Tobacconist University
Taste College

Taste College: The Human Senses


A Tobacconist's Story
CMT Academic Contribution

In the late 1990’s I had the pleasure of serving a passionate cigar lover who rode the bus half an hour (each way), from Trenton, New Jersey to Princeton, almost every day to have a cigar. Moe, as I will refer to this gentleman, was unemployed and living on disability after an accident where he fell from a roof onto his head. Miraculously, he survived this horrific accident and recuperated fully from a broken neck, and other injuries. The only permanent physical disability Moe was left with after the accident was a complete loss of TASTE and SMELL. By the time I met him, he had spent several years not tasting or smelling anything, until he discovered cigars. For months he smoked and claimed he "sensed" something, but could not put his finger on it. Within a year or so of cigar smoking, he began to discern vanilla and leather flavors. The look in his eyes was priceless: filled with joy, wonder, and excitement for every toke. To this day, I don’t know if Moe actually sensed anything, but I do know it doesn't really matter. The point is that a cigar can provide relaxation, delightful flavors, and for some people, it can even provide a sense of hope.

By Jorge Armenteros, CRT, CMT

Jorge Armenteros, CRT, CMT Certified Master Tobacconist Tobacconist University
PORT CHARLOTTE, FL - United States
(609) 651-2311

The power of an odor to trigger memories and emotions is remarkably strong. In fact, signals from our olfactory region (in our nasal cavity) travel directly through the limbic system, which is the part of our brain responsible for memory and emotions. For this reason it appears, smells can prompt amazingly vivid memories and trigger extreme emotional responses from people; TU refers to this powerful effect as smemory.

It is not surprising therefore, that lovers of luxury tobacco typically have fond memories of the aromas associated with it. Many people who love cigars or pipes had a loving relative or friend that shared their passion with them. Other aficionados remember the special moments, conversations, experiences, and good times they have had while smoking or smelling great tobacco.

In fact, the aromas we sense during positive experiences help anchor those emotions deeper into our brains and psyche. So, a great cigar or pipe tobacco can literally improve the quality of your life.

In addition, studies also show that memory retention is improved if a pleasant smell is used while you study and then reintroduced during test taking.*

On the other hand, many people who abhor the aroma of tobacco had a negative experience or association with it at a younger age. Every Tobacconist can attest to the irrational hatred anti-tobacco zealots can exhibit. Smoke-haters are known to pick up their pace, cover their nose, and give Tobacconists the “evil eye” when they walk past their storefronts. Alas, this extreme emotional reaction is not merely a reaction to the wholesale demonization of all tobacco. Like Pavlov’s dogs, many smoke-haters are locked into a visceral reaction that has been formed deep within their brain and closed their mind. It is not necessarily their fault that they will never be able to appreciate the delicacy of great tobacco. As aficionados, we must forgive them for they know not what they are doing.

While a smell can trigger an emotion or memory, it is also possible that emotions and memories can effect our response to smells. For example, you could smoke a cigar while on vacation, lying on a beach, at the epitome of relaxation, and think that was the best cigar you have ever had. Weeks later you could try that same cigar under "real life" conditions and be thoroughly unimpressed. All things being equal, you have experienced a perceptual bias that affected your evaluation of the tobacco. For this reason, serious tasting requires a consistent methodology (see Tasting School).

At this point, we have just begun to understand the connections between smells, memory, and emotions. It is difficult to put into words the way a certain smell can flood your mind with warm memories or affect your disposition: it can be a very powerful and personal experience. Ultimately, the greatest gift of olfaction is its ability to enhance our lives through stimulus, memory, and positive emotional reinforcement.

*Tobacconist University® strongly suggests you enjoy a fine cigar or pipe tobacco while studying the academic curriculum. For your academic benefit, smoking is encouraged during test taking.

Certified R&D Tobacconists: United States

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Walter Gorski, CRTGeorgetown Tobacco
Washington, DC - United States
(202) 338-5100

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Rami Abbouna, CRTSmokers Land
San Diego, CA - United States
(858) 484-7373

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Emil Dameff, CRTHavana Tranquility
Punta Gorda, FL - United States
(941) 347-8177

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