There is something about the mere aroma of a cigar that evokes feelings of happiness and fond memories. For me, smelling a cigar immediately makes me think about growing up; coming outside to find my dad smoking his favorite cigar on our front porch. Then I think about some of my happiest moments in life, most of which were accompanied by one of my favorite blends. When I light up a cigar I haven’t burned in a while, it has the uncanny ability to immediately take me back in time. With just one whiff of its sweet aroma, I recall where I was the last time I enjoyed it, who I was with, and what I was doing. This is not a coincidence. Our sense of smell and our memories are scientifically connected, very intertwined. While we use all of our five senses as part of the cigar experience, the two most important are the chemical senses, specifically smell and taste which together establish ‘flavor.” So how does it work?
Anything that releases volatile molecules will have an aroma or smell. These molecules enter nostrils where they meet a patch of neurons at the top of the nasal passage, which have hair-like structures called cilia. The molecules then bind to the cilia, creating a perceived smell called an olfactory sensation. The olfactory bulb is part of the limbic system, which is the area of the brain associated with memory and feelings. When you smell something for the first time, your brain immediately links it to an event, environment, person or whatever is going on at that time, particularly if it is significant. Ever get bad food poisoning and then consciously or unconsciously avoid that same food for a long period of time? It is the sense of smell that triggers those unhappy memories and feelings that force you to avoid it. The same principles apply to appealing smells and good feelings such as the aroma and experience of enjoying a premium cigar. It is also easy for many smells to bring back memories all the way from childhood, since childhood is when we experienced many smells for the first time, which we recall later in life.
What will you think of and remember the next time you walk into a humidor or light up your favorite smoke? A cigar truly isn’t just a cigar.