Have you ever heard of “retrohale”? It’s where you get all your flavor. If you look at any cigar review, whether it be online or a magazine, and you read the flavors that they get, then that’s coming through the senses in their nasal passage. It’s a bit tricky to master, but once you do…
Tonight we have Patrick Vivalo of Vivalo Cigars, here for a cigar event tonight. He reveals how the Vivo Serie Exclusivo, a 100% Nicaraguan cigar, boasts a beautiful Jalapa Colorado shade wrapper with filler and binders from the Esteli Jalapa region. What Patrick did is unique to the market, whereas a lot of brands tend to blend the same ratio tobacco for each size – sacrificing the subtle nuances of what each size should taste like. Patrick discusses some of the best ways new smokers can learn about cigars, along with proper way to cut, light, and smoke a cigar with a level of detail you won’t get from today’s manufacturers.
Listen to the podcast here:
Cigar Cafe Radio Patrick Vivalo | Vivalo Cigars | Retrohale
This is Harris here at Cigar Cafe Radio. I have Patrick Vivalo in the house. We were sitting around discussing the Cigar School and things we’re talking about in the store, some of the best ways new smokers can learn about cigars, the proper way to cut, light and smoke a cigar. Patrick, tell us a little bit about your brand and what you’re doing.
Harris, I appreciate you having me here, first and foremost, appreciate the support and the southern hospitality. The Vivalo Series Exclusivo is 100% Nicaraguan cigar. It has a beautiful Jalapa Colorado shade wrapper with filler and binders from the Estelí-Jalapa region. What I did unique to the market, whereas a lot of the brands they tend to blend the same ratio of tobacco for each of the size and so you lose the subtle nuances of what each size should taste like. In saying that, I blended each size to the specific length and ring gauge. I have five sizes. I have a Lonsdale, Robusto, Belicoso, Robusto Grande and a Gordo. The bigger the ring gauge you go, the bigger the flavor and the more strength you get.
Getting back to the blend, with the Lonsdale, when I think of a thin ring gauge like that, I think of a smooth, elegant and well- balanced cigar, not aggressive and in your face. That’s what the bigger ring gauges are for. How I accomplished that was on the smaller vitolas, the Lonsdale, Robusto and Belicoso, I did a higher ratio of Jalapa Ligero. Jalapa is a region in Nicaragua. It’s close to the Honduran border. It’s not going to be as spicy and aggressive as Estelí tobacco, due to the fact that Estelí soil has a heavy volcanic content.
Estelí tobacco, especially with the Ligero, you’re going to get a lot of pepper, a lot of spice, just big, rich flavor. Where the Jalapa gives you that nice, Earthy sweetness. I get some coffee notes out of it. With the thinner ring gauges, you’re going to have a more sweet, earthy, espresso coffee notes. With the bigger ring gauges, the Robusto Grande and Gordo but the higher ratio of Estelí, you’re going to get more of a peppery, spicy, in your face cigar.
That’s great information. I feel we don’t hear that level of detail for many manufacturers these days. You talked about how you blend specifically each size. Not to name names or whatever, your normal big cigar company out there, how do they do it? What’s different about the way you go?
The thing with me too, it takes a long time. It took me about a year to get each size the way I want it to. Not to ramble on but blending is like cooking. I also love to cook and cooking you need to feel out the ingredients for each dish. If you want something more spicy, add pepper. If you want something sweet, you can use honey or whatnot. The same thing applies to blending a cigar. Not to say that companies that don’t do the way I do it are wrong. It’s that you’re not giving the size its justice.
Would they blend more specifically to one size and then change the proportions to the bigger sizes?
Generally, when you’re blending a cigar from what I’ve seen in my eighteen years in the business is when you’re making samples for a test blend, I see people do Robusto or Toro. I made this particular cigar because I love a Lonsdale. It started off as one size. I didn’t have the intentions on making bigger ring gauges until I had the opportunity to make it a full line.
Along the lines of what we were talking about with the Cigar School and we’re talking about with customers, what are some tips you would pass on to new cigar smokers about cutting, lighting, how to retrohale, some of those topics?
Cutting and lighting, there’s no wrong way. I personally would never use a Zippo because of the fumes that gets in tobacco. Tobacco is very absorbent of its surroundings. If you light a cigar with a cedar stick or cedar strip, you’re going to get a little bit of cedar flavor in the cigar. I personally, depending on where I’m at, if I’m outdoors I’ll go towards a torch. Indoors, I’ll use a soft flame. There’s no right or wrong way, it’s what you prefer. Cutting wise, there are many different cuts. You have your straight cut, you have a hole punch or a bullet and you had a V cut.
Those are your three most popular ways of cutting a cigar. It’s your own personal preference. If you are going to use a straight cut and if you are a beginner, I would advise you to look at the head of the cigar and look where the cap is applied. You don’t want to go below the cap because that’s what’s holding the wrapper on. A lot of people will cut the total head off a cigar that don’t have any experience and they’ll think the cigar has bad construction because the wrapper starts to unravel.
I made a rookie mistake cutting mine. I actually did cut it a little past the cap and it definitely did try to unravel a little bit on me. What do you think about retrohaling? We get a lot of questions about that. I feel very few people understand how to truly do that. Even personally, I feel I’m not good at it.
Retrohaling is where you get all your flavor. If you look at any cigar review, whether it be online or a magazine and you read the flavors that they get, that’s coming through their senses in their nasal passage. On your tongue, you only have five senses of flavor. Over 90% of the flavor that you’re going to experience in the cigar is through the retrohale or pushing it through your nose.
What are some tips on how to do that?
It’s not an easy thing to show because it’s going through your body. Basically, I blow half the smoke out through my mouth and then I pushed the rest of my nostrils. Before I learned how to do that, I was smoking really full body cigars all day long, morning, noon and night. When I first started a retrohale, I pulled back to start off with a medium bodied cigar in the morning instead of a fuller body cigar in the morning. You’re smoking a fuller body cigar in the morning, you’re tasting it on your palate but you’re not getting the full effect of that cigar.
That makes sense. I appreciate the tips. I know you’re into pairings. Do you have any recommended pairings with your Vivalo cigars?
The way I blended my cigar, each cigar has its own strength. The flavor profile, you can pair five different whiskies with the five different sizes. Don’t go by my recommendations as ironclad. Generally, with my spicier cigars, I’ll go with a more aggressive scotch like a Willett, Laphroaig or Lagavulin. With the Lonsdale, Robusto and Belicoso, it can go with a medium strength bourbon or an Irish whiskey because you’re going to get more of the sweet notes from a bourbon and an Irish whiskey opposed to a fuller strength scotch, like a single malt with my spicier sizes.
Are you still writing articles for Cigar Press with the pairings?
I don’t do pairings. I write reviews for Cigar Press. I did the WhistlePig 12 Year. WhistlePig’s a rye whiskey out of Vermont and one of their newer releases is the WhistlePig 12 Year. Something unique in the rye whiskey market, which I haven’t seen before, maybe it’s the first time. If not, I haven’t seen anything else. They used three different wine barrels to age the rye whiskey. You get a little bit of that spice from the rye whiskey, but you get some of the more robust, complex flavors from the different wine barrels.
Is it me or is rye whiskey or rye Bourbon seems like, in Alabama at least, those are popping up a lot more?
Rye whiskey has made a comeback. In the past couple of years, I started seeing a lot of ryes pop back on the market. To me, rye whiskeys are like a fuller bodied cigar. If you like something spicy and aggressive, I would suggest a rye whiskey. If you like something with a little more complexity and balance, then you’re going to go with your regular American Bourbon whiskey.
Thanks for joining us, Patrick.
I appreciate you spending some time. We’re smoking the Vivalo Lonsdale size, very good cigar. I hope to see you again soon and have you back on the show.
- Patrick Vivalo