Of Cigar Tasting - The Tastes


In the language of cigar tasting, tastes contribute to the backbone of the gustatory experience. The perception of taste is provided by the molecules in the smoke that get dissolved in our saliva. Our palate, the entrance and mucus of our tongue and our lips, are the places that are mostly receptive to smoke tastes.

Sweet, Bitter, Salty, Savory and Sour are the well-known basic tastes. Savory stands for “meaty”, what some people call umami. Basic tastes are highlighted in red on the chart below.

As we have mentioned in our article on the Olfactory and Gustatory Senses, at Cigar Sense we simplify the verbiage of mouth and palate perceptions by defining as tastes not only the basic tastes, but also the tactile/palate perceptions or mouthfeel. In fact, to the basic tastes, we add Spicy, Creamy and Dry, which are quite common in cigars. These are highlighted in green on the chart below.

Of Cigar Tasting - The Tastes

Some confusion

Especially found among native English-speaking people, is a phenomenon referred to as the Sour-Bitter confusion. According to some scientific researches, Sour may happen to be called Bitter and vice versa. It seems that one reason for this phenomenon to appear is that the affected people have more cultural experience with sweet and salty foods than with sour and bitter foods. And, of course, the incorrect cultural labeling of typically sour foods as bitter, for instance “bitter lemon”, causes the phenomenon to expand. It is good to be aware of this as it may impact they way you understand your perceptions while tasting a cigar.

Some pre-conceptions

There might also be pre-conceptions about certain tastes. I noted that some cigar manufacturers tend to like to see creaminess on their cigar profiles they see published. Creaminess is a great attribute to find in a cigar. Many great cigars present this in their profile. However, many other great cigars do not.

Therefore, it is important not to judge a cigar based on commonly inherited pre-concepts. All is a matter of personal preference but, very importantly, of balance.

If, for instance, I smoke a cigar with a very high intensity of creaminess, even oiliness, my first personal reaction would be, just like when eating fat fish, to pair it with something that would provide for balance, as I would feel the cigar would not offer that by itself.

– “The Cigar from Soil to Soul” – Didier Houvenaghel – 2008, Editions du Mysotis

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