A strong taste was always my taste. My coffee I like intense. The usual seven grams that compose a classic Italian espresso was seldom enough for me, just like it is not for the international scene of third-wave coffee shops. I enjoy deep and complex whiskey, aged rum; I am crazy about the dark world of taste that some red wines have to offer. Whenever I find myself in a wine store where the salesperson does not know me, my usual words are: Find me a wine that I can chew on.
Whenever my choice was a beer, most likely I drank an imperial stout, a porter or a Guinness. And I like – no, I love the intensity in the music of Richard Wagner, Johann Sebastian Bach, the strumming of a Paco de Lucia, Peter Gabriel with Genesis with his eccentric Persona, King Crimson, Gentle Giant. Yet, it is the depth and thickness of things, much less the darkness of them that attract me, both for the mind and through the palate.
It has been similar with my choice of tobacco, ever since I started smoking in the late 1980s. Even my short-lived joy in cigarettes made me look for the flavours of Roth-Händle, Gouloises and Schwarzer Krauser. Logically my choice of cigars was initially foremost those with maduro*, aged and darker wrappers.
Suddenly, a bit less than a year ago, I overheard a smoker asking for a cigar with a natural** wrapper. It was in that moment where I felt an urge to find out which complexity and which type of notes or tones these light coloured cigars have to offer. I knew there had to be a clear difference between subtle complexities, quiet densities and merely less taste, blandness or dullness. There is.
Such shifting or just shortly trying out what a “lighter” taste of cigars has to offer requires adjustment. One cannot judge in the same manner by maduros as by naturals. And so, for a few months now I have been aiming at educating my palate on the quieter densities of cigars with natural wrappers. The education is a long-term process. It has taken me years to understand certain things in my interest for the taste of coffee seeds and blends. Many things play a role each time I take a cup of coffee to my mouth or light a cigar or a pipe: How restful was my sleep last night? How did I have my coffee and which type of coffee was it? Which brewing method? Furthermore, well beyond the things we could change on a daily or hourly basis, there is also the influence of the circumstances that we are not aware of or cannot control on command. One of these is the condition of our taste buds. Due to sickness or to acute disturbances of various organs we might have no perception to certain taste profiles at all, or the perception of a taste might be quite different to the taste obtained in the palate of a person with “healthy” and “balanced” organs.
It is for these simple and complex reasons that I take time in judging many things that come in contact with my palate. Incidentally, the palate is there for the perception of taste, but what we taste will not be understood solely based on what our palate is assimilating, but also on what we know and understand with our minds. This is additional reason for spending much time in attentive tasting, giving room to more situations that might allow as much of an objective perception as possible – a most honourable goal.
With one cigar in particular I have taken plenty of time. The house of Arturo Fuente created a Rothschild with a Natural wrapper for their Chateau Fuente line. I buy these and other Arturo Fuentes cigars from the Famous Smoke Shop.
Rothschild Natural – Chateau Fuente, from Arturo Fuente
Size: 4 ½ x 50
Country of origin: Dominican Republic
Wrapper Color: Natural
Wrapper Origin: Ecuador
Wrapper Leaf Type: Connecticut
On a given day I smoked my first one and liked it. Shortly after I bought a second one and noticed a consistent liking – in part reminding me gently of nutmeg, vanilla, coffee with milk – a well-balanced cappuccino. More than once friends and fellow smokers wanted to know what I was smoking. Often their comment was that they find the Chateau Fuente to be too mild and without character, claiming it has a boring taste profile. One cannot argue about taste, so I never react verbally to such comments. However, my palate is content.
Having bought a box of 20 and several single ones before and after that, I am fairly familiar with the smoke of a Chateau Fuente. It has a ‘natural’, cappuccino coloured Connecticut wrapper from Ecuador, measuring 4 ½ x 50. The surface is velvety, showing many veins. Each time I light one, my nose rejoices in the toasted aroma of the first seconds. That moment in the burning process is a special one – perhaps for any well-preserved leaf. You still smell freshness, lightness. It is similar to the pronounced aroma of a lightly toasted slice of bread.
Opposite to the comments I frequently hear, this cigar does offer satisfaction and pleasure through a complexity of tones that remind me of roasted coffee and dark chocolate, mingled with grass. It is my great advantage that I tend to be a very slow smoker. This cigar requires slowness, for it is a composition of subtle and intertwined notes.
I have read that they do taste much better with age. As soon as I am able to acquire another box and am in the situation that allows me to leave it untouched, I shall be having a box that is 2, 3 or 5 years of age, resting, developing. It promises to offer much more with maturity.
*A maduro leaf generally refers to those fermented or/and aged longer. For the most part they are the leaves on the top of the plant, which have grown the longest. The word means ‘ripe’ or ‘mature’ in Spanish.
** Natural leaves are taken from a lower part of the plant, making them milder from the beginning. The time used for their fermentation is shorter, allowing them to be milder in test.