Of Cigar Tasting : What Does Body Mean?

We are back with elements of cigar tasting : What does Body mean? It’s such a popular term and you would assume that when one says “this cigar is full-bodied”, whoever listens immediately understands what this means. This is not necessarily true.

In fact, it seems that there are many different interpretations for the term “body”.

A simple poll in our Facebook member group and conversations in cigar lounges demonstrated the idea. Various definitions for “body” have emerged:

  1. Aromas intensity
  2. Taste intensity (basic tastes : sweet, sour, bitter, salty, umami/savory)
  3. Tactile perception / mouthfeel intensity (trigeminal sensations such as spiciness, creaminess, dryness)
  4. Smoke thickness
  5. Nicotine strength
  6. Persistence

The list is not exhaustive.

The International Organization for Standardization, in their sensory analysis terminology relating to organoleptic attributes (ISO norm 5492) describes body as “consistency, compactness of texture, fullness, richness, flavour or substance of a product”. Let’s bear in mind that the vocabulary for that norm was prepared by a technical committee working on food products. The norm is currently under review.

In the wine world, this seems to be more obvious, but still, per various references gathered by Labivin, body (corps) in a wine represents:

  • richness in alcohol
  • a conjunction of tannin and alcohol intensity
  • the balance of alcohol, tannin and sponginess (moelleux)
  • the perception of consistency and thickness, invoking the ancient chemical terms of espritĀ for the volatile substances and corps for the sediment remaining after the evaporation of the volatile components.

In summary, we don’t have a univocal expression for this widely used term. So, why are we concerned about this? Because, when arrived in the US, I bought cigars that were not good for me, because some tobacconists used the term “body” but weren’t able to explain what it meant exactly. Because I believe cigar lovers need to read about a cigar and understand its characteristics without being misled. Last but not least, we want to make sure we understand our members when they tell us what they like and dislike in a cigar.

What do we do about it? We simply use the name of the attribute that we refer to:

  • aromas – descriptors (nut, wood,…) and their intensity
  • taste and tactile perceptions – descriptors (sweet, spicy,…) and intensity
  • nicotine strength intensity
  • and so on

This allows us and our readers to talk the same language and to then be able to talk about how everything converges together.

To conclude, for us at Cigar Sense, the term “body” only means the physical main part of a cigar and we do not relate it to any sensory attribute.

Share your thoughts!

Image credit : Maurizio Odiardo


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