Keys to detect the notes in a cigar

When smoking a cigar, we can detect through our mouth four basic flavors—sweet, salty, acid and bitter—which leaves out the last flavor discovered, the umami. On the other hand, smell can identify up to 10,000 notes, according to our Master Blender, Manuel Inoa. “We must learn how to use our nose with the cigars. This is the only way to determine which cigar pleases us,” he says.

In this regard, Inoa points out that the notes in a cigar evoke memories of the past. “Notes are feelings from the past, things that bring us memories,” says Manuel Inoa.

Specifically, he explains that through our smell, we can detect notes:

  • Earthy: dry ground, wet ground.
  • Herbal: freshly cut green grass, dry hay, mint, basil, oregano, eucalyptus.
  • Fiery: white and black peppercorn, red peppers, chilies.
  • Spicy: nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, paprika, curry, ginger and anise.
  • Sugary: caramel, molasses and brown sugar.

Let’s listen to a few words of advice from the master in one of his classes:

The cigar evolves with the smoke

In any case, the cigar—in order to be a good one—must change gradually, evoking distinct notes throughout the smoke. “To be good, a cigar must be dynamic,” underlines the Master Blender of La Aurora. “A cigar that always tells us the same things is a dull cigar. That doesn’t make you happy,” he says. And he adds that cigars never develop their notes at the beginning, middle or end—the notes gradually change. “The best is always last,” he claims.

We you start smoking, there are a few key aspects that will allow you to detect the notes and aromas of the cigar, which are:

  • Cutting the cigar at the cap using a cigar cutter that cuts it precisely and evenly. Inoa doesn’t recommend other types of cuts, like the V-shaped cut and the punch cut, because he believes these don’t allow us to perceive the aromas. “To perceive a cigar’s notes, the air must flow freely,” Manuel Inoa advises.
  • When lighting it, the Master Blender doesn’t recommend gasoline lighters because the smell of fuel penetrates the cigar and changes its own notes. However, he points out that there are different ways of lighting a cigar that allow for enriching it. “There are those who love wooden notes. For them, the market offers cedar spills that are lit, and then used to light the cigar in order to impregnate it with these wooden notes,” he adds.
  • It’s important not to light the cigar before cutting it. “The flame heat remains inside it. We must let the cigar breathe, evolve. Many people try it cold, because there are notes that give you an idea of what that cigar has to say,” Manuel Inoa tells us.
  • The cigar can be enjoyed accompanied by a drink that enhances its notes, like rum, whisky, wine or even beer. “They serve as vehicles to enhance flavors,” says the Master Blender of La Aurora.
  • It’s important to realize that the cigar wrapper plays an important role in the smoke. “Its presence will be greater or smaller depending on the filler’s intensity,” Inoa explains.
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