Basic TastesThe human tongue is able to determine 4 basic tastes : sweet, salted, acid and bitter. That’s all ! The rest is a matter of flavor related to the sense of smell. When testing cigars, only sweetness, acidity and bitterness are concerned. A salted taste could be given by a chlorinated soil or fertilizer. In this case, the tobacco does not burn! If, by bad luck, there is a salted leaf in your cigar, you’ll feel promptly nauseous ! Any tobacco buyer knows that and avoids purchasing such a material.Taste and FlavorTaste is discerned on the tongue, flavors with the nose. Almost everybody is able to perceive the four basic tastes (sweet, salted, acid and bitter). Flavors are another matter. Few people are gifted for discerning and recognizing flavors. Often, one can feel a flavor and not be able to name it. It is also matter of memory. It is possible to improve the sense of smell by specific training.Discerning Flavors?Some “experts”, after having tested cigars, give a very esoteric description of their feelings. Do you often put your nose in a hare’s hair? Probably not, so forget it! Just remember the flavors you meet and like in the nature : fruits, forest, spices for example, it is enough to enjoy your smoke.3×8=6+8+10?Understand that a average rating is something tricky! Let’s imagine that 3 smokers are blind testing two cigars. The first cigar gets 3 times an 8 rating. The average is 8. The second cigar gets 6, 8 and 10. The average is 8 too. Are the cigars equivalent ?Is The Cigar Good Or Bad?Taste is a personal matter, and consequently, it is a subjective matter. As soon as a cigar is well constructed and can be smoked, everyone has the right to like it or not. A cigar you may like may not be enjoyable to others. You don’t need to convince anyone that you are right using fancy words! Just say ” I like it ” or ” I don’t like it “. It’ll show respect for other’s opinions. A bad cigar is the one that makes you and others sick because of green or badly processed tobacco.Be Humble!The blind smoking test is one of the best traps that human brain has invented! It is a very good way to learn humbleness!Testing ProcedureAs soon as one speaks of taste, it involves subjectivity. The name, the brand, the ring, the color, the appearance of the cigar are going to affect your appreciation. Even the meal you just ate before smoking! Do you drink coffee or Cognac while smoking? Be cautious and critical about published tests and ratings, as long as the procedure is not clearly disclosed!Formal or Casual?There are two ways to organize smoking tests. The first one (“scientific”) is to have all the smokers in the same place and keep them in the same environment for the smoking sessions. They receive a list of criteria to analyze and a form to quote their evaluation. In this case, external factors are minimized. You can make a statistical calculation and say what characteristic is significantly present in the cigar. The other way (“casual”) is to have people in different places, smoking by themselves in their usual environment. As external factors are various and numerous, it is not possible to make any objective calculation and you just get tendencies, which are very helpful sometimes if you have to choose between two prototypes for a new product. But in both cases, if it is not a blind test, it is not valid.Words and MeaningsTo organize a “scientific” smoking panel, it is very important to be sure that all members speak the same language and put the same meaning behind the words. That may seem simple but it is not! You have to split the problem into small parts and train people using examples for each of these parts.How Do I Light The Cigar?To light your cigar, avoid gasoline lighters and sulfur matches which will give a bad taste. Do not heat the head too much, just a few puffs will do. If your cigar is well constructed, after a while the burning line should become even.Should I Remove The Label?Etiquette says that you should remove the band from the cigar before smoking it, but most people smoke with the band on, and that does not affect the taste! If you choose to remove the band, do it carefully. Check that the glue has not spread out on the wrapper, or it could be torn when removing the band. If in doubt, keep the band and enjoy your smoke.Does A Meal Affect The Taste Of A Cigar?We have noticed that smokers have a different perception of the same cigar depending on what they’ve eaten before smoking. A few years ago, I organized blind tests with a group, always the same people in the same room. The sessions were held just after lunch for everybody. Smoking again the same cigar at intervals, statistically, we noticed deviations in the results. Other external factors may have influenced our smokers, but it is very difficult to say.How To Recognize The Taste And Type Of A Cigar?You need to have accurate senses of taste and smell, and a very good memory. Some tobaccos have a very typical taste or aroma that you can memorize easily. Others are more difficult to identify and you need to train yourself longer. In fact, the first step is to smoke cigars made 100% with one single type of tobacco to grasp its own characteristics. After that, as cigars are a blend of different tobaccos, it becomes much more complex to detect each of the components. In 35 years, I have met only one guy who is able to do so (it’s not me!). But the dominant tobacco in a blend is much easier to identify if you have had the opportunity to smoke these monotype cigars.