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The definition of the body or structure of the cigar

With this article we want to definitively clarify the meaning of the body or structure of the cigar. This need arises from the fact that the meaning of this term is very often deviated or misinterpreted and consequently excluded in many tasting sheets.

Why is it important to evaluate the body of a cigar?

The incorrect assessment of the body of a cigar can compromise the final judgment of the product from the point of view of harmony (the sum of each individual sensorial examination performed on the cigar), but not only. When it comes to pairings between cigar – drink or cigar – food, body evaluation is fundamental as it is one of the criteria of pairing by concordance.

Before addressing the actual topic, some incorrect concepts relating to this topic will be listed:
The body or structure refers only to the intensity and aromatic complexity: the evaluation of the intensity and aromatic complexity although they are two distinct and well-defined characteristics are purely quantitative and alone do not give any type of information relating to the structure of the cigar .
The body or structure refers only to the gustatory intensity: this parameter is erroneously indicated by many as the structure of the cigar (especially in some countries) but must be assessed as a criterion in its own right. Indicates the gustatory intensity of smoking when it enters the oral cavity.
The body or the structure refers only to the nicotinic strength: the strength is the “pungency” of the smoke, and is perceived in a well-defined way as a sort of astringent ring at the level of the larynx, or as a pungent sensation in the nose when we expel smoke through the nostrils. Nicotinic strength is rarely perceived in the mouth, where it is able to stimulate the tongue only if it reaches very high levels, because the taste buds are unable to receive the nicotine stimulus, being more accustomed to receiving liquid stimuli, and not as ethereal as smoke.
The body or the structure refer only to the taste-olfactory persistence: The taste-olfactory persistence of a cigar is simply the consequence of its aromatic and gustatory intensity.

Tobacco smoke and wine, so distant but so close

The world of tobacco has many similarities to that of wine, including the definition of the structure or body of the product. However, in both worlds the definition of structure must be divided into two different categories:
– Definition of body or structure in an analytical test.
– Definition of body or structure in the tasting.

In the first case, as regards the wine, the structure is given by the weight of the dry extract.
The dry extract is made up of all the non-volatile substances of the wine (sugars, fixed acids, mineral salts, polyphenols, glycerin, gums, pectins etc.), that is, those substances that remain after having removed all the volatile substances from the wine (water, alcohol and acetic acid) by evaporation.

In tobacco, unlike wine, only the smoke produced by combustion must be taken into consideration as it transforms many non-volatile substances present in tobacco (which are greater than those of wine) into volatile substances. Another difference is that compared to wine, where all substances come into contact with the oral cavity, in tobacco this does not happen because only the smoke produced by combustion comes into contact with the mouth. In practice, no analog tests are carried out to obtain the weight of the cigar smoke structure, however this may be possible at a theoretical level: assuming that through a machine all cigar smoke is condensed in a container, making the wet part re-evaporate ( part of the smoke is also water vapor) and by going to weigh its solid residue the body of the smoke will be obtained.
During the tasting phase, the body or structure of the wine is defined by the net dry extract, or by the total dry extract less the reducing sugars.

In the grape there are different types of sugars, the main ones, which represent the largest quantity, are glucose and fructose. Not all sugars participate in the alcoholic fermentation process. Some of these, called not fermentable sugars, are not in fact converted into alcohol and carbon dioxide by yeasts, remaining as they are in wine. These residual sugars are called reducing sugars and are not perceptible when tasted, both because they are balanced by other substances and because they are present in negligible quantities and such as not to exceed the level of the threshold of perceptibility.

Summarizing it can be said that the body or structure of the wine in the tasting is given by a set of organoleptic characteristics, including gustatory intensity, soft sensations (sugars, alcohols) and hard sensations (acids, tannins and mineral salts).
Reporting the same concept in the world of tobacco, more precisely in that of the cigar, the following can be deduced:
The structure or body of a cigar in the tasting is given by a set of organoleptic characteristics, including aromatic intensity, gustatory intensity and nicotinic strength.


In this article we have clarified a term, that of the body or structure of the cigar, too often forgotten or misinterpreted, especially in some countries of the world. If it is true that many tasting schools prefer to “break it down” into its fundamental characteristics and then evaluate it later, this should not be taken for granted; it is preferable to report one more term rather than one less term in a tasting sheet, trying to be as clear as possible. However, if it is not fundamental to report the value of the structure on the sheet as regards the tasting of the cigar, it is fundamental to do so when we talking about cigar – drink or cigar – food pairings, because it is one of the criteria for the pairing by concordance. The hope is that from the date publication of this article, in the future this term will be taken into account correctly.

Thanks to Simone Fazio for his contribution in this article.


Photo by Mohd Jon Ramlan on Unsplash

Mirko Pastorelli

Sommelier professionista (ASPI Associazione Sommellerie Professionale Italiana) in sedia a rotelle pubblicato a livello internazionale con svariate esperienze nella ristorazione e nella organizzazione di eventi. Scrive di abbinamenti sigari - bevande su Gusto Tabacco.

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