Tasting - How To?

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SoliDeoGloria

New member
Nov 18, 2020
34
72
Bluegrass, KY
One of the reasons I'm really enjoying the pipe smoking hobby is the tasting aspect, or at least what's *supposed* to be the tasting aspect. My wife and I are "foodies" and we love wine, as well as my interest in the flavors of beer and bourbons.

In the few dozen bowls I've smoked to date, some are truly complex, some are simple, and there are some that have very noticeable taste profiles. That said, some tobaccos are just...there (?). Even some heavily cased aromatics smell great in the jar, but then when smoked, I just don't get *anything* from them which is frustrating to me. It's not a bad taste, but it's certainly not a distinguishable taste, nor is the aroma/note anything other than inoffensive smoke. I want my smokes to do *something*...even if it makes me think "This blend is not for me!" and I move along. I guess I hate the ambiguity that some bowls are leaving me with...

Are there any tips to priming one's palate to best discern subtle flavors, or is it just a "learn as you go" thing?

As a side note, I love high-proof bourbons (100+ proof) due to their powerful flavor profiles, but last year actually forced myself to lay off for a month or so and "reset" my palate by starting back in at sub-100 proof selections. Seemed to do the trick. As such, are there any best practices on ways to avoid this with pipes? I'd imagine not smoking too much would help, or maybe I'm not smoking enough? (4-6 bowls a week)

Thoughts and tips appreciated! puffy
 

Casual

Preferred Member
Oct 3, 2019
1,683
5,534
NL, CA
A couple hundred more bowls would condition the palate. That’s about how long it took me to get to the subtler flavours.

It’s not about the reset, I think it’s about conditioning oneself to the overwhelming smoke flavours so that the subtler flavours are detectable. Kind of like when a complete newb starts on a bottle of laphroaig. You’re not going to taste anything subtly different between ages of laphroaig until you’ve had enough that it doesn’t just taste like an iodinic bog fire.
 

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jerseysam

Senior Member
Mar 24, 2019
319
2,549
Liberty Township. OH
Soli, I smoke cigars, drink a lot of whisky and wine, and eat a lot of fro-fro food.....and for me pipe tobacco was the most subtle/trickiest of any of those to dial in. Everybody's mileage varies, but I thought from the years of smoking cigars that jumping back into pipes was going to be easy to pick up......no sir.

What worked for me was sticking with a handful of blends that flavor came through for 2-3 months, and accompanying with better general rhythm with the pipe I started to pick up more and more nuance. Hit or miss by bowl....and then creeping in regularly. Again, speaking for myself only, I found a couple English/Balkan/Oriental blends worked well to pick out basic flavor notes early.....and then I mixed in liquor topped blends like SWRA, Wilkes Rumcake, and Black Frigate. As I started to get the tobacco notes from those....out I went beyond. I smoke a lot of aromatics now, but it took a good many months of smoking before I could reliably get more than sweet hot air from them.
 

PipeIT

Preferred Member
Nov 14, 2020
530
1,279
The Aloha State!
sweet hot air

LOL, yeah sweet hot air, it does seem to take time to get the Tongue educated, I’m still guessing the IQ of mine!

I keep telling Tongue; Sip & Savor! :)

Something interesting I will try next and make a post down the road on the forum, is eating Japanese Style Sushi Ginger.

The reason I say this, is because at one point in my life I lived for a year in Japan, and the Japanese taught me, that the reason, when you get sushi or sashimi with ginger, is that it is used to clean the palate.

Ginger is a Palate Cleanser.


So when you consider all the eating and drinking of all the various things one my ingest while smoking, could certainly be a detriment in distinguishing flavors in tobacco.
 
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Nomadorb

Preferred Member
Feb 20, 2020
685
4,728
SoCal
Retro-hale is key for me, but if you can't do that yet/at all, keep your mouth open slightly as you push the smoke up to the roof of your mouth with your tongue.

This will press the flavors into all the surfaces in your mouth. This should give you an idea of what the retro-hale will give you in my experience.
 

reg46

New member
Oct 21, 2020
26
67
Tokyo/NYC
after smoking cigars for a little while I was finding them quite overpowering at times, with pipe tobacco I find the nuances easier to detect, but a lot comes down to experience and it will take time I`ve only started pipe tobacco so I am a newbie and in no position to offer advice but if its like wine, scotch, food etc it takes time but the journey is what makes it so enjoyable.
 

maduromadness

Junior Member
Jan 3, 2014
89
98
Great thread. Most people don't claim to have refined palates before pipe smoking. One pleasure of the hobby is that only time spent with the pipe will provoke refined smoking palates. All advice presented here is true to form. I'll add that smoking technique is the truest flavor enhancer. Slow cadence, good packing/moisture content, few relights, clean hemp wick or pure butane and obviously tobacco of choice are factors that are the most influential. Also consider your mouth cleanliness vs last meals/snacks eaten, or the drinks accompanying or not. They play a big role in perceived smoking characteristics and quality. Eating foods that have similar flavor profiles may enhance the smoke or contribute in an unusual way. It may be used to correlate suggested flavors in a blend. Bottom line is self reflection on what your tasting and trying to verbalize it with your best accuracy...and smoking. Btw to me Aromatics are the hardest blends to smoke in order to achieve great smokes, aside from things like FVF😆 good luck and happy smoking!
 

F4RM3R

Senior Member
Nov 28, 2019
329
1,223
35
Canada
Aromatics are definitely a tricky one. I personally don't smoke many of them. It took me a good 6 months of a few bowls a day( very occasionally for years before that) to really be able to pick out and describe all the flavours. For a foodie like yourself you probably know that a large part is having the the vocabulary to describe tastes and not only tasting them.

Trying varying your cadence, smoke slow and smoke slower and sip at a comfortable pace . It brings out different flavours when the tobacco is burning at a different tempurature. Generally slower brings out a wider flavour profile and is necessary to get the most of aromatic and virginias. But some blends can be smoked more vigorously without a problem.

Also, try drying out your tobacco to different moisture contents to see how it affects the flavour. Some tobaccos need to be quite dry(just about crispy) I find, but aromatics will lose aroma and need to have more moisture which is the reason they are tricky to smoke as they need to be smoked even slower to avoid just getting a mouth of hot air.

Experimenting in this way can give you a broader experience and help you notice different nuances which you may not notice if you always smoke the same way with the same dryness of tobacco.

I find my palate isn't greatly affected by smoking 3 bowls a day(which is what I usually smoke) if I smoke more than that I can notice a slight difference. So I'd say smoke more if you want to gain experience points at a quicker rate, haha.
 

SoliDeoGloria

New member
Nov 18, 2020
34
72
Bluegrass, KY
Retro-hale is key for me, but if you can't do that yet/at all, keep your mouth open slightly as you push the smoke up to the roof of your mouth with your tongue.

This will press the flavors into all the surfaces in your mouth. This should give you an idea of what the retro-hale will give you in my experience.

I haven't found the retrohale to help much just yet. There is *some* increase in flavor, but not noticeably so. I typically retrohale just a few times per bowl though...maybe I'm not doing it enough?
 

fightnhampster

Preferred Member
Aug 14, 2019
514
1,317
You mentioned taking some time off. I have found that this actually messes up my ability to taste nuances in blends. When I have been off the pipe for a few days, my regular blends don't taste how I remember them.

I also recommend trying blends in different pipes, don't freight train the bowl, just sip and savor. Retrohale, retrohale, retrohale.
 

Nomadorb

Preferred Member
Feb 20, 2020
685
4,728
SoCal
I haven't found the retrohale to help much just yet. There is *some* increase in flavor, but not noticeably so. I typically retrohale just a few times per bowl though...maybe I'm not doing it enough?
We are all so different, it's hard to tell. I would keep experimenting with it, maybe do it at different times during the smoke to see if anything pops for you. For me, I retro all the time, I don't even notice when I do it or not.
 

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