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Bouquet and "Retrohaling"

Bouquet is a word frequently associated with cigars, but often incorrectly used to describe "aroma," something altogether different.

John Vogel once defined them: "Aroma is what others smell when you smoke a cigar; bouquet is what you smell."

This seems a baffling paradox. You've probably noticed that what others smell in the room as you smoke isn't isn't the same as what others smell if you exit, then reenter the room, you'll notice an entirely different smell in the air than when you were smoking. But, that wasn't what John means.

To detect bouquet, he means it's what you smell when you a tiny bit of smoke out through the nostrils. The olfactory receptors in the nostrils and sinus cavities can detect nuances more subtle and complex than just letting the smoke exit the mouth. As expected, this is more pronounced and enchanting within the first inch of the cigar.

With practice, one learns to pass just the faintest whiff out of the nostrils, because few cigars have smoke that is soft enough in character to make this a pleasantly memorable experience. Most will betray themselves, with a coarse or biting sensation. To date, by the way, I find our Vogel Green line to be the winner in bouquet.

So, how does one bet sample bouquet? The word that has been coined is "retrohaling." I wish someone would come up with a different word, as it doesn't give me a word picture of what you're doing ... instead, it conveys to me, anyway, a process of re-inhaling the smoke, which isn't what's being done.

  Ignoring labels, here's how it's done. First and most importantly, take just one small "sip" of smoke ... this is something you should be doing as a rule, anyway. (I suggest you read the article "How to Enjoy a Cuban Cigar," also in this section of the Cigar School note the section therein: "The first puff's enough.") The smaller the sip, the more you can detect the nuances and complexity of the smoke.

Once you determine the amount of smoke you should generate ... and not exceed ... you can "pace" the cigar, likewise determining how often to draw on it. If you can get to the point with a cigar, where you can take just one tiny draw, getting just a faint wisp of smoke, you're there. Solid clouds or tendrils are too much to get the delicacy, and tend to coat the tongue with resinous hydrocarbons, which suffocate the taste buds. A "burned-out" sensation on the tongue, or a long-lasting, tarry taste are signs of oversmoking. It's easy to oversmoke, especially if you're not sitting and smoking meditatively. Spirited conversations, business phone calls, furious writing of reports or correspondence, or any distraction will encourage oversmoking, as well as a cigar that partially dies, leaving a bitter taste from cold hydrocarbon combustion products.

OK, you're taking the tiniest, evenly timed draws. Now, as you let the smoke escape from you partially-open mouth do not hold it in your closed mouth divert just a bit up and out of your nose. To do this, exhale gently out through your nose, as you move your entire tongue up to the roof of your mouth. That action squeezes the residual smoke in your mouth up and out through your nostrils ... that smoke should be barely visible, not a stream. Yu can experiment with different amounts, in order to determine how much is enough and not too much. The more concentrated the smoke that exits the nose, the sharper and more biting it is. Get it right, especially with a top-quality cigar, and you'll know what bouquet is ... it has an entirely different profile than the flavor in your mouth, or the ambient smoke.

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