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What do cigars taste like? Dissecting a flavorful experience

Man in pink suit smoking and enjoying what a cigar tastes like.
Mike Fox / Pexels

From the moment you clip the head of a cigar and place it on your lips, you’ll dive into a wonderful, palatable experience awash with ambrosial flavor. I enjoy cigars, I adore the experience, and I find pleasure in picking out the various notes and flavors that cross my tastebuds. But for someone who has never smoked before or doesn’t smoke often, it brings up the question, what do cigars taste like?

The aroma of a lit cigar might give a slight hint of the flavors it can produce, but the two senses are hardly equal. Depending on how you do it, you can pick up many more undertones as the smoke rolls across your tongue and — as is highly recommended — when you retrohale.

So, what exactly are those flavors? For someone considering trying a cigar, what do they taste like?

What does a cigar taste like? Well, it depends.

Close-up of a man smoking a cigar.
Genevieve Poblano / The Manual

The cigar blend determines many flavors you’ll taste, including the exterior wrapper, the fillers, and the binder. There are different types of each, all coming from separate locations, like Nicaragua versus Cuba. The wrapper makes up most of the flavor, while the other ingredients might embolden those flavors or add more. For instance, a Maduro cigar will taste different than a Connecticut or a Criollo.

Some common flavors are earthy tones, coffee, cocoa, or chocolate, floral zest, sweet and fruity, bitter, nuttiness, and even specifics like leather or apricot. Medium to full cigars also offer a spicy blast of pepper or heat.

The basic flavors like sour, sweet, salty, and bitter are all there, and you might interpret a flavor differently than someone else. That’s why cigar reviews sometimes mention picking up flavors that you don’t, or vice versa.

You should also know that if you plan to experiment with different cigars, you will probably find some flavors you don’t like, and that’s okay.

How you smoke also determines your experience

how to enjoy a cigar
Lutendo Malatji/EyeEm / Getty Images

Beginners might think you need to puff on a cigar constantly, drawing in as much smoke as possible, but that’s not the case. In fact, if you do that too often, the cigar will burn too hotly and may even create discomfort for your lips, tongue, or the rest of your mouth.

The proper method is to draw intermittently, every few minutes or so, leaving enough time between puffs for the cigar to cool a little. That ensures that the smoke isn’t burning your mouth or nasal cavity if you’re retrohaling, but cooler smoke also introduces much more flavor.

When you do draw the smoke into your mouth, let it flow naturally instead of sucking in a great amount. Moreover, you want to avoid inhaling cigar smoke at all costs. Not only will it make you cough and hurt your lungs, but it could also make you sick. I’ve seen a fair share of beginners even throw up after their first cigar because they inhaled too much — don’t treat it like any other type of tobacco. Also, pairing your cigars with a sweet beverage, like soda, liquor, beer, or even juice, is a good practice.

Most importantly, take your time. It’s not a race.

That’s precisely why smoking a cigar is described as a relaxing or laid-back experience. Put on a movie or show, some good tunes, or relax with friends and family and have an enlightening discussion. You shouldn’t have to nurse the cigar the entire time if it’s rolled well. The exception is when the weather is extreme, like too hot or cold, which could affect how a cigar burns.

Something else to remember is that storing your cigars appropriately is paramount to keeping them in good condition, which offers a more pleasant experience. Cigars that are too dry or humid burn hotter and faster and are less enjoyable. If you plan to store cigars for any extended period after purchasing them, get yourself a humidor and read a guide like our Cigar Humidor 101.

Letting your cigars dry out will also reduce and pretty much ruin the flavors. Once a cigar loses its natural oils, you can re-humidify it, but those flavors are gone with the wind.

If you decide to light up, you might also be curious when the right time to put out a cigar is — the guide will explain everything.

Flavorful cigars for a beginner

Casa de Montecristo black ashtray close up with Oliva lighter, JFR and Rare Leaf cigars
Briley Kenney / The Manual

While this is a great list to start with, don’t be afraid to experiment and try out new cigars or blends for yourself. You never know what you’re going to like until you try it.

  • — Medium strength
  • — Mellow to Medium strength
  • — Medium strength
  • — Medium to Full strength
  • — Medium strength
  • — Mild strength
  • — Mild to Medium strength
  • — Medium strength
  • — Medium to Full strength
  • — Medium strength

You can also discover some of my favorite smokes under $8, with a few additional options that you might enjoy.

Briley Kenney
Briley has been writing about consumer electronics and technology for over a decade. When he's not writing about deals for…
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