Tasting a premium cigar

Q. How do the taste buds distinguish the different tobacco flavors in cigars?
A. The best way to answer this question is by referring to one of the daily emails I received a couple of months ago from www.reference.com, which specifically addressed how human taste buds work in their “Fact of the Day: taste.”

Your tongue can detect only four basic tastes: sweet, salty, sour, and bitter. The tongue is divided into different taste areas, each containing taste buds that are sensitive to one of these tastes. There are over 10,000 microscopic taste buds on the tongue and these are located on or between tiny projections called papillae. Each taste bud contains a cluster of taste cells. When food is chewed, chemicals dissolve in saliva and go into the pores. The chemicals stimulate taste hairs and these send impulses along nerve fibers to the brain’s taste areas where the impulses are interpreted. The life span of a taste bud is only 7-14 days.

A few years ago our Davidoff Cigar Sales Rep held a tobacco tasting session in our conference room in which we were all given four unbanded cigars. You weren’t supposed to smoke the entire cigar. Just enough to whet the tastebuds.

The first cigar consisted of all Ligero tobaccos, the strongest tasting leaves found at the top of the plant. The flavor is detected at the back of the throat. The second was rolled entirely of Seco leaves, from the middle of the plant. These leaves are more medium in strength and also very flavorful. The taste buds pick up their flavor in the center and sides of the mouth. The third cigar was comprised of all Volado leaves, which are found at the bottom of the plant. They are lighest in color, texture, strength, and often sweeter in flavor. This leaf is picked up by the taste buds on the front of the tongue.

The final cigar was a blend of all three leaves with a Connecticut wrapper. The point being that when all four leaves are blended well, the cigar imparts flavors to all parts of the mouth. If the vintage and aging of the leaves is good, so much the better. If I remember correctly, I think the final cigar was a Davidoff Special ‘R,’ and fortunately, we were able to enjoy the rest of it.

One final note: If you have a cigar in which the wrapper is cracked or peeling off at the foot, don’t toss it, Instead, try this experiment: Unravel it about a third of the way up the cigar. You’ll notice a big difference in the flavor. When you get to where the wrapper begins again, the flavor should improve significantly, since the wrapper provides anywhere from 20 to 60% of a premium cigar’s flavor.