Tips For Pairing Chocolates And Cigars

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Cigar Bar Supernova 5/16/2009

Cigar Bar Supernova 5/16/2009 (Photo credit: osaka.synaesthesia)

Pairing cigars with chocolate can be a pleasurable and senses-enlightening experience, however, the process by which each is enjoyed demands its own analysis.

I’ll walk you through my ritual of enjoying cigars, and draw comparisons  to enjoying fine chocolates.

Sight

Is the cigar well-constructed? Are there any blemishes on the wrapper? Are there any large veins? What color is the wrapper and is it oily or dry? Is the cigar a torpedo, perfecto, pyramid, or other shape? What does the band look like, and how many (Sometimes there are multiple bands on a cigar)? Does the filler appear to be tightly packed or loose? Also, what ring gauge size is the cigar? Do I need a guillotine cut, V-cut, punch, or scissor cut on the cap?

Preparing to taste chocolate can be approached the same way. What color is the chocolate? Does it have a shine or is it dull? Smooth, or pitted? Is it wrapped? If so, was it by hand or roughed up by a machine?

Touch

Generally, when I unwrap a cigar from its cellophane or cedar sleeve, I’ll immediately note the weight. Does the cigar feel heavier than others of the same size? Are there soft, spongy areas anywhere? Does the wrapper stain my fingers? I suppose I’ll add the “draw” into the touch category also. When I draw air through the cigar, is it “tight” or “loose”? Does the smoke coat my palate with a thick blanket of creamy smoke, or does it simply fade quickly? Does it burn too hot?

Touch can certainly be considered a worthy component of the chocolate tasting experience. Does the chocolate melt in my fingers? Is it smooth to the touch or does it have a rough texture? Does it feel dense in weight? Perhaps mouth feel can play a part here too. Creamy, thick, or thin?

Smell

One of my favorite parts of the cigar smoking ritual is in the scent. I was drawn to the cigar smoking lifestyle by the smell itself. Unlit, cigars can be as unique as their  distinct flavor profile. Some smell like a hay barn, some smell sweet and nutty, and some don’t have a particular scent at all. Lit, a cigar can be as unique as a fingerprint! Is the aroma pleasing, pungent, or weak? Does it change as it burns further?

A cold piece of chocolate typically has very little scent. As it warms up, what do you notice? Note the aromatics. How intense is it? Is it sweet or earthy? Perhaps toasty with hints of malt, or even coffee. Can you pick out some of the ingredients?

Taste

When I smoked my first cigar, I could taste smoke and sweet tobacco. I will always remember it not being a wonderfully pleasing experience. Many cigars later, my palate can pick out exact flavors! Is it vegetal or woodsy? Sweet or pungent (ammonia build-up)? Does the finish linger or does it leave the palate quickly? Does the cigar change flavor profiles as it is smoked? Do you taste specific types of tobacco (ie Connecticut wrapper, Nicaraguan filler, Dominican binder)?

Tasting chocolate is my favorite part of the entire process, obviously! Does the chocolate have a buttery taste, or bitter? Does the sugar component overpower the cocoa bean itself? What about aftertaste? Is the finish lingering or does it vanish after a few swallows? Do the flavors remind you of any particular ingredient? Go ahead, feel free to describe it in terms that YOU understand.

Over time your palate will become more refined. I always find that it’s best to enjoy either of these two luxuries with friends and family. Practice, take your time, and above all else, relax and enjoy!

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