Have you noticed that your second or third smoke of the day doesn’t burst with its usual flavors? Or that after a certain meal or beverage, mellow and medium-bodied cigars don’t seem as tasty, and you’re probably sensing more of a cigar’s strength than the complexity it should have?
This means that it is time to give your taste buds a refresher before smoking your next cigar…
If your palate is not cleansed, you may not be able to pick up on a cigar’s differences and flavor enhancements, leaving your mouth to be filled with previous flavors and different layers that block out new ones from entering. Every person has a mouth that contains a hard and soft palate, a tongue and inner cheeks. All of these parts contain anywhere from 1,000 to 10,000 taste buds each. This is often why upscale restaurants offer a palate-cleansing dish between courses – it helps to remove any flavors from the taste buds, leaving them as open and clear as possible. Learning how to cleanse your palate and taste flavors can help to enhance the taste buds and allow you to pick up on the tiniest of flavors so that you can enjoy all that your premium cigar has to offer.
Drink Pairings vs Palate Cleansers
There’s a distinction between pairing a drink with a cigar, as opposed to a drink for cleansing your palate. A drink pairing serves to contrast or balance the flavor of a cigar; conversely, a palate cleanser washes away the traces of a previous cigar or meal’s flavor. You’ll likely want to partake of both if you’re going to a cigar tasting event, where you know you’ll be smoking – and enjoying – more than one cigar that night. Keep in mind that while alcohol may be a nice pairing to your cigar, it is an ineffective palate cleanser due to the fact that the alcohol content is too high, especially in single malts, whiskies and cognac, all which affect your taste buds. If you are looking for a pairing & palate cleanser all in one, then try wine, as it has a lower alcohol content compared to other alcohols that are commonly used for pairings.
There is a bit of actual science as to why certain beverages help to cleanse your palate: fats, oils and polar protic solvents (read this, if you really want to go down the rabbit hole). But to make it an easy comparison, think of a palate cleansing as simply neutralizing the tastes leftover, so you don’t confuse the flavors from a meal, drink, or one cigar to the next. Think of it as resetting or zeroing out your tasting sensors…
Cigar makers have a similar challenge, because they could be testing a dozen blends in a day. And if they’ve fried their taste buds to a crisp, it’s harder to know if they’ve hit on a winning recipe. So, we’ve asked two of El Septimo’s top master-blenders to teach us their top tricks they use in the blending process for scraping the grease off the griddle, so to speak – how to cleanse your palate before smoking a cigar, and getting as much enjoyment out of it as possible.
Palate Cleansers – Drinks & Snacks
1. Club Soda or Sparkling Water
Bitter lemon carbonated beverages have been long used as a mixer for different cocktails. With several famous brands, including Schweppes, this citrus-based fizzy drink uses a mixture of the pith of lemon with an alkaloid known as quinine. This combination makes it great to cleanse the palate before smoking a cigar.
While the carbonation is effective in cleaning a palate on its own, lemon is known to help break down fats, making this a great option to clean out your mouth and get the full natural taste and experience of your cigar!
2. Coffee/Espresso with Creamer or Milk
Coffee is a natural palate cleanser. In perfume stores, smelling coffee beans in-between testing perfumes is done to clean out the nasal passages and give you a clean sense of smell for the next perfume.
Enjoying an espresso or even regular coffee with cream will do wonders for giving you a fresh, clean palate. Considering how important your sense of smell is to enjoy a fine cigar, it is also recommended to smell coffee beans in between smokes as well. Be sure to add creamer or milk to your coffee or espresso, as they are both alkali, helping to better cleanse the palate.
3. Dark Chocolate
Experts recommend that you avoid eating fatty foods before smoking a cigar and cleansing your palate. This helps to minimize the amount of fat content that is on your taste buds.
Dark chocolate, much like coffee, has a strong neutral taste that will clean out the olfactory sensors, which helps form your sense of taste. Dark chocolate also goes great with a cigar, so it’s a win-win. A few bites of high-quality dark chocolate cut through the aftertaste of what you’ve already had to eat or smoke. Savor it slowly and stick with dark chocolate versus milk chocolate, which lingers for longer with more sweet notes.
Water crackers are baked only with water and flour, with no added fats or flavor, and are traditionally used to eat with cheese or wine to avoid affecting their flavors.
These crackers will help absorb the fats and flavors from heavy and bold cigars, or even from a previous meal or drink that you indulged in, giving you a crisp and clean experience for your next cigar.
Ultimately, it is important to keep in mind that taste is subjective. People will always have different opinions regarding taste, regardless of whether or not their palate is cleansed. Cleansing your palate does not automatically mean that you will like everything that you try. However, it does help to enhance flavors. Follow these steps before smoking your next El Septimo Premium Cigar and see for yourself!