I would argue that smoking a cigar solo is the best way to unwind and spend time collecting one’s thoughts, gaining an inner calm while the cigar entertains your physical senses. However, when it comes to delving into the depths and nuances of a particular cigar, as well as enjoying the great conversation that cigars bring, smoking with others is a superb way to spend time. Normally, when smoking with colleagues, we will each pull a cigar or two from our own, or eachother’s humidors, comparing and contrasting our choices as we snip and light our selections. While this diversity provides great insight into one’s preferences and the preferences of others, the experience of two or more people smoking the exact same cigar opens up an entirely different, and unique, avenue for developing one’s palate.
On a visit to Cuba last spring, I had the opportunity to smoke many cigars with a close friend of mine. Every day, we’d make at least one trip to the tobacconist, taking turns selecting the cigar we’d smoke that day (or hour). On my turn the first day, I selected two Cuaba Tradicionales for us to smoke. Later that day, my colleague chose two Romeo y Julieta Churchills. This experience brought a multitude of pleasant surprises. Firstly, selecting cigars for another person forces you to explain your choices, helping to clarify your own preferences and biases towards cigars. Secondly, having someone else select a cigar for you will expand your palate and expose you to cigars you might not otherwise have tried, because with your current biases they might be too small, too large, too strong, too mild, maduro, etc. etc.
This past weekend I had the chance to spend an hour on my front patio smoking two Graycliff 1666 PG’s, generously sent to us by the fine folks at StogieBoys.com. The dark Jaltapec maduro wrapper provided for much discussion: my cigar burned perfectly and evenly, while my brother’s cigar burnt well but the wrapper split and peeled at several points. From this observation alone, we discussed at length the consistencies and inconsistencies of various cigars and cigar makers. Containing filler tobaccos from Peru, Colombia, Brazil, and Mexico, we both loved the taste of this cigar, but each picked up on different flavors. One flavor in particular I initially pegged as raisins, only to be refined by my brother’s palate which indeed recognized the flavor as prunes. This back and forth discussing the nuances of the cigar refined and polished our palates, yet also improved our appreciation of this fine cigar.
So next time you’re going to smoke a cigar with a friend, I suggest you find a pair of matching stogies in your humidor, and both smoke the same cigar. Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, try smoking the same cigar in two different vitolas, or perhaps two cigars of the same brand and vitola, but slightly different blend. From these experiments, you’ll learn that expanding one’s palate comes not only from smoking a wide variety of cigars, but also from smoking cigars with others and learning from their palate, whether it’s their first cigar or their thousandth.