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Cigar 101

What is a Cigar's Finish?

Shane K. K's picture

Shane K.

A cigar’s finish refers to the texture and flavor that resonate on your palate when you’re done smoking or even in between draws. Finish is commonly used by makers of wine, spirits, and beer. When a sommelier swirls a sip of wine across the palate, he or she will characterize the length and depth of the wine’s residual taste after swallowing or spitting the wine out. When you’re smoking a cigar, you can identify its finish after you’ve taken a puff and expelled the smoke from your palate. Does it linger or dissipate quickly?

A cigar’s finish is critical to its overall flavor profile and can determine whether your impression of the cigar is good or bad. When cigar-makers create their blends, they are very aware of how a cigar’s flavor develops from the cold taste you perceive before you light up to its beginning and middle stages while you’re smoking and, of course, its finish. As you develop a palate for cigars, you’ll learn to recognize different finishes in your favorite blends. Here are some common finishes you’ll encounter in premium handmade cigars.

Smooth

Everyone prefers a cigar with a smooth finish. Stronger and milder cigars can impart a smooth finish, although smooth is often used to characterize milder blends. When a cigar’s tasting notes culminate harmoniously, you should anticipate a smooth finish. Cigars blended with an authentic Connecticut Shade wrapper, like Ashton Cabinet Selection, are well known for delivering a quintessential smooth finish. An excellent example of a strong cigar with a smooth finish is found in Ashton VSG. Its oily Ecuador Sumatra wrapper and well-aged Dominican long-fillers are matured extensively to create a finish that is full flavored but ultimately smooth.

Creamy

Classic mild cigars with Connecticut Shade and Ecuador Connecticut wrappers are extremely popular for their creamy and often nutty finishes. Ashton Classic, San Cristobal Elegancia, and Montecristo fall into this category. Cigars with creamier finishes are great for the golf course or pairing with a crisp cold beer, or, especially, for newer cigar lovers in search of a softer taste. The finish on a mild and creamy cigar is also shorter, meaning it won’t linger on the palate for very long.

Spicy

Dozens of spicy cigars earn praise from the critics today, including the 97-rated My Father Le Bijou 1922, 95-rated Oliva Serie V, and the ultra-rare Fuente Fuente Opus X. Look for cigars blended with Cuban-seed wrappers and lots of Ligero tobaccos – leaves from the upper section of the plant that possess extra intensity because they receive more sunlight and have thicker veins. A spicy finish coats the palate with tangy and zesty flavor that tingles the taste buds in much the same way as black pepper, jalapenos, and Cajun food. A cigar with a spicy finish is great with a peaty scotch or a full-bodied bourbon. Fuller-bodied, spicier cigars leave a longer finish – one that settles on your palate for several minutes.

Sweet

Smoke a cigar with a Maduro wrapper for a sweet finish. Ashton Aged Maduro is a milder Dominican premium with classic notes of dark cocoa, maple, and nuts. Oliva Master Blends 3 is an earthier Nicaraguan cigar with notes of dark chocolate, baking spices, and coffee. Both are handcrafted with Connecticut Broadleaf wrappers that undergo a thorough fermentation for a naturally sweet finish. Sweet cigars pair perfectly with cognac, rum, and port.

Bitter

A bitter finish is not desirable, but it may or may not indicate you’re smoking a bad cigar. How you cut your cigar and how you light your cigar can impact its taste, for example. If the draw is too tight, your cigar can become bitter because its flavors are overly concentrated. Give your cigar a deeper cut to avoid this. If you light your cigar too quickly or hold the flame too close to your cigar’s foot – or if you relight it too frequently – you can wind up with a bitter finish because you’ve absorbed excess butane into the cigar while you were lighting it. Puffing too often will make a cigar burn hot and lead to a bitter finish. A dry or chalky finish can be bitter, especially if your cigar was dried out. Keep your cigars fresh by investing in a humidor and storing them at the proper humidity to ensure a smooth finish.

If your cigar is naturally bitter, however, chances are good the tobacco was not fermented long enough. A harsh or metallic taste is often evidence of this. If you repeatedly experience a bitter finish from the same blend, stop smoking it and choose a new cigar.

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