How to Smell a Cigar and Determine its Quality

Written by: Juan Panesso



Time to read 4 min

Smelling a cigar may appear to be a mere physical action but it plays a vital role in evaluating the quality of the cigar. Interestingly, the aroma of a cigar holds more significance than its taste because our sense of smell has a more significant impact on our emotions, perceptions, and memories. In this guide, we will explore the art of experiencing the scent of a cigar, understanding its flavor characteristics, and determining its excellence. So, before you light up that cherished cigar, indulge your senses and relish its fragrance.

The Importance of Smell and Why it Matters

Our sense of smell is incredibly powerful among our five senses as it influences our behavior through emotions, perceptions, and memories. Our olfactory receptor neurons are situated behind our sinuses. They make contact with odor-causing molecules transmitting immediate signals to our brains. As a result, our sense of smell significantly impacts how we perceive taste and certain fragrances can trigger recollections. For aficionados of cigars, the distinct scent of a top quality smoke is unmistakable and leaves an impression - an exquisite combination encompassing tobacco notes along with hints of leather, woodiness, and spices create enduring memories in our minds.

The Connection Between Smell and Taste

When it comes to tasting cigars, there's an interplay between our sense of smell and taste buds. Although the flavor of a cigar may not perfectly mirror its scent you can develop the ability to anticipate tasting notes by smelling the unlit cigar. Understanding how our taste buds interpret flavors can help us appreciate the connection between aroma and taste, enhancing our enjoyment of smoking cigars.

So, before lighting up a cigar, it's important to take a moment to savor its aroma. However, remember to remove the wrapper as you won't be able to fully experience the smell with it on. Hold the foot of the cigar close to one nostril. Take in a sniff. This will expose you to the binder, filler, and wrapper tobaccos allowing you to perceive all their qualities. After smelling the foot, gently roll the cigar from head to foot under your nose for an intensified whiff of the wrapper leaf's aroma. As you light up your cigar and start smoking it, pay attention to how the cold aroma translates into flavors on your palate. The scent of a cigar can transform as you smoke it, offering a journey that adds richness to the pleasure.

Understanding the Aromas: The Cigar Aroma Wheel

The aroma of a cigar is subjective like its flavor and cigar enthusiasts use a variety of terms to describe it. From toasted and nutty to spicy and floral there is a range of aromas to explore. To help navigate this world, cigar aficionados have created a guide called the cigar aroma wheel - a graphical representation that categorizes various scents commonly associated with cigars. This wheel acts as a tool for identifying the scents you may come across in premium cigars. Basically, it's like a cheat sheet for describing all those wonderful scents you encounter while smoking a cigar. Just like a wine aroma wheel, this nifty tool categorizes all the different smells you might pick up from a cigar.

You've got your woody and leathery notes, hints of spices that make your taste buds tingle, and the subtle sweetness that adds a touch of magic to the experience. Whether you're a seasoned cigar aficionado or just starting to explore the world of cigars, the aroma wheel is your trusty companion. It helps you put into words the rich and diverse range of fragrances that make each cigar unique.

Familiarizing yourself with this aroma wheel can enhance your appreciation for the flavors and fragrances that cigars offer.

Cigar Quality Beyond Just the Smell

While smelling a cigar provides insights into its flavor, determining its overall quality involves more than just focusing on the aroma. Any person with adequate cigar knowledge will aver that the construction of the cigar, its appearance, and the condition of its wrapper all play roles in the smoking experience.


A well-constructed cigar forms a part of an enjoyable smoking experience. Before lighting it up examine the cigar for a consistent feel, with no spots or indentations. The wrapper should be flawless and evenly colored to ensure taste throughout your smoke.


The outermost layer of a cigar, known as the wrapper, plays a big role in determining the quality of a cigar too, in both its appearance and taste. A top-notch wrapper should have an oily texture without any cracks or imperfections. Different types of wrappers such as Connecticut, Habano, and Maduro contribute flavors to the cigar.


To fully appreciate a cigar, it's important to understand its complexity and the various tasting notes it offers. Cigars can range from mild to flavored, each with its unique taste and aroma. Identifying these characteristics can help you choose the cigar that suits your palate.

As you gain experience with cigars, you'll be able to refine your evaluation process by noticing the differences between blends and brands. It's worth noting that personal preferences for taste and aroma may vary from person to person. Feel free to experiment with cigars and develop an appreciation for this exquisite indulgence.

Cigar Etiquette

In the world of cigars, there exists a code of conduct - an etiquette followed by enthusiasts to honor the tradition of cigar smoking. Knowing how to handle and cut a cigar and the proper way to smoke can transform the smoking experience while helping build a sense of camaraderie among fellow cigar enthusiasts. 

Meanwhile, smelling a cigar goes beyond being a ritual. It is like getting a preview of the cigar's taste, complexity, and quality. Here's to appreciating the art of smelling and relishing the essence of a cigar!