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Some Thoughts On Cigar Reviews And Describing Cigar Flavors

This is a discussion on Some Thoughts On Cigar Reviews And Describing Cigar Flavors within the Non-Habanos Reviews forums, part of the General Cigar Discussion category; This is a great thread, thank you. I'm guilty of trying to explain flavors and scents in terms too specific ...

  
  1. #31

    Explorer of fine things.. Quine's Avatar


     

    Re: Some Thoughts On Cigar Reviews And Describing Cigar Flavors

    This is a great thread, thank you. I'm guilty of trying to explain flavors and scents in terms too specific for what I can really differentiate. That being said, I know I can taste/smell very different sorts of flavors in different cigars, I just don't always know what they are. Some standardization with agreement between those who have done this for a long time and really can make the subtle distinctions they claim is very useful. Labeling the flavors as you have done is a useful first step. This has been going on in the wine community for a long time. Wines don't have "chocolate" or "black cherry" or other such things in them. What happens is that as the chemical reactions between the various components of aging wine combine and result in molecules that remind us of these other flavors. The same thing must happen in tobacco leaf and blends as they age. Different kinds of tobacco have different native flavors just like different grapes. But as they age new molecules are produced hence the varied flavors.

    With wine the standardization has gone a long way. Two tasters who actually know what they are talking about will typically find the same flavors in a given wine with something like a 90% overlap. Now this being said there are plenty of wine drinkers who know what they like without being able to describe it very specifically, and this is certainly just as true of cigar smokers. I get "pepper", "wood", "leather", "earth" (like mushrooms, maybe truffle), and "chocolate". "Cream" maybe from a combination of smoothness (lack of pepper) combined with "sweetness" which I also experience in some cigars -- e.g. a 1926 Ann. Padron. But I can't get it any more subtle than that. In fact there is one kind of flavor I've struggled from the beginning to describe. The closest I've come is sourness, but not like citrus, more like maybe sour + wood but it is a flavor that is so characteristic in so many cigars I've come to call it "cigary-ness" for lack of something better (so far). I find the cigars I like best have less of this flavor, but a little in the background is ok. Others have it to an extreme. An example of the latter would be a Puros Indios 99 Viejo so if any of you have had that particular cigar and can name that flavor, please tell me!

    One more thing.... In taste science, "taste" is distinguished from "flavor". Taste is what you can detect on your tongue without your sense of smell. That's pretty much limited to salt, sweet, bitter, sour, and one called "umami" which is something like "meaty-ness". It is actually our reaction to chemicals called glutamates. But all the other things we call flavor are actually a combination of taste and the reactions of our noses, sense of smell. There is an interaction between taste and smell when we eat that combines to illicit all the other flavors we can distinguish. It's actually pretty amazing that this happens and results in such a rich flavor environment. At the same time, different people are endowed not only with different sensitivity to raw tastes, but also to scents and the result is a very wide range of differences in what people can actually distinguish of flavors whether in food, drink, or smoke.
    ...and a woman is only a woman, but a good cigar is a smoke! -- Rudyard Kipling "The Betrothed"

  2. #32

    and then another. BurnOne's Avatar


     

    Re: Some Thoughts On Cigar Reviews And Describing Cigar Flavors

    My circle of friends are not cigar smokers. Sometimes they will ask why i always had different cigars. "why not the same brand all the time?" "just get the cheap ones whats so good about THAT one?"
    I find myself telling them that cigars are more like food than a cigarette and even though i cant put a tag on the flavors in a cigar. i can taste them.

  3. #33

    Puffer Fish with some spikes


     

    Re: Some Thoughts On Cigar Reviews And Describing Cigar Flavors

    I heard a news report about a recent study on wine tasting, and it seemed like a natural crossover to evaluating cigars. The study (conducted by researchers at Penn State) found that wine experts had the ability to taste things that other people simply cannot.

    Here's an excerpt:

    "What we found is that the fundamental taste ability of an expert is different," says John Hayes of Penn State.

    So what explains this? Part of it has to do with training and experience. But our ability to identify nuances in wine is also influenced by physiology in our mouths and brains.

    "We evaluated hundreds of wine drinkers," says Hayes, by having them sample/taste a chemical that measures their reaction to bitter tastes. He found that wine experts — people such as wine writers, winemakers and wine retailers — were about 40 percent more sensitive to the bitterness than casual consumers of wine. They have a more acute sense of taste.

    Hayes says his findings fit with prior research on so-called supertasters — people who are more sensitive to the sweetness of sugar, the sting of chili peppers and the saltiness of chips.
    It may be that the emperor has clothes after all. Many of us just can't see all of them! Here's a link to the news report:

    Most Of Us Just Can't Taste The Nuances

  4. #34

    Young Puffer Fish danobey's Avatar


     

    Re: Some Thoughts On Cigar Reviews And Describing Cigar Flavors

    I agree with you 100%. If you look at all the different cigars and tobacco for pipes and the way the grow them throughout the world, shows that tobacco and cigar wrappers has different flavors.

  5. #35

    No longer a community member.


     

    Re: Some Thoughts On Cigar Reviews And Describing Cigar Flavors

    I would like to Add Vanilla / Creamy and Citrus..

    By the way I was wondering when you notice the citrus I was reading this maybe because of the tobacco being young? I would like to hear more about how these flavors come to be in the tobacco what is happening what seeds etc are creating these profiles...

  6. #36

    Philosopher Extraordinai Gigmaster's Avatar


     

    Re: Some Thoughts On Cigar Reviews And Describing Cigar Flavors

    I was about to write a review when I saw this thread, and changed my mind.

    First, let me say that I am a professional, full-time, free-lance writer. I ghost write books, and create articles, website content and a lot of reviews for manufacturers and distributors. Some of them are about cigars, pipes, pipe tobaccos, wines, etc.... I am considered quite good, at least good enough to get paid well-enough that I can smoke pretty much whatever I want, when I want.

    That being said, a good review will have more than just physical sensations in it. Impressions, and intangible thoughts are also important, which is why those highly skilled and educated 'wine snobs' you seem to have a problem with make so much money. BTW, the correct term for a 'wine snob' would be a Sommelier, and it probably took them 10+ years of hard work to get to that point. It is difficult, if not impossible, to write a good review when you feel you can't use anything larger than a 4-letter word, and I don't know how to draw pictures on these Boards. I cannot write about adult things like cigars on a 3rd-grade level. And, I don't enjoy feeling self-conscious about my education or talent, so I will most likely not be writing any reviews on the Boards, nor posting very much any more, for fear of going over too many heads. Heaven forbid that anyone should actually have to look-up the term "5-year old Madagascar Vanilla" to see what the author was trying to really say. And it would be an absolute crime for anyone to have to look-up Borneo, or any other exotic place to see what kind of country it is, and maybe understand what the author was trying to say.

    If any of us have in any way caused anyone to expand their minds against their will, on behalf of all us 'Literary Snobs', in whatever field of expertise we may work in, I humbly apologize. It won't happen again, at least not from this author.

    Amat victoria curam

  7. #37

    Maturing Puffer Fish RJ-Harder's Avatar


     

    Re: Some Thoughts On Cigar Reviews And Describing Cigar Flavors

    Quote Originally Posted by Gigmaster View Post
    I was about to write a review when I saw this thread, and changed my mind.

    First, let me say that I am a professional, full-time, free-lance writer. I ghost write books, and create articles, website content and a lot of reviews for manufacturers and distributors. Some of them are about cigars, pipes, pipe tobaccos, wines, etc.... I am considered quite good, at least good enough to get paid well-enough that I can smoke pretty much whatever I want, when I want.

    That being said, a good review will have more than just physical sensations in it. Impressions, and intangible thoughts are also important, which is why those highly skilled and educated 'wine snobs' you seem to have a problem with make so much money. BTW, the correct term for a 'wine snob' would be a Sommelier, and it probably took them 10+ years of hard work to get to that point. It is difficult, if not impossible, to write a good review when you feel you can't use anything larger than a 4-letter word, and I don't know how to draw pictures on these Boards. I cannot write about adult things like cigars on a 3rd-grade level. And, I don't enjoy feeling self-conscious about my education or talent, so I will most likely not be writing any reviews on the Boards, nor posting very much any more, for fear of going over too many heads. Heaven forbid that anyone should actually have to look-up the term "5-year old Madagascar Vanilla" to see what the author was trying to really say. And it would be an absolute crime for anyone to have to look-up Borneo, or any other exotic place to see what kind of country it is, and maybe understand what the author was trying to say.

    If any of us have in any way caused anyone to expand their minds against their will, on behalf of all us 'Literary Snobs', in whatever field of expertise we may work in, I humbly apologize. It won't happen again, at least not from this author.

    Amat victoria curam
    Hey Gigmaster.

    I'm sensing some hostility to the original post here. I don't think he meant to attack cigar reviewers, but rather to point out that some reviews are a lot more accessible than others. To me it seems like the most important thing is to know your audience.

    5 year old Madagascar Vanilla may be a wonderful descriptor for a certain cigar, and for a fellow seasoned cigar aficionado it may be the perfect thing to use in a review. However, for a newb like me, it helps me very little..and not because I'm stupid or uneducated. You don't have to use 4 letter words in order for me to understand. I'm highly educated, and I know exactly where Madagascar is and exactly what vanilla is. However, I have no idea how 5 year old Madagascar Vanilla is any different from regular vanilla.

    Using descriptions that are fairly straightforward would certainly be more effective for a new cigar smoker like myself. I know all about Borneo, except I have no idea what it would have to do with a cigar. I do know what leather, cumin, etc... are like though.

    Anyway I just thought I'd come to the defense of the thread creator. Overly verbose reviews aren't ineffective for me because I'm stupid or uneducated - they're inneffective for me because they contain too much information.

    Thanks for this thread, also. I'll definitely be referring to it in the future.

  8. #38

    Alpha Puffer Fish Damselnotindistress's Avatar


     

    Re: Some Thoughts On Cigar Reviews And Describing Cigar Flavors

    Quote Originally Posted by HeavyMetal-cr View Post
    I’ve found that when I’m discussing cigar reviews and the flavor descriptions one of the first things to come up is the argument as to whether cigars actually have any flavors other than tobacco. Some think that tasting flavors other than tobacco in cigars is a load of crap and that those who claim they can are snobs, liars or delusional, or more likely all three.

    Over the years I’ve certainly been accused of all three. In defense I’d like to point out that I’ve read quite a few reviews on various forums from the no-flavor camp that contain descriptions like “great flavor”, “creamy”, “sweet”, “bitter”, “grassy”, “dirty”, etc. So while they might not be able to describe specific flavors, it would seem to me that there’s a lot of self-incriminating evidence that the no-flavor folks do taste something besides “just tobacco”.

    I do think that most of this controversy has been caused by what I call the “over-the-top” review. These reviews read like a sweeping romance novel combined with an exercise in Roget’s Thesaurus: “…nuances of fresh-mowed red heather lightly intertwined with deep Bavarian forest and 7 year old burnt Madagascar vanilla”. Stop it! Please! I really don’t know how various heathers taste, or most other ground cover for that matter. How about using something a bit less obtuse like grassy or vegetal? Like most people I’ve never been to Bavaria, and I doubt the author has either. I don’t even know where to get 7 year old Madagascar vanilla, and if I did I sure as hell wouldn’t burn it – it sounds expensive.

    I don’t think there’s any question that reviews like these are more an attempt to impress than communicate. I think the author has read too many “wine snob” reviews and has mistakenly concluded that this style shows good breeding and taste. I don’t think so. Personally, I like reviews that use descriptions I’m familiar with, and that’s what I try to use.

    To me, flavors divide into two different categories. For lack of any better terminology I call them “direct tastes” and “smell-tastes”. Now, before you think I’ve gone whack, let me explain.

    Direct tastes are flavors that we pretty much taste on a regular basis. Like coffee, cocoa or molasses. Most people are familiar with those flavors. Smell-tastes are flavors that remind us of things we don’t typically eat but are familiar odors – leather, cedar or grass. No, I’ve never eaten leather except to pull apart a leather know with my teeth, but I really know what leather smells like. And while I’ve tasted grass on occasion, I’m really more familiar with the smell of fresh mowed grass.

    Most of the time when I’m describing a flavor in a cigar, I’m drawing an analogy. I don’t really taste grass, I taste a “green” and vegetal flavor that reminds me of the way grass smells. And a sweet note can remind me of molasses or sugar or honey. But sometimes the flavor is so distinct that it really does taste like the description I’m using – Juan Lopez cigars really do have a heavy dark espresso flavor.

    Here are some of the flavors I use, hopefully others will add to the list and descriptions:

    Direct Tastes

    Black Pepper – a hot spicy note.
    Cardamom – a sweet spice used in apple pie, has a very aromatic, floral taste.
    Cinnamon – a taste similar to hot cinnamon candy, typical in cammies.
    Coffee – a taste like coffee, sometimes very strong (espresso) or bitter.
    Cocoa – a taste like hot cocoa or chocolate, if sweet I’ll tend to use chocolate.
    Cream – a light vanilla and cream note usually with a really oily texture to the smoke.
    Cumin – an earthy spice used in Mexican food, one of the base flavors of chili.
    Dark – denotes deep, heavy flavors as in dark chocolate or dark coffee, or dark tobacco.
    Fruity – a sweet fruity note, often like a port or cognac note.
    Herbal – tastes like a mixture of parsley, rosemary, basil, sage. A “green” note, but pleasing.
    Lemon oil – tastes like sweet lemon oil used for cake icing, also called “citrus”.
    Honey – a heavy sweet & floral taste like honey
    Hot or Red Pepper – a really hot spicy note.
    Metallic or Tinny – a tinny or brassy taste, I don’t like this.
    Mint – a minty note, I don’t particularly like this either.
    Molasses – a dark sweet flavor like molasses.
    Nutty – an oily nutty taste like walnuts, macadamia, or peanut. Padron Anni’s, esp. the natty , have a distinct coconut/macadamia flavor.
    Oil – an oily taste and texture, usually neutral like corn or canola oil.
    Salty – a salty note.
    Sour – a light sour note, a tang like dry white wine
    Sweet Spices – a taste like a combo of cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, allspice. Depending on the balance I’ll also use “pumpkin pie spice”. Really noticeable in cuban Partagas.
    Toasty – a taste like toasted white bread.
    Tobacco – a tobacco taste, can be light and toasty like Dominican or sweet and dark like Nicaraguan.


    Smell Tastes

    Cedar – tastes like cedar smells, an aromatic, sweet and woody note.
    Earthy – a taste like dark wet loam smells, a dark damp forest-smell taste.
    Flinty – a slightly metallic and stony taste, I don’t typically use it.
    Floral – a light sweet floral note like spring flowers.
    Grassy – a taste like fresh mowed grass.
    Leather – a taste like an old oiled baseball mitt, leather jacket or football smells.
    Red Clay – a smell like a fresh plowed farm field in the northeast, a sweet, oily limestone earth smell.
    Wood – a taste like old, well aged hardwood smells.

    Wow! Exhaustive detail! RG Bump for you!
    Old age and treachery will overcome youth and skill everytime

  9. #39

    Full grown Puffer Fish The Wolverine's Avatar


     

    Re: Some Thoughts On Cigar Reviews And Describing Cigar Flavors

    I enjoy cigars and everyone's palate is different don't get all hung up on flavors you can't taste....

  10. #40

    Puffer Fish with some spikes Redwyvern's Avatar


     

    Re: Some Thoughts On Cigar Reviews And Describing Cigar Flavors

    This makes so much sense! I've been thinking that I was missing out on something. I feel much better, and enlightened now. Thanks!

  11. #41

    Full grown Puffer Fish pmr1010's Avatar


     

    Re: Some Thoughts On Cigar Reviews And Describing Cigar Flavors

    There is also a noticeable difference between countries of tobacco origin that I've found. Nicaragua makes my favorites. There is a definite taste that you can find that differs.

    I have also noticed that manufacturers have their own taste attributes. This makes sense because a specific brand will utilize what's available to them.

    Many Alec Bradley cigars have a slight bitter chocolate/coffee taste
    Many Carlos Torano have a flavor that is softer than Alec Bradley but noticeable.

    Those are just off the top of my head.

  12. #42

    Newbie in the ocean


     

    Re: Some Thoughts On Cigar Reviews And Describing Cigar Flavors

    You said it all here. I still don't see how so many cigar affs find those flavors. I just smell the not lit cigar first. After it is lit I waft it in front of me and breathe in its aromas through my nose, being careful to not take in so much that it burns the sinuses, but enough to taste its flavor. After the front has burned off I do this again. I have no idea what exotic 18th century Bulgarian Wheat grass tempered by cognac may smell like and I don't care. If it smells like cow and tastes like camomile soaked it swamp water I have no comparison. But I know what chocolate or cinnamon or cedar smells or tastes like. I know mellow from harsh. I know a good cigar from a bad. Crap smells and tastes like crap. A great cigar is like a great filet mignon. It melts in your mouth and is like a butterfly on your nose. Gentle, deep, rich and loving.

  13. #43

    No longer a community member.


     

    Re: Some Thoughts On Cigar Reviews And Describing Cigar Flavors

    Only one member that posted in this thread still remains active here from the original time frame this was posted........amazing.

  14. #44

    Newbie in the ocean


     

    Re: Some Thoughts On Cigar Reviews And Describing Cigar Flavors

    I've been smoking for over 16 years, but I didn't pick up cigar smoking specifically as a hobby until a year ago. I feel I've come a long way in a year. I'm now tenderly caring for four humidors full of smokes I would be proud to share with any aficianado. It took a long time to figure out my tastes and to have cigars around that I'd love to smoke anytime. At one point I gave away an entire humidor full of cigars because they just didn't fit my tastes. What an expensive learning curve! In regard to being able to taste different flavors, I thought at first that it was all B.S.. My tastes have developed though and I'm starting to be able to pick out flavors. Chocolates and coffees and cedar seem like the easy ones, and pepper as well. Cinnamon and vanilla (and especially five year aged madagascar vanilla) are more difficult, as are floral and fruity notes to me. I smoked one the other day that had a blast of native american ceremonial white sage. That blew me away! I loved it. Overall though, I just enjoy sitting back and enjoying life one puff at a time. Right now that's best accomplished via an AJ Fernandez or a Don Pepin Garcia or a Padron, but who knows what it will be next month, and that is part of the fun :-)

  15. #45

    Puffer Fish with some spikes


     

    Re: Some Thoughts On Cigar Reviews And Describing Cigar Flavors

    Quote Originally Posted by adkJerry View Post
    I've been smoking for over 16 years, but I didn't pick up cigar smoking specifically as a hobby until a year ago. I feel I've come a long way in a year. I'm now tenderly caring for four humidors full of smokes I would be proud to share with any aficianado. It took a long time to figure out my tastes and to have cigars around that I'd love to smoke anytime. At one point I gave away an entire humidor full of cigars because they just didn't fit my tastes. What an expensive learning curve! In regard to being able to taste different flavors, I thought at first that it was all B.S.. My tastes have developed though and I'm starting to be able to pick out flavors. Chocolates and coffees and cedar seem like the easy ones, and pepper as well. Cinnamon and vanilla (and especially five year aged madagascar vanilla) are more difficult, as are floral and fruity notes to me. I smoked one the other day that had a blast of native american ceremonial white sage. That blew me away! I loved it. Overall though, I just enjoy sitting back and enjoying life one puff at a time. Right now that's best accomplished via an AJ Fernandez or a Don Pepin Garcia or a Padron, but who knows what it will be next month, and that is part of the fun :-)
    I had a similar experience. Recently packed up a box full of cigars and sent them to my uncle (he's like Mikey, he will smoke anything). My first cigar was an ACID KUBA KUBA and it was free. I take that back, my first was some sort of cuban cohiba that I smoked in Spain. Since those days, my tastes have changed. Now I am more picky about what I buy and smoke

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