Cigar Ratings & Reviews

The Great Flavor Profile Debate

Reading Time: 3 minutes


Let me just put this on the table right now, out in the open for all to clearly see… Tasting, rating and discussing a cigar’s flavor profile is a VERY subjective thing. Okay, I could actually end this piece right here, but I’m paid to entertain and pass forth knowledge so, I guess I’ll keep it going for a bit.

Here’s the reality, like with everything else in life… what I like, you might dislike, what taste good to me, might not to you, what’s mild for my palate may be strong as balls to you. But then again, you could actually agree with my findings in a cigar’s flavor profile and the world is a happy place. So, when we cigar reviewer types give you our “opinions”, realize that they are based on our own experiences and all we’re trying to do is guide you so that you can decide whether to give a cigar a try. Well, at least that’s what I do.

Cigar Aficionado douche
Witness the Elitist Tobacco Snob in his natural habitat. Don’t get sucked in – taste is subjective, and it all comes down to YOUR senses.


Because face it, for years there have been certain self proclaimed puro pundits who want you to believe that they can indeed taste a range of flavors in a rolled up tobacco stick that mimic the contents of a Thanksgiving smorgasbord. These bloviating turds with a keyboard will gratify their self importance by enlightening us commoners with a cornucopia of tastes that have every “real” cigar lover crying BULLSQUAT! You’ll hear them talk of essence of braised lamb shank, cinnamon encrusted tapioca, orange zest, Mediterranean spice, and Civet coffee, you know, the exotic java made from the beans that have been extracted from animal scats (yes, it exists, Google the damned thing if you don’t believe me). After all these years, these egomaniacs are still at it and I’m not sure who they think is buying their drivel.


So, I think its best to break down a cigar’s flavor profile in the simplest of terms. First off, a stogie is either going to be mild, medium, or full bodied, or a cross over into a couple of areas, i.e.; mild to medium or medium to full. Now as far as actually tasting different elements in your cigar, well, when someone says a Liga Undercrown has hints of leather, it doesn’t mean that Jonathan Drew ground up a bunch of old wallets and tossed them into the tobacco. It’s basically referring to what reminds the reviewer of a smell or a taste they can associate with. Blending and aging different types of tobaccos together does indeed create certain “basic” flavors we can all generally associate with such as coffee bean, cedar or wood, chocolate, pepper, and even herbal and floral notes. The more you smoke cigars over time, you will indeed begin to develop a sense of some of these flavors. Now as far as Bavarian pfeffernusse, which I actually read in a hoity-toity magazine’s review, well, I guess I’ll stick with BULLSQUAT for now.

Civet coffee kopi luwak
Some cigar reviewers’ tastes are just a little too refined for us. Coffee brewed from the poop of wild cats? No thanks…

To explain it as basic as possible, when we eat or drink, our taste buds detect things like sweet and sour, bitter and spice, acidic and saltiness. So when we taste a cigar, those things become present to our senses and we associate them with flavors or smells we’re familiar with. Much like a seasoned wine drinker who can detect certain fruits, berries and floral components, over time, we cigar smokers will enjoy the nuances that a good cigar can deliver. And lastly, when we speak of a cigar being complex, that’s basically when a more seasoned palate can not only get a sense of the different flavors going on, but also experience how the strength, body and the flavors in that cigar are actually developing and changing as we’re smoking it.

Hopefully, this sheds a little light on the so-called flavor profile debate – and, as I said, these are just my opinions… but, hey, who are you gonna trust, a bunch of horn blowing elitists who claim to taste the pre-digested coffee beans of a 4-legged mammal in their cigars… or, your very own God-given senses? You know the answer.

Pfeffernusse?… please.

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How to Recommend Cigars to Others - Cigar Advisor
8 years ago

[…] far as the flavor notes, well I made it pretty clear in my previous article The Flavor Profile Debate that there are definitely basic things you’ll get the taste of, and organically cultivated […]

Eric Schauer
8 years ago

Great write up, Zman. I usually shy away from anything described as “earthy” because I assume it will taste like dirt. Best reviews, IMO, are the ones that simply tell me if it pairs well with a good steak or my favorite scotch.

Kelly Wazney
8 years ago

When Starbucks initially expanded from the west coast I had my first cup of coffee, I thought it was awful, just couldn’t understand why anyone would drink it. With the popularity of the brand you could not help but going back in with friends. I had another cup, it was incredible. I finally realized that there really was no Starbucks coffee, they brew different beans daily or weekly. The franchise was expanding quickly, people were discussing it. What had been found was that only 15% of coffee drinkers who tried their coffee liked it. The other 85% thought it was awful. What they also found was that the 15% would drive miles for a cup of the $1.50 a cup of coffee, the 85% would be happy and satisfied with a home brew or a cup from the local gas station.
Tasting is a science that is controlled by how many taste buds per square inch you have on your tongue. Lots of taste buds defines what is described as a Super Taster.
I agree, the amount of horseshit terminology used to describe a good cigar or a dry red wine for that matter pretty much means that they don’t have a clue. To say that a cigar has a rich, complex pleasant flavor that is either mild, medium or bold would be more than adequate for this individual to make a decision.
I read an article about 15 years ago. A scientist went to a mall and set up a stand. She would stop people and tell them they had created a new flavor and were searching for opinions and impressions of the new flavor. Each person was handed a small piece of paper which had been treated with the flavor. Each individual was instructed to place the paper on their tongue and suck on it. They would then be asked to describe the flavor. Some said strawberry, others banana, pineapple, banana, watermelon and some would say they tasted nothing. Some would spit it out in their hand and look for something to clear the horrid taste from their mouth, these were the Supertasters.
Clearly it would seem that the taste profile of the reviewer would have a direct effect on what they would taste and describe.

Kev Roc
8 years ago

Someone wanna help me get Juan Valdez outta my litter box?

Jeffrey R. Bryan
8 years ago

My categorizations have always been simple:
A) A great, complex smoke
B) A good simple smoke
C) A budget “yardgar”
D) A Kingsdford brickette
E) A total dog-rocket.

Chad Massaker
8 years ago

Amen. Wines suffers from the same issue

Dana MacDonald
8 years ago

Well said Z!

Martin Hox
8 years ago

thanks well said

Boston Jimmie
8 years ago

i agree and that is why we do honest cigar reviiews on explaining what we taste and how it burns and smells. We dont put numbers on a review either as that is subjective also.

Michael Erdman
8 years ago

Ratings are meaningless. Reviews are subjective. My palate changes due to what I have had to eat. drink etc. If I have a bad head cold, I stop smoking because I can’t taste anything at all. As for cigars, they tend to range from mild with some sweetness, creaminess or nuttiness to very bold with flavors of dark chocolate, espresso, lot’s of spice. That’s about it.

Amir Girgis
8 years ago

nicely put….

Joel Hoffman
8 years ago


Mike Shapiro
8 years ago

Thanks for this! Just smoke and enjoy.

Chris Chiarmonte
8 years ago

This review makes perfect sense. It smells of a ripe berry, out of a freshly douched vagina.

I know the smell exactly, from experience.

Good job Tommy.

Draugnar's Den
8 years ago

It’s funny but after 30 years of cigar and pipe smoking, I know what I like and what I don’t but all I can say of taste is sweet or spicy and harsh bite or smooth. And body means nothing to bite. I’ve had medium’ that were too harsh to my taste and full bodied cigars that were nice and smooth.

I know if it is a Cameroon or sun grown, I’ll likely enjoy it and if it has the name Rocky Patel, it’s only really good for lawnmowing where I need something to cut through the grass in the throat after two hours out on the back acreage.

Phillip Butler
8 years ago

Spot on.

Mark Gillhespy
8 years ago

My favorite was a review that said the cigar had the finish of gun metal? WTF does that taste like.

David Hearn
8 years ago

Personally I share your sentiments on the rather outlandish reviews that appear out there. However, if every review of a cigar focused solely on it being mild medium or full bodied it would certainly be doing a great disservice to the master blenders, the aging process, seed varietals, country of origin, etc. I am not claiming that I can detect a hint of sandalwood in a cigar but by being exposed to the occasional bloating turd does at least differentiate the cigar and perhaps lead to more of us contemplating the masterful and incredibly complex process that occurs for our benefit. I will never argue that certain flavors can legitimately be detected in a cigar. But I like that even if it is half bullshit I have something that already differentiates a cigar. I can tell you with 98% certainty that I could identify a Kellner blend, I am relatively sure I could tell an illusione, I believe Oliva’s have a fairly identifiable quality, Liga Privada especially T52, Anejo’s, anyway, without knowing a single flower, spice, wood, metal, or anything else there is more to these cigars than purely body, which you did acknowledge. I could go on for much longer because this topic has always interested me. When do you become experienced enough for your palate to be trusted? There is no universal taste testing system that I am aware of. Does everyone have water or nothing, retro hale each time or not, actually take time to focus on and observe the second hand smoke, how are they cutting the cigar, how often are they drawing, what humidity, did they dry box……..and on and on. Sorry to thread jack but you wrote an interesting and thought provoking article. Thanks

Michael Snowder
8 years ago

I screwed up started inhaling boys don’t inhale you lose your sense of taste good cigars just become raspy or soft don’t inhale

John C Kristiansen
8 years ago

Well.. we all know taste of coffe , chocolate, caramel, pepper , tones of ceder, nuts, spice, and smooth harsh charcoal burt, leather. These are caractetostics we destinct know about if they did not meen a thing they would not need their own name. But they are diferent and if i say i like coffe and you do to then we both knpw flavors of coffe. I like capuchino but you like americano. Ita a difference and we know. Based on this a review is not to ofend anyone but to guve guides and refrence to taste pallets. So if you cant taste the difference dont be offended by those who are lucky to do so vice versa.

David P Diaz
8 years ago

I was quite amused by your treatment of the topic.

Cisco Thomas
8 years ago

Zman the man #smokegood…great job read for the next article bro!

Steve Bellai
8 years ago

I’d much rather someone take the time to list out the details they are tasting than simply say ‘its really good”. I can really do with reviews that say nothing more than “I really like it” or “its got a great ash”. That said, I agree that actually scoring a cigar is too subjective but list what you’re tasting… More info is always welcome in my book.

Catch Mitt
4 years ago

Well, thanks, Zman, for NOT being a snob about it.Not only is whether one enjoys a cigar totally subjective, but WHY they like it (or not) is as well. As one new to the world of cigars, the reviews I like most are those in which the reviewer explains what he/she likes and doesn’t like and why, and they provide some subjective information about taste, etc, so over time, as my palate develops, I’ll be able to relate their descriptions to my own experience.
I’ve created a database in which I store information relevant to me as well as personal ratings of various aspects of cigars I try, but this is to help me narrow down what I like as I try different ones. Other than that numerical ratings mean very little.

Tommy Zman Zarzecki

Tommy Zman Zarzecki


Tommy Zman, is an obsessive enjoyer of life’s leafy pleasures. Growing up in the bowels of northern New Jersey, parented by an eccentric Polish father and a neurotic Italian mother, what else could this man possibly be other than a humorist? ZMan’s a real throwback to a time when men were kings of the castle and smoking a cigar in public didn’t label you an outcast and a pariah. He’s an old–school down to earth guy - but when it comes to p.c. tyranny and nanny-state legislature, he’ll draw his sword and swing for the fences. Tommy gathered a faithful following as a longtime feature writer at Cigar Magazine, and his testosterone laden FaceBook community, CROMAG NATION™ is truly the last great bastion for Men’s Men.

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