Cigar experts. Cigar magazines. Cigar ratings. Cigar expert wanna-be’s seem to be everywhere.
When reading cigar magazines, descriptive terms such as: leathery, spicy, herbal, woody, metallic, etc. have been used to describe taste or flavors. Taste is subjective. What is ‘herbal’ could be young or green to another.
The reality is that there are only 4 considerations in judging cigars.
1) Construction. How well the cigar is made. Does it fall apart? Are there soft or hard spots in the body of the cigar? Are all the cigars from the same box the same length and diameter? How does it draw. The draw is directly related to the manufacturing and final conditioning of the cigar.
2) Degree of conditioning. All cigars should be conditioned prior to smoking. Conditioning takes from 10 months to several years. When obtaining cigars from a local tobacconist, the cigars are usually dry. Even though they may be in a humidified room. A dry cigar will bum rapidly, taste hot or harsh and not be able offer the smoker any idea of what that same cigar could offer, if properly conditioned.
Conditioning and Relative Humidity
Conditioning is performed by placing cigars in a humidor that is maintained between 68ºF – 75ºF, at a constant relative humidity (RH) of 70%-74%. 70% RH is the absolute lowest to keep cigars. 74% RH is the highest. Properly conditioned cigars will display an oily or silky wrapper. They will have an even feel throughout the entire body. There will be no hard places that restrict the draw.
Properly conditioning your cigars is an absolute MUST. Allow your cigars to deliver all their potential. A rich and rewarding smoking experience.
3) Taste or flavor. This is directly related to the leaves employed that make the cigar, and the level or degree of conditioning the finished cigar receives. When properly conditioned, the leaves that make up the entire cigar will marry. Like fine wines, cigars must be conditioned prior to consumption.
4) Effect. What effect does cigar have on the smoker? During the smoke, does the cigar build in taste, flavor, complexity and effect? Or does it simply give the same taste all the way through, and go nowhere? Does the cigar relax you? Or, after smoking, are you ready for another cigar? Some cigars offer a mild experience. While others present a dramatic effect of near physical debilitation.
Mood of the smoker and conditioning.
If the smoker is nervous they tend to puff faster and the cigar is consumed rapidly. As the smoker becomes relaxed, the rate of puffing slows. If the cigar is properly conditioned, the total weight of the cigar is about 14% moisture (maintained at 72% relative humidity). Then the cigar will bum slower, and taste richer. I.E. Relax. Enjoy a properly conditioned cigar.