By: Tim Blythe
Open up any cigar publication with rankings and reviews, and you’ll notice most of the top-rated blends are full-bodied, yet the majority of the top-selling brands are mellow to medium. What explains this anomaly? One theory is that many cigar enthusiasts consider themselves “subtle smokers” and would never considering lighting up — let alone purchase — something full to try. While I generally empathize with this line of thinking (most days I gravitate towards mellow to medium-bodied blends myself), frankly full-bodied deniers are selling themselves short. I’m a firm believer in the old adage “there’s a time and a place for everything,” and there’s certainly situations where a full-bodied blend is best. Now I know you’re probably thinking, “But I only like mellow cigars.” Ask yourself why that is. Is it the flavor, or the lack of spiciness? Do you dislike the feeling some stronger cigars can cause? There are reasons, and reactions, for both that can completely change your experience.
If you enjoy a large, fatty, flavorful meal first (before the full-bodied cigar), the strength and any discernable spiciness will better cut through the existing taste sensations already on your palate. Which, in turn, will help mute some of the cigar’s intensity. Making sure the meal is filled with fatty foods is also key, as fat is not only delicious on its own, but it attaches to your palate in a way that enhances the cigar experience. Similar to the way a fine wine, port, or whisky opens up the flavor of a cigar, a choice cut of steak or a perfectly baked salmon filet can make all the difference in the world.
The large meal will not only help bring out the nuances of the cigar, but it is also crucial to ensuring an enjoyable experience. Having a full stomach helps temper a strong blend’s power, making it a much more relaxing time overall. Even simply snacking on some dark chocolate or dried fruit during your session will do the trick.
So before you swear off full-bodied blends, remember that if you prepare your palate and body with a hearty meal beforehand, chances are you’ll find the stronger cigars that are dominating the industry’s ratings and best-of lists can be thoroughly enjoyable, and may open your mind and palate to a world of flavors you didn’t know existed.