Cigars 101

Cigar Finish: The Untold Story

Next comes the ritual of lighting the cigar. Each of us has our own method; some light quickly by puffing with a lit match, while others deliberately torch the foot before placing the cigar in his/her mouth. Some of us have a favorite lighter and others prefer matches.  Either way, the act of lighting is an important part of enjoying a cigar and is personal to every cigar smoker.

The act of smoking the cigar is also very personal with each of us having our own preferred method. Again, some consume quickly while others smoke more slowly, savoring every nuance of flavor. How much of the cigar we smoke is also a matter of preference. Some smoke it down until there is barely enough cigar to hold while others smoke only the first half. Regardless of how we smoke a cigar, the level of enjoyment is equal among all smokers. We all love our cigars.

What we remember…
In a term borrowed from wine connoisseurs, the “finish” refers to the flavors imparted on the palate after each puff (or sip), and it tells us a lot about the cigar we just smoked.  But to me, the flavors that remain after the cigar is completely consumed are even more telling, and where the finish is most obvious. As a newbie, when we first start smoking cigars the finish seems very strong. Our palates are not yet familiar with the flavors that cigar smoking imprints on our taste buds, making them hyper sensitive. However, the more cigars we smoke the more we become inured to this lingering flavor. Once we become familiar with cigar smoking, the finish becomes a natural extension of the cigar itself; i.e. we don’t differentiate between the cigar flavor and its finish. That is, until we hit a bad cigar. Then suddenly we are acutely aware of the sour, unpleasant, and dirty taste residing in our mouths. Sometimes a cigar will taste okay while smoking, but as it progresses, the sour finish will start to emerge.

Fortunately, today we cigar smokers are blessed with an abundance of great cigars. The industry has progressed to the point where an informed cigar smoker can go years without ever tasting a bad cigar. But when we do, either by having been given one or by taking a chance on an unknown brand, the impact of a bad finish is enough to ruin your whole day. Again, it’s not so much the cigar itself, but that nasty finish lingering on our palate, reminding us of the awful cigar we just snuffed out.  Sometimes it can turn us off to smoking cigars altogether. Luckily this feeling lasts only a couple of days, but it’s a very bad feeling. When something we love turns against us, it’s almost an act of betrayal. It’s enough to make us angry with the offending cigar maker.  I mean, how can a cigar company put out such a terrible product? Do they not know that their cigar tastes like sour dirt and burnt coffee? It’s a big mystery to me.

Sidebar: I recently met someone who said he quit smoking cigars because of the nasty taste they left in his mouth. I suggested he may have been smoking inferior cigars. He rebuffed this by saying he only smoked Cuban cigars and then bragged about the great deal he had gotten on Cohibas while in Spain. He was proud to have purchased them for only $5 per stick. I rest my case.

In conclusion…
In our discussions and reviews of cigars, little is mentioned about the finish. Yet this is the taste that stays with us long after the cigar is extinguished. Some exceptional cigars will leave a wonderful savory finish, reminding us of its quality. Others may have a finish that goes unnoticed, like the perfect soundtrack to a good movie. Either way, it is an underrated indicator of the quality of a cigar. It is time to give the finish its rightful recognition; to bring it to the forefront of our cigar discussions. After all, it is the finish that tells us how a cigar tastes, and how we remember cigars is largely due to this overlooked element of cigar flavor.


This article originally appeared on February 19. 2011, and has been reposted by permission of the author. Copyright © 2011 | Robustojoe: Online Cigar Magazine. All rights reserved.

Gary Korb

Gary Korb

Executive Editor

Gary Korb has been writing and editing content for since its debut in 2008. An avid cigar smoker for over 30 years, during the past 12 years he has worked on the marketing side of the premium cigar business as a Sr. Copywriter, blogger, and cigar reviewer. A graduate of the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, prior to his career in the cigar business, Gary worked in the music and video industry as a marketer and a publicist.

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