Nothing distracts the eye. On the table sits a cigar – pure, naked. It is supposed to taste “blind”. No ring, no box, no fluffy embellishments.
Pure enjoyment is the premium class of sensory evaluation for many. Yet blind tasting always remains a theoretical concept in many respects. For this, conditions are created that, for the most part, hardly do justice to the realities of life for cigar connoisseurs.
Who is actually able to shut out all external influences? Who can really appreciate a cigar for itself without falling prey to the temptation of the product presentation or charming description? In addition, an elaborately designed ring, an exquisite box or an enticing story are as much a part of the cigar experience as the filler, binder and wrapper.
Following the assumptions of the multi sensorial perceptions, acoustics, haptics and optics have a significant influence on smell and taste. Only in the interplay of all five senses does the well-orchestrated masterpiece emerge that is capable of inspiring. Consequently, the shape and colour of the cigar ring are crucial for the impression that manifests itself in the brain.
Likewise, the quality of paper and more generally, the choice of material are decisive. Whether the outfit in which the most favourite cigar is dressed, now rough, silky or complex by means of relief printing, reflects new nuances on the tongue.
Analogous to this, the framework of experiences continues to the box, the design of the printed matter, elaborated designed accessories, and the presentation at the point of sale. These things all make use of aesthetic tools, stimulate selected areas of the sensory system and put the simple product into a holistic context. The cigar is simply never just a cigar and precisely therein lies the often abridged assumption of a blind tasting.
A noble desire to describe and evaluate a cigar sees surrounding elements peeled away from it and the experience stripped down into purely tobacco, some and technical performance. The connoisseurs can assess the cigar in an unbiased way, describe and at most recommend it to all passionado who have not yet had a chance to taste the product.
It is easy to forget that such a detached view is almost never presented to the normal end consumer. Ultimately, the passionado goes to their trusted tobacconist to buy their cigars: the ring, the box, the storytelling all included. Suddenly, one perceives more sweetness on the palate, because the deep red coloured cigar ring conveys influence signals. The glossy piano lacquer on the box suggests an elegant, cool mouthfeel, whereas an archaic, wooden box full of brands triggers entirely different associations.
With that not being enough, on the second draw, one remembers all the pairing recommendations and fruity, floral descriptions in the enclosed folder: already we think we taste apricot.
Strictly speaking, such sensory suggestions arise even in actual blind tasting. When the taster holds the cigar in their hands, even without a ring, the look and feel of the wrapper alone arouses olfactory and gustatory expectations. Even a trained taster, with the first puff of a Connecticut shade wrapper, will perceive delicate nutty tones, light bitter tones, and a delicate body, rather than heavy, leathery chocolate accents, lush black pepper, and a meaty, full bodied finish. Even sympathy and antipathy are formed prejudicially.
The fact is that there is no such thing as a pure blind tasting. Both the open description of a cigar, including of a cigar, including design and history, and an expert panel that tastes covertly have their justification. The tasters’ approaches and their results are completely different.
Blind tasting excludes political economic conflicts of interest and focuses on the tobacco, technical performance and taste. Whereas the open tasting gives greater weight to the spectrum of experience.
In the context, the connoisseurs perhaps understand that all the surrounding parameters also contribute to the enjoyment of cigars, just as producers are becoming aware of the increasingly important component of experience design. After all a cigar is never just a cigar.