss and patchouli inspired by the idea of the fresh undergrowth with warm earthy tones and woods.
Fougère Royale is also famous because it was the first perfume of the history that contained a synthetic chemical molecule, the coumarine, first found in tonka beans; interestingly, coumarine is used as pipe’s tobacco flavour too.
In modern Fougères, aromatic notes such as basil, sage, thyme, rosemary and laurel could be used to enhance the fresh initial kick.

Chypre  – The scent of the perfumes of this family are characterized by a basic chord between bergamot, patchouli, labdanum, oakmoss and floral notes as rose and jasmine, harmoniously blended. The scent profile is powdery and warm. The family takes its name from the perfume Chypre composed by the perfumer Francois Coty back in 1917, which was dedicated to the isle of Cyprus that, in ancient greek mythology, was home to Venus, the goddess of love and beauty.

Woods – These are perfumes that take on different scent characteristics depending on the wood notes used: cedarwood has a dry and aromatic smell, while sandalwood is softer, warmer and creamy, vetiver has an accentuated hint of earthy smoky notes, while patchouli is also earthy, but with some fruity nuances. Often, the compositions are added with fresh and stimulating spices such as coriander, cloves, pepper, ginger, cardamom, or warm spices like cinnamon and nutmeg.

Oriental Amber – Second only to the Floral family, the Oriental Amber is very well represented in perfumery: the dominant sweet note of vanilla of this perfume is readily recognized by everybody. The basic accord is generally made with labdanum, vanilla, frankincense, myrrh, tolu balsam, benzoin, sandalwood and opulent flowers, wherefore the resulting scent profile is strong, rich, enchanting, sensual, warm and diffusive.

Leather – In these perfumes the accord recalls the idea of leather, smoked skin, burnt wood and  tobacco in all its nuances, from dried leaves to cocoa scents. The dryness of leather is sometimes mixed with woods and with sweet notes like honey and hay. 

Cigars and Perfumes
image : Roberto Dario

Cigar scents classifications

Flavor is a complex combination of olfactory, gustatory and trigeminal sensations perceived during the tasting experience. When smoking a cigar, flavor is mainly represented by retro-haling. There are many wheels available online, the Cigar Sense aromas wheel helps differentiate the retro-hale aromas of a lit cigar from tastes and trigeminal (mouthfeel) perceptions, the last two being represented in a separate wheel.

Roberto, as a nose, made his own research, focusing on the scents emanating by the lit cigar in the atmosphere, and how those scents can be enhanced by the perfumes we wear.

So, looking at the sensory descriptions of cigars, I tried to categorize them in perfumery notes and, from my “olfactory” point of view, I found, in general, mainly 4 characterized groups of scents: Floral, Spicy, Dried Fruits, Vegetable and Leather/Earthy.

My personal description for this choice is:

Floral is mainly linked to the smell of honey, sometimes already found in the dried tobacco itself and after, when smoking; in perfumery honey scents are linked to the Floral family;

Spices: the aromatic whiff of cinnamon, nutmeg and, to enlarge the concept, coffee, cocoa, chocolate, vanilla, caramel are flavours which are usually developed during smoking;

Dried fruits is another odor that seems to turn out usually linked to the smell of sweet almond and hazelnut notes;

Vegetable usually these scent notes come from the cigar itself and include the smell of woods, mosses, tobacco, hay;

Leather/Earthy is rooted to the olfactory sensations close to earthy humid odors, to the smell of tanned leather, aromatic and deep.

Create your own pairings with cigars and perfumes

The sense of smell is very subjective and – just like for cigars recommendations – you may find your scent trail enhancer through perfumes that are different from what I might suggest. Therefore, I will not give advice on branded perfumes.

Roberto rather wants us to be able to ask for perfumes of the family we think can go along with the type of cigar we will smoke, so that we can discover ourselves which one is best for us.

So, based on the above classifications and olfactory descriptions, I think that cigar lovers will find their perfumes mainly within the following fragrance families:

Fougère type fragrances, which play around fresh notes of woods and aromatic herbs and spices with a sweet twist of hay or mosses, for the elegant and refined cigar smoker.

Oriental Amber, with which we’ll meet the notes of vanilla together with spices, flowers and ambers; these kinds of perfumes can be the signature for a woman cigar smoker who wants to leave an invisible mark of her presence.

The Leather family is for sensual and sexy sensations, the perfect match for any cigar lover, genderless and with no borders.

Cigars and Perfumes
image : Roberto Dario

Over to you now, you can create your own pairings with cigars and perfumes and share your experiences!


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Cigar Sense predicts which cigars best fit your personal taste. We are committed to preserve the highest objectivity, integrity and independence in the creation and dissemination of our analyses and industry analytics. This is why we do not sell cigars, nor cigar ads.

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