Cigar flavours and tasting notes: a complete guide

Smoking a cigar is a flavourful experience, but how do you ensure you get the most flavour impact from your smoking session? We’ve put together a complete guide on how to taste a cigar properly. 

Cigar flavours range from sweet and nutty to spicy and earthy. Many different flavoured cigar combinations compliment each other, for example an earthy, musty flavour note would pair well with a sweeter chocolate note. 

To enjoy cigar flavour notes properly, there are three main ways to consider when tasting: using your tongue, the smell and the finish. 

What is meant by cigar tasting notes?

Tasting notes are the smell and taste we experience when smoking a cigar. Together, these notes describe the overall taste and aroma of the cigar. Tasting notes describe a cigar’s aroma, taste and character and help smokers explain and choose their ideal cigar. Cigar smoking is a flavourful experience due to the many different cigar flavours. Cigars have several common flavours like spicy, sweet, earthy or nutty. In addition, each of these tasting notes has many different sub-flavours that describe the taste, aroma and character, like dark chocolate, black pepper or walnut. 

There are many different ways to enjoy the tasting notes of a cigar, even before you light it. A pre-lit cigar offers a different texture and smell experience compared to when it is being smoked. 

What are common cigar flavours?

Cigars have lots of different flavours as well as combinations of different flavours. Natural notes from a cigar often come through, while some will have more noticeable flavours such as earthy, nutty, spicy or sweet notes. In addition, many flavours can be paired together. 

Earthiness – an earthy cigar refers more to the scent than the flavour. For example, earthy notes could refer to the smell of grass, hay or mustiness. Paired with a sweet or spicy tasting note, these aromas can make a really good combination. 

Nutty – nutty flavours are mostly found in milder cigars. Nutty notes are often paired with spices like cinnamon or flavours like chocolate or coffee.

Spicy – many cigars have flavour notes of spices such as black pepper, cloves, cinnamon, anise and liquorice. These flavours have more bite than some sweeter notes and pair well with deeper flavours such as coffee, leather and wood. 

Sweet – sweet flavour notes are much more approachable than earthier, stronger flavours. Sweet cigars often have flavours such as cocoa, molasses and fruits, making them easier for beginners. 

How do you taste a cigar?

You taste a cigar in three different ways. The first is with your tongue when smoking. Your tongue picks up on the different flavour notes like bitter, sweet and savoury flavours. 

The smell of a cigar is another important part of tasting a cigar. Earthy notes often come across more in the scent than in the flavour of a cigar. The smell of a cigar is when you hold the smoke in your mouth, and the longer you hold it, the more aroma you can smell in your sinuses. To enhance this smell, there is a process called retrohaling. Retrohaling is when you hold cigar smoke in your mouth and inhale through your nose.

The final part of tasting a cigar is the finish. The finish of a cigar is the aftertaste that lingers in your mouth after you have exhaled. Flavours such as cocoa, coffee and liquorice linger for a longer time. 

From earthy notes like wood and grass to spices like cinnamon and black pepper, a cigar can pack a lot of flavours. Cigar flavours differ from brand to brand and can also be impacted by their strength. Beginners often prefer sweeter notes as they are more approachable, and seasoned smokers might prefer an earthier, spicier flavour palette.