There are now two wonderful tools that can help us with this conundrum. Thanks to Nick Cutro for coming up with the device and inking a new book that helps us to untangle the mysteries of the palate and hopefully send our taste buds on a quest for palatal freedom.
What do Eric Newman, Jochy Blanco, Manolo Quesada, Jhonys Diaz, John Oliva, and Litto Gomez, all have in common? They are big fans of ProPalate System, and they are fascinated by the knowledge and guidance it can provide when it comes to the business of liberating the palate and calibrating one’s ability to process different flavors in a cigar. Upon first glance, I was amazed by the ProPalate System’s simplicity. But the sentiment that this kit lacks sophistication vanishes quickly once its wheels are set in motion and you dive into the olfactorial matrix that is the ProPalate! There are 25 containers of various spices, fruits, and herbs that provide a diverse selection of aromas that are commonly, or not so commonly, found in cigars. Three containers hold typically used wrapper leaves and two have filler leaves. For example, one container might have a San Andrés or Habano Rosado wrapper or a Piloto Cubano or Nicaragua Condega filler leaf. A calibration/game board is the focal point of the system and also allows the kit to be a bona fide board game. If you play the system as a game, each player chooses a random container from the box and removes the cap to smell what is in the container through a sifter filter. There are 25 spaces on the board; after the first player smells the container, they must correctly place the container on the circle listed with that smell on the board. Then you place your chip on top of the container and wait until each player has a certain number of turns. At the end, you can see by looking at the bottom of the container which aroma [smell] you actually had and how close you were to placing it on that space on the board. The spaces are all assembled in category columns, and similar aroma smells are next to one another. For example, chocolate is next to coffee, which is next to vanilla, and so forth. You will be amazed at how little command you actually have over your senses and will realize right away the need to calibrate your palate.
Next, you will smell one of five tobaccos and now take your calibrated nose and try and distinguish those same notes in the aromas of the tobaccos that make up some of our most beloved cigars. This is truly a fascinating experience for the senses! Cutro’s book is called Cigar Bliss: Demystifying the Art of Taste. He has done a monstrous amount of research and condensed it to make it easy to understand and easily palatable. From our DNA to what medication we might be on, to eating habits as a child, Cutro has some ideas on what makes our palate tick, and we are enriched by the experience when we learn from the master. Beginning with a brief introduction to the world of cigars, the book then covers the history of the cigar industry and how we got to where we are today. After bringing the reader up to speed on where the industry is now, Cutro divulges why we have the tastes we currently have. All the influences that we have ever had, from where and how we were raised, to the amount of natural or processed foods we have consumed, our present state of mind, each of these impacts our palate in a positive or negative way. This book helps you navigate the forest of your taste buds and brings you to the destination of palatal nirvana. Want to know more? Read the book. It is a comprehensive manual on how to develop your cigar palate, a must-read for all cigar smokers: the aspiring, the soon-to-be, and connoisseurs themselves!