Ever smoke with someone who describes every little flavor nuance of a cigar while you are left wondering where all that flavor is? Or maybe it is the opposite for you. You light a cherry and get all excited by the flavor bomb that you’ve encountered only to discover your buddy who smoked the same stick simply didn’t get much out of it or when asked, his or her opinion is a simple “meh!”.
Our palates are complex and are physiologically designed in a way that we cannot change. But, the good news is we can improve our palates through understanding the complete picture of the tasting process. As I learned in nursing, it’s always smartest to know the anatomy first before we look at the process, so here goes!
Our hard and soft palates, tongues and inner cheeks are filled with taste buds; anywhere from 1000 to 10,000. There is no particular rhyme or reason as to who gets how many but the truth of the matter is that it can affect our sensitivity to taste.
In reality we have discovered that these tastes may be sensed all over the tongue but the most acute area of that particular flavor sensitivity does exist.
So that’s the two second anatomy lesson about your mouth and more than likely doesn’t teach you anything you might not already know! However, flavor doesn’t stop there! Remember I said taste and flavor are complex so not only are the taste buds involved in the process but our smell is highly instrumental in partnering with the palate to provide us our own personal perception of flavor.
Remember the last time you had a nasty cold and couldn’t breath or smell anything? How’d that food taste then? Like a blah piece of nothing if I’m not mistaken. For those of you who haven’t had the privilege of suffering through allergies, colds or some other form of “nose plugging” simply pinch your nose shut while eating and see how much you enjoy that favorite dish now!!
Basically, one with out the other just doesn’t work in flavor land!! The palate and the olfactory senses are the dynamic duo of taste and flavor. Personally, I do believe sight plays into it also, but not nearly in the same way. Sometimes looking at an unappealing dish can prevent us from trying something that could be astounding to our flavor senses. I will get back to good old eyesight a bit later in my flavor rant!
So, here’s what it basically comes down to; If you are a man you may not have as many taste buds as a woman, which decreases your ability to differentiate flavor. In addition to that women tend to be more sensitive to smell which then translates into a stronger taste partnership between the buds and the nose. If you are one of the people whose number of taste buds are on the extreme spectrums, you either can’t taste sh*# or you taste the littlest nuance in everything your mouth encounters! More than likely though you are just an average Joe or Jane like me and enjoy many cigars for the flavors that they exude but you might long to taste just a little bit more. Taste envy – it does exist brothers and sisters, ha, ha!!! Nothing like smoking with your buds and boldly stating how creamy, nutty and leathery a cigar tastes to then have your well endowed taste bud friend pipe up to ask, “anyone get that little bit of grass or citrus flavor mixed in with the almond taste?” (notice the “nutty” has now been defined…..).
There are several ways to settle the score for yourself.
Number One: As the ridiculously over-played Disney song says – “Let it Go!” If you are truly enjoying your smoke and are in a sweet place of heaven with your creamy, nutty and leather flavors don’t take away from that enjoyment by trying to reach for more! This just might be where your palate is and how your palate tastes. Even if your compadre is a taste legend, you need to just enjoy the cigar for what it brings to you.
Number Two: Realize that there are a multitude of reasons why consistent brands and sticks vary. How long has it been in your humidor? What is the vitola and is it very different from the originally designed size of cigar that has the right balance of filler, binder and wrapper? If you really think the stick deserves some more chances than explore different sizes and give them some time to rest and relax in that gorgeous humidor of yours! I always believe you should not make a decision about a cigar until you have smoked a few. Some people say 2, I tend to say 4; although I have had the occasional “dirt” cigar that I just couldn’t get near again to give it the benefit of the doubt………yes, you know what I mean!
Number Three: Work on developing your palate. Have you been smoking cigars long? You man have an immature palate and although you can’t change the number of predetermined taste buds hanging out in your mouth, you can find ways to increase your smell and taste awareness. Start with food and do some basic exercises that can help you zone in on flavors. Use very clearly defined items such as sugar, salt, lemon, etc. Really pay attention to how you “taste” them and what you enjoy or don’t like. Remember that eyesight comment earlier? Get a friend or partner to cover your eyes and then do some taste tests. Use only smell and taste to really zone in on what you are tasting and how you like it. A large part of taste involves awareness. When’s the last time you sat down to eat or have a cigar and didn’t have the TV on or were checking e-mails and texts, or had to keep an eye on the kids. To develop your palate you want to take time with no distractions. Also, we are usually stressing about schedules and rushing around to get things done. Did you know we increase our flavor senses by 30 – 40 percent when we slow down and take the time to breathe deeply and relax. Remember…….that nose which is connected to our respiratory system is a heavy hitter in the taste department.
Number Four: Keep your palate guessing! Variety and change in smoking schedules can clear and cleanse your palate. I recently attended a cigar event and had a great time socializing and smoking a variety of sticks. However, as I like to say, I smoked my brains out and in two days smoked 12 cigars. Now for me that is overload but it happens and I need those times believe it or not! When I got home I did what I like to call a cigar cleanse. I smoked half a cigar on Sunday and one cigar on Monday and Tuesday. In between I drank a lot of water and when I did finally light up a Liga Privada Undercrown on Wednesday, I tasted all the little nuances that I hadn’t paid attention to in a long while. When I do this it reminds me why I need to cleanse and renew my palate. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed each and every one of those 12 sticks I smoked and made some good memories associated with smoking some great cigars with some great people. Like a great relationship or marriage; we sometimes need to stop and take time to re-connect with all the qualities and passion that originally brought us together.
For me it always comes back to the spiritual reasons I smoke cigars. The experience of a clean palate ready to take whatever a cigar will give me. Just the two of us in that moment joined by my need to inhale and exhale all the spices, leather, earth, cedar and plethora of joy a particular cigar was created to bring me. It is my peace, my sanity and my call to come back to center. All else is forgotten and I am one with my cigar.