Q & A: Refine Your Palate?
I've read cigar descriptions that said, “recommended for a refined palate." How do I refine my palate?
8/07/13 | by SG of Boise, ID
First, refining your palate takes a lot of time. It isn't something that just happens in one day. Your first steps should be to burn through an incredibly wide variety of cigars, even cigars you know you don't enjoy or cigars you think you won't enjoy based on preconceived notions. As you puff on your cigars, thoroughly focus on the experience and draw them slowly and deliberately. Don't just draw the smoke into your palate and exhale, but hold the smoke in your mouth, swirl it around, chew it, and pay attention to how it affects your tongue, not what it tastes like. Don't worry about tasting "hints of cocoa, espresso, or earth." Focus on noticing if the smoke seems sweet, salty, or acidic. Does it burn or tickle your throat? Is the smoke thick or light? Does it make your eyes water when cycling through your nostrils? Is it spicy? How would you imagine it tastes after years of proper aging? If you think about those sorts of questions, then finding the "flavors" described in reviews you read will come with ease as your brain will associate those sweet, acidic, salty nuances with foods you're familiar with. Believe it or not, when a "cigar offers hints of cocoa," it doesn't really taste like cocoa. That's an association your brain makes.
Review: General Grant
Great For The Price
For an inexpensive handmade, General Grant does the job. Don't expect a well-balanced, super-premium character here. Instead, you'll be met with complexity, some sweetness, but mostly a gritty earthiness that is far from refined. And this is a good thing. For being rolled freehand without the use of molds, the construction holds up and the cigar burns quite nicely. The blend does present some changes in flavor and leaves behind a medium finish with quite a rich aftertaste. In our opinion, for the price, this is a good corona for those who prefer the gritty, real taste of tobacco.
Article: My Aging Vault
For many aficionados, including myself, the most enjoyable aspect of being a cigar enthusiast is maintaining a well-aged cigar collection. There is nothing more satisfying than revisiting a favorite blend you set aside for years, remembering its original characteristics, and experiencing its improvement over time. And more so, the amount of satisfaction you gain from realizing you properly aged your cigars is beyond words, especially when you hand one of your prized sticks to a fellow enthusiast who then praises your efforts. I love to age cigars because when I light up a cigar I haven’t experienced in a long while, it reminds me of special occasions, specific people, and other fond memories from the day or place where I first encountered the blend. Plus, they taste better with age. So, if you’ve been toying around with the idea of aging cigars but simply haven’t done it yet, here’s some advice to get you in the saddle.
In addition to my main humidor, I maintain a secondary humidor strictly for aging. Why? For one, I don’t want my friends coming over and helping themselves to my prized, aging blends. Secondly, when aging cigars, you don’t want to disturb their environment often. Having a second humidor strictly for aging means you can rest your cigars inside, set the proper humidity, and not have to worry about disrupting the aging process when you’re in the mood for your favorite blend; you’re everyday blends will be maintained in your other humidor. For my aging humidor, I picked one made of solid Spanish cedar wood because I enjoy a cedar aroma, so I want my cigars to not only marry each other, but to also take on the nuances from the cedar. This is a personal preference, of course, so you don’t necessarily need a cedar-lined humidor, but your aging humidor should be made of wood – not plastic or metal.
Now that you set aside a secondary humidor for aging, what do you do? First, season your humidor like you would any other humidor. Once seasoned, determine if you want to age your cigars in cellophane or not. Personally, I age my cigars naked so they really absorb all of the characteristics of my other cigars and take on nuances from the Spanish cedar. But it’s up to you. Cellophane won’t hinder the aging process, but it will slow it down. I know many enthusiasts who age their cigars in cellophane but they push the feet of their cigars out of the cello to ensure the cigar is properly exposed to the environment. Once you make your decision, place your cigars inside your humidor and make sure your humidity levels are at a steady 64% to 67%. If you have a humidor big enough to store full cigar boxes, you can simply put the whole box of cigars in your humidor – like cellophane, cigar boxes won’t hinder the process.
Next, you need to ask yourself, “How long do I age my cigars and how do I maintain them over a long period of time.” You should age your prized cigars for at least eight months to one year for optimal effect. However, you can age your cigars for even longer. If you think it may be difficult to age a cigar for a year, imagine aging them for over 100 years. Yes, it is possible and some aficionados have cigar collections they’ve been aging for centuries – cigars that have been passed down from generation to generation. In fact, you can visit our one and only Cigar.com Luxury Collection online, where we showcase cigars rolled as early as 1868, all properly aged since their inception and still in perfect, smokable condition. In order to maintain your aging cigars over a long period of time, it is important to rotate them every three months. Take the cigars on the bottom of the humidor and put them on the top and vice versa. You want to make sure every cigar evenly marries each other in addition to receiving an even distribution of humidity. You can’t achieve this goal without rotation. In addition, you should give each stick a gentle massage before returning it to your humidor. Massaging the cigar by gently squeezing it from head to foot will help loosen and redistribute the tobaccos, ensuring every part of your cigar is actively aging. You’ll also be able to tell if the cigars need more or less humidity by the way they feel. Finally, you’ll want to check the humidity on a monthly basis and make sure your cigars are in a 64% to 67% humid environment with little fluctuation.
Keep in mind, there are a few things to consider when choosing which cigars to age. Not all cigars are ideal for long-term aging, but you can still age any cigars you prefer. The best cigars to age are stronger, more complex blends as they have more potential for flavor due to the amount of different types of tobaccos used to create them. Mellower cigars age well but may lose a lot of their flavor during long term aging, becoming too refined. At the end of the day, it’s all up to your personal preferences. Personally, I age similar blends together; I age my Connecticuts with other Connecticuts, maduros with maduros, and habanos with habanos, etc. I also date my boxes or humidors and keep a spreadsheet with my rotation schedule. Aging cigars properly does take some time and effort, but the end result leaves you with a rewarding experience which words can’t define.