What is the body of a cigar?

We are back to cigar tasting and want to answer a question : What is the body of a cigar? 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.

A few simple polls in our Facebook groups and conversations in cigar lounges demonstrated that the term is used in so many ways that make the term totally meaningless for the purpose of truly understanding what cigar lovers mean and want. Below are the most recurring definitions for “body” that have emerged so far. Comments in Facebook led us to think there could be more sensory attributes involved, but such comments became so tangled that did not have a specific outcome with more precise definitions:

  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. Aroma persistence
  7. Organoleptic richness (balance)

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 was reviewed in 2017.

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 esprit for the volatile substances and corps for the sediment remaining after the evaporation of the volatile components.

As a consequence, as (winemaker by training and Phd in Sensory Science) Constantin Heitkamp confirmed, “body” is one of the terms that rarely gets used in a professional context.

In summary, we don’t have a univocal expression for this widely used term. So, why are we concerned about this? 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?

When we worked on the Cigar Sense algorithm in 2014, we looked at professional works and at the ISO taxonomy. We took what gave us the precision to recommend cigars to others based on the most objective and univocal definitions of the sensory characteristics of the cigar (over 150 attributes) and we eliminated those terms, like “body” that can lead to errors.

What is the body of a cigar for Cigar Sense? It only means the physical main part of a cigar, anything else is expressed in the appropriate sensory terms.

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Image credit : Maurizio Odiardo

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