Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Sometimes When it Rains, it Pours

Niagara Falls
Smoke enough cigars of different blends and you’ll surely experience both ends of the spectrum.  In fact, it’s possible that you have encountered both scenarios and possibly been perplexed by what was going on.  It might seem like an indiscreet topic, but let’s just come out and talk about it: saliva.  Have you smoked a cigar and been dumbfounded that it seemed like you were salivating like Pavlov’s dog for no good reason?  Perhaps you encountered the opposite extreme, and found your palate as parched as a desert.  What’s going on? 


There are lots of different reasons depending on the individual, but the short, simple answer is that each of our palates is different and our bodies respond differently to different ingredients, aka types of tobacco used in the blend of the cigar we are smoking.  With so much discussion of taste, mouth feel, impact on the palate, and limitless culinary words used to describe the flavor profile of cigars, it really should come as little wonder that our bodies respond to cigars in much the same way as if they were a food.

Generally speaking, if your palate, or sense of taste, views the experience of smoking a cigar much like that as enjoying a fine meal, by identifying the myriad of tastes that it presents to your palate, then it stands to reason that it may also physically respond to this experience in like kind.  When we eat savory or sweet foods, we often find ourselves salivating, sometimes merely in anticipation of the treat to come.  The same can occur when we smoke a sweet or rich, savory cigar.  In my own experience, I usually observe my palate responding in this manner in regard to two particular wrapper leaves: Cameroon and Corojo.   For me, Cameroon represents the sweeter end of the spectrum and the Corojo leaf represents a spicy and savory profile.  Both of these cigars will tend to cause my palate to produce more saliva.

Mojave Desert
On the other hand, when I smoke a Connecticut wrapped cigar, that exhibits more of a USA Connecticut profile, of wood and dry, white pepper, I often notice my palate drying out and becoming somewhat parched.  The manner in which my body responds to this smoke profile is by suspending almost all saliva production.

The amount of saliva our mouths produce can have a great impact on our ability to determine flavors, as well as the pleasantness of the experience of smoking the cigar.  Any peculiarity to your palate is largely, if not entirely, eliminated by the mere act of having a beverage nearby while smoking.  It needn’t be anything other than water quite honestly. Any liquid that will allow you to refresh your palate will work quite nicely to moderate out your saliva, whether it is too much or too little.

In the future, take note of how your palate responds to different cigars, and determine if there is commonality between the wrappers.  The wrappers often determine the type of overall blend the cigar is crafted into, but they also are the primary physical point of contact with your lips and tongue and can signal the production, or non production, of saliva.  From my personal experience I have found that there are some cigars that better suit certain activities.  If you’re going to try to hold a cigar in your teeth while doing yard work, or reeling a grouper off the bottom of the Gulf, then it can be quite inconvenient to be smoking a cigar that is shaking up your palate.  It’s tough to grab a drink when your hands are full, and it’s not very gentlemanly, or ladylike, to be drooling down your chin while preoccupied with a task at hand.  If you’re in kick-back and relax mode, then reach for anything in your humidor that strikes your fancy.

If you’re going to engage in some high-stakes multitasking, consider reaching for a cigar that has perhaps a Habano wrapper that has flavor but is more middle-of-the-road in terms of sweetness and spice profile.  And, if you happen to have began, or detoured, your tobacco career with chewing tobacco, odds are you’re doubly damned as you have more or less conditioned your body to associate tobacco with saliva production, even more so than the natural tendency.  Until you can rehabilitate your body, and make yourself a more refined cigar connoisseur, I recommend you keep a Coke close at hand to mask any unwanted effects.  However, don’t be too hard on yourself if the mere thought and anticipation of clipping and lighting your favorite cigar when you get home from the office conjures up perceived tastes in your mouth and starts the saliva going.  If we didn't think cigars were quite appealing we’d not enjoy this passion anywhere near as much as we do.  Happy smoking and bartender bring on another round just to be safe.

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