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Old 09-11-2005, 10:26 AM   #1
jazznut
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What do your tastebuds taste?

WHAT DO YOUR TASTEBUDS TASTE?

One Saturday afternoon, a true aficionado of all leaves Cuban and I kicked back in the lounge of La Casa del Habano and talked about – what else – memorable cigars. My friend worked his way through a Dunhill Cabinetta and diet soft drink, while I opted for a Montecristo Robusto and Late Bottled Vintage Port. It soon dawned on me how closely the way we recounted our smoking pleasure mirrored the manner in which we expressed appreciation for food and drink. What’s more, the descriptive thread binding these areas of aroma and flavor experience seemed entirely natural – to the two of us, at least.

Now, there is a school of thought that deems such an approach over-the-top. “Tobacco is just tobacco,” many proponents of this view maintain, “and alluding to other substances in order to convey the style of a cigar doesn’t make any sense.” Purists often poke fun at anyone who dares portray a cigar as smelling or tasting of foodstuffs. “I mean, you’re smoking the darn thing, not eating it,” they insist. Despite the odd fragment of filler having occasionally slipped down my throat, I accept the physical aspect of this philosophy. When it comes to sensory matters, though, I’m not so sure.

The cigar bug bit me long after I discovered the pleasures of culinary creativity, beer, wine and liquor – what better rationalization for my finding non-tobacco aromas and flavors in a cigar? Yet I’m convinced this sort of cross-category impressionism can bear fruit when relating to others how a wrapped bunch of rolled leaves strikes us.

A not-so-strange logic lies behind equating characteristics of cured tobacco with those of food and drink. All three draw elements from climate, soil and water. If Tuscan olive oil tastes of Italian hillsides, Scotch whisky of the moors and shores of Scotland, and Médoc wine of the Gironde, do not Cohiba and Fuente taste unmistakably of their respective regions? I know I derive much satisfaction from an artisanal product that reflects its place of origin on nose and palate.

In the case of cigars, beers, wines, liquors and some foods, we can add fermentation and aging to environmental factors. Vegetation is vegetation, after all – no matter the extracted or otherwise manipulated form, or the method we use to discern its fragrance and flavor.

“But how,” you ask, “can a cigar possibly smell or taste of coffee, cream, cardamon or compost?” The short answer is that it can’t – exactly. However, this is not to say that a blend of tobacco leaves might not evoke such sensory images, and often with eery similarity. Clearly, an associative process drawing upon a range of aromatic and gustatory experiences is at work here. And if this subjective analysis helps you and I to get a better grip on the flavor profile of a cigar, then something positive has been achieved.

By the way, how do they get the Caramilk inside of those Hoyo de Monterrey Double Coronas?
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