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On taste and tasting.


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#1 MadMonk

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Posted 25 March 2012 - 09:55 AM

This is spawned by a member's question about Cuban cigars, and if they were that good, or just hype.

Taste is a funny thing. If you could figure "Taste" out from a marketing sense, and apply it knowing that all folks would love a flavor, you might easily become the richest man in the world. I just saw a survey in which those who said they tasted and related to descriptions using food descriptors in their tobacco and
those who did not was split 50/50. I myself have always wanted to do a blind taste test to see if I could at least pick country of origin, or even specific familiar
brands.

I will say that since I've been smoking a pipe so much this past winter, that my cigar palate has been affected.
I went from an average of 3 cigars a day to maybe one or two a month since this past October.
This has had quite an impact on my palate's ability to taste my cigars the way I did before my pipe.
I'd been smoking 3 to 5 cigars a day for something like 30 years. This also affects your palate.

This all leads to saying that I believe our palates do develop, and that it's abilities to detect or differentiate do indeed change.
Not necessarily good or bad or better or worse, but that, in my case, certain flavors or characteristics became very easy to taste, while others became
more difficult. In my case, both due to heavy smoking.

There is a differance between the pipes and the cigars for me. My palate changed rapidly while smoking pipes so frequently.
(Before this, I probably smoked a pipe once or twice a week for about 3 years, prior.) Smoking 3 or 4 bowls a day, my ability to taste the nuances in pipe tobaccos increased exponentially over the course of a month or two.

In Latakia blends, I was able to go from basically tasting just Latakia, to being able to taste the differant component tobaccos, and how they were contributing
to the blend. My appreciation of VAs and VaPers grew tremendously. I can taste them so much better than I used to be able to.
For instance from VA being reticent and hard to taste anything to being able to taste all sorts of flavors and sweetness levels in the differant types.
VAs and VaPers are currently my favorite. Six months ago, I never would have thought this to be the case.

Techinique also affects how we taste our tobaccos, whether it be cigars or pipes. I have loved cigars that my buddies hated, and I often thought that it was
due to my sipping versus some of their more aggressive smoking habits getting the blend too hot and bringing out some serious nasties.
In the case of Virginia or VaPer pipe tobaccos, sipping is highly rewarding, keeping the tobacco cool, in essence "stoving" it as we smoke which reduces
tongue bite, and improves the flavor.

I do believe the brain also plays a role. I know for scientific fact that it compensates, balances, etc. in sight and sound.
The idea that it does the same with "Flavor" is not too big a stretch.
I do not mean a mental trick that we play on ourselves because it is a cuban cigar, "making" it taste wonderful (I admit it is possible, but I think less probable).
I've known too many folks, myself included, who were seriously let down smoking a cuban cigar. But then again, a lot of variables there too.
Storage, humidity content of the leaf when smoked, time of day, food eaten previously, fresh or fatigued palate, etc.

And, as jfields pointed out, our mood can affect how we taste. I myself have experienced this many times in many "sense" related activities. I am now coining this phenomena, "the Field Effect"

We also know that smoking can mask our ability to taste, such as the person who quits smoking, and exclaims "I can taste my food so much better since I quit
smoking". I think both Cigar and Pipe smoking are both masking flavors, but now tend to think that each one may be doing it differently.
Is this the reason my cigars taste so much more differant than they did 6 months ago?

Let's not leave out the person who says a Cuban, or an Opus X is delicious only because they are afraid to say it tastes like crap, or that they can't taste a thing, etc. Or the blogger who is basically full of crap. I've seen that far too often. The coolness factor, acceptance factor, etc.

This also means that we have to revisit things occasionally. You may find that what you previously hated, you now love. And, It also
reinforces the idea that you cannot judge a brand or line of anything based on one smoke. This is why I find so many reviews useless.

This is also why I tell new smokers to take it easy buying mass qtys of a current favorite, like an ACID Blondie.

The variables are so many and so diverse, that again, I say that if you could figure out how to eliminate their effects, or how to create flavors that
EVERBODY loved, you would be tremendously rich.

 

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I wrote a reply to a post about FOH reviewing the Undercrown. I just remembered this post, and thought it would be appropriate to add that to this. Keeping them together seems like a good idea. See below:

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Regarding a blanket statement of Nicaraguans not being complex, that, of course is an opinion, (if I am faking objectivity   :D ) but really a load of crap.

I see this most often after folks started trying to emulate Pepin. They would get that pepper or spice component, but the cigar would be unbalanced and basically predominantly one dimensional with some putrid undertones.

 

Pepins original smokes were complex, bursting with Cedar, spice, cinnamon, honey, wood (not cedar, but more like oak you get from spirits), earth, etc.

After PROPER aging, some really evolve to tremendous complexity. (to me proper aging is 69% or above humidity to avoid loss of oleoresins. This is a fact)

 

Try aging a Oliva Serie G Robusto for a few years at 69-70%. I have found them to be tremendously delicious, where every draw pops with a multitude of flavors.

The old Grand Cameroon was even more spectacular. (They claim the recipe did not change...I call bullshit). IMO, Oliva and Pepins old smokes were the best Nicaraguan candidates for aging. Pepins double binder is a major factor here. If you let the oils slowly evaporate, like aging at 65, you will wind up with a very monotonous smoke. This begins to happen fairly quickly; like after a couple of months. The reason cigar manufacturers post roll age 3 months is because that's how long it take for the oleoresins to migrate and marry. The humidity aids in this migration, and of course, preservation.

I do love Cuban Tobacco. For my tastes, it is the absolute best. Problem is, the regular lines are not processed properly. I have derived a lot more pleasure from the EL and RE offerings. The standard lines are also not as complex as FOH is making out. A one or two dimensional smoke can be enjoyable if it is delicious. Also, folks habits of aging these at 65% is one reason why I think that some say that they all taste the same after a few years. (I also think controlled quasi-airtight aging is the ultimate for preservation of oils and flavors/complexity. I.e., an occasional air exchange, like once or twice a month, min)

 

A tip to some of the newer smokers. You HAVE to learn to smoke a cigar slowly. Light it properly by not charring the tobacco. I use wooden matches, or a soft flame lighter to light. I warm the tobacco, i.e., I DO NOT try to get a full red glow before bringing it up to the draw light. Hell, make it a ritual. A 15 or 20 buck opus, Fuente, or Cuban is certainly worthy of some anal retentive, ritualistic lighting.

 

I smoke slowly, and puff three times for each interaction. Two tiny, shallow puffs to get the ember full, and one nice slow, gentle, draw to saturate the palate. If you overheat the tobacco, it chars, and creates combustion nasties. If you keep the tobacco immediately behind the ember, and the the rest of the barrel of the cigar, as cool as possible, you caramelize the Tobacco. This is akin to burning vs caramelizing Mirepoix or Garlic in cooking. Once it is overheated, and you pull that through your cigar, it is basically too late. This caramelization adds to complexity, and charring leads to one dimensionality.

A purge or two may help to a degree, but in my experience, it is ruined. A note on Purging, you can also bring the flame up to near the ember and it will act like a flame thrower as you GENTLY blow through the cigar. This helps draw out the nasties. Sometimes you can see the color of the flame change. As soon as it does, stop.

 

I'm seeing a slew of anti-cuban propaganda lately. (And vice versa as non-cubans break into Cuban dominated markets.) A lot of vendors who can't legally sell cubans are trying to capture that cash flow. Overstated warnings of counterfeits, (really ridiculous percentages) Etc. They are trying to scare folks. I find it insulting, dishonest, and desperate. I am also curious if they are concerned about the political climate which shows some cracks in the Embargo starting to form. They are going to take a short, but heavy beating if, and when, the Embargo drops. I always try to gauge if the reviewer has ulterior motives in his criticisms. I also watch how they smoke, and if they really know how to properly smoke a cigar. I also want to know how long they've had it, and in what conditions it was stored. (most fail on all counts)


Edited by MadMonk, 22 February 2014 - 10:18 PM.


#2 bluue13

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Posted 25 March 2012 - 10:44 AM

What a great write up. Thanks for taking the time to do this!

#3 Gavin

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Posted 25 March 2012 - 11:14 AM

Many gems of wisdom in there.

#4 thefatguy

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Posted 25 March 2012 - 01:02 PM

Again, smoke what YOU like. Nice write up. I only smoke cigars and have done so for many years so I enjoy hearing/reading the taste differences with a pipe smoker. Thanks again for the post.

Ian

Edited by thefatguy, 25 March 2012 - 01:03 PM.


#5 4cbln3

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Posted 25 March 2012 - 01:23 PM

Very well written, Dan. Thanks for giving me insight into some complex thoughts I myself have pondered over many times.
I admit, I still sometimes "smoke the label" in which I want so badly for it to taste great (whether a new cigar or expensive one). I have lots to learn about this hobby of ours, the only thing I am steadfast about nowadays is to take care of my health just so I can smoke cigars over a lifetime.

#6 Pugman1943

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Posted 25 March 2012 - 01:40 PM

As per the other, a great food for thought writup. This past week B.B.S. said something to the effect that don't "look for the taste" , it will find you.

I have up until that posting, and now yours looking for those favors and feel like I must be retarded that I can't find them. I do know what I like and what I don't and I follow alone here paying attention to everyone's comments.

Xmas time my daughter in law gifted me with $30 from my b/m and I got a Padron 80th. Personally, for the money, the 2000 is every bit a good as the 80th. The 80th was smooth, but I guess I was expecting some dramatic which I did not.

Since then I've decided that until that taste or flavor introduces itself to me, it doesn't make much sense to buy the expensive stuff when the less expensive brother do all that I seem to need so far. My only concern now is, will that ever happen?

Thanks to all of you, I continue to learn and appreciate.

#7 Light this!

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Posted 25 March 2012 - 02:49 PM

Wow. Some interesting insight.

I do not mean a mental trick that we play on ourselves because it is a cuban cigar, "making" it taste wonderful (I admit it is possible, but I think less probable).
I've known too many folks, myself included, who were seriously let down smoking a cuban cigar. But then again, a lot of variables there too.


I totally agree. I have smoked some CC's that just were not on and borderline line dog rockets. You have to call them for what they are.

#8 jfields

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Posted 25 March 2012 - 03:02 PM

Nice one Dan!

One thing I think you should add in the brain paragraph is that ones mood can affect taste. I've had those stressful days at work or domestically that have made a "go to" cigar taste off.
I've also been at HERF's, having the time of my life in good company, thinking "this is the best cigar I have ever smoked", to never find that moment with the same vitola.

#9 MadMonk

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Posted 02 April 2012 - 08:00 PM

Nice one Dan!

One thing I think you should add in the brain paragraph is that ones mood can affect taste. I've had those stressful days at work or domestically that have made a "go to" cigar taste off.
I've also been at HERF's, having the time of my life in good company, thinking "this is the best cigar I have ever smoked", to never find that moment with the same vitola.


Just saw this John. Thanks for your positive and kind input. I'll have to edit my contemplative writeup to include this variable, as it can definitely be a major influence. I think I'll call it the Field effect! :D

Edited by MadMonk, 02 April 2012 - 08:00 PM.


#10 MadMonk

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Posted 22 February 2014 - 10:20 PM

I added something I wrote in a reply today. Seemed like a good fit, and I would like to keep them together for easier retrieval later.

 

Cheers!



#11 CRQuarto

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Posted 04 March 2014 - 03:30 PM

Getting a yearly bump is a good thing for this thread. I feel a lot of new (and even experienced) cigar smokers should read this. It's great advice and information from a man who knows his stuff. Thanks again for contributing to CP something that we all benefit from. We're fortunate to have folks like you on here.




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