Sickness, Dehyrdation and The Palate

Happy Shootin’ DudeEven though I’ve been over my lovely little case of bronchitis (and pink eye too!) for a couple of weeks now, I seem to still be experiencing the side of effects of said malady. Don’t worry, I’m not sick, and the nagging shallow dry cough has hit the road for new throats to set up camp in. What I mean is that a lingering case of dehydration may have been adversely affecting my cigar smoking experience, and as a result, my reviews for the past week or two.

It all came to a head when I realized I was starting to get headaches at the drop of a hat. Smoke a cigar, get a headache. Drink a cup of coffee, get a headache. Drink a beer or a glass of wine, get a headache. And for me, as for the average hung-over reveler, headaches are a symptom of dehydration.

Until I realized I, like the state of Georgia, was undergoing a serious drought, I thought I’d lost my tolerance for stronger cigars. Cigars that I could normally smoke one after another on an empty stomach (probably not a good idea, actually), were suddenly working me over like a loan shark collecting an overdue debt. As you can probably guess, this was a little unsettling. I write regular reviews for the Stogie Review (and irregularly here), as well as spending a lot of times at herfs. Being knocked on your ass by a medium-strength cigar at a herf is the kind of thing that makes you lose a bit of credibility as a cigar reviewer. And look like a pansy. Since I don’t actually know if I command any credibility to begin with, I gotta focus on avoiding the floral resemblance.

During this period of dehydration, when my noggin wasn’t being knocked around like the steel ball in a pinball machine, I noticed that every cigar I smoked was unusually spicy. My palate was surprisingly sensitive to the acidity and pepper flavors in cigars. But after an aggressive re-hydration campaign, the same cigars were noticeable less spicy. And that’s fascinating. What this seems to indicate is that even pairing a cigar with water in an attempt to get a good, unaltered read on the flavors may be a flawed idea. Smoking a cigar without a drink will be a different experience that smoking one with water, because the presence of additional water has an impact on how your palate detects flavor.

Of course, some people already know that a very cold or iced beverage deadens the taste buds. (Ever wonder why cheap beer is served ice-cold?) As part of my recovery process, I’ve been trying to drink room temperature water to avoid irritating my throat. So I’m not just talking about the turning you palate into a flavorless tundra.

So what should you, as a cigar smoker take away from my random, unscientific, anecdotal thesis? A couple of things:

  • If you find your cigars are suddenly kicking your butt, you might be dehydrated. Trying drinking a bunch of water an hour or so before you light up. Consider having some more water with your cigar. Remember that coffee is actually a diuretic! (A very tasty one, given.) Without realizing it, your cup of joe may just be dehydrating you! And keep in mind some areas become drier in the winter, so your environment may be working against you!
  • If you find that your cigars seem pretty bland recently, cut back on your fluids while you smoke them. Or maybe considering smoking your cigar with something warm like tea. If cold beverages deaden your taste buds, it stands to reason that a warm beverage will wake them up.

But what about me? I read your blog, and I don’t smoke cigars! Well keep in mind that the very same palate I use to enjoy the finer qualities of premium tobacco is the palate I use to evaluate red wine and the presence of possible poisons in my wife’s cooking. (She seems to have the mistaken idea that I have a large life insurance policy in her name. The joke’s on her, I’ve left everything to the neighbor’s Chihuahua!)

But if the preciseness of your palate is not a big concern to you (or maybe even a liability if you live on Taco Bell and Schlitz malt liquor), you still should be aware of the importance of water. After billowing plumes of premium tobacco smoke, water is probably the most important thing we can consume on a daily basis. I did a quick search of the web for the effects of dehydration and came across this website that alleges the lack of water is tied to everything from Asthma to diabetes, arthritis, heart burn, back pain and migraines. And you know what? I believe ’em.

Drink up!

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  1. Emon said,

    December 11, 2007 at 6:06 pm

    A belated congrats on your regular stint at the Stogie Review! Very good advice re: drinking water. Goes back to the simple saying, ‘water is life.’

  2. Brian said,

    December 12, 2007 at 1:30 pm

    Thanks Emon,

    Yep, water IS life. In our case, it’s like 70% of our life. It’s surprising how easy it is to run a little dry.

  3. Joe Drinker said,

    December 12, 2007 at 1:31 pm

    Mmmmm – Taco Bell washed down with a Schlitz! Truly the breakfast of champions.

    Glad to hear you’re up and smoking again. Hopefully your immune system is now primed to deal with the Christmas blend of illness sure to go around.

  4. Brian said,

    December 12, 2007 at 1:43 pm

    Yeah JD,
    It’s hard to beat a “crunch wrap” or a “chalupa” and tinted, watered-down rubbing alcohol first thing in the morning. There’s nothing you can’t handle after that!

    I’m crossing my fingers. As I’ve said before, if I’m gonna come down with something, it’s gonna happen over a vacation or a holiday. Maybe if I hole up in my bedroom the week between Christmas and New Years, I’ll be home free. God knows, I have plenty of Nyquil and Theraflu on tap just in case.

  5. babychaos said,

    December 13, 2007 at 2:58 pm

    If I have colds and flu that last for ever – something I have less often now I no longer have to work in an office with kind colleagues who generously pass them on to me – I tend to give up and just drink myself into oblivion, the theory being that if I can’t beat the germs I may as well pickle the little bastards! With plenty of water, later, of course!

    So should disaster strike you at Christmas, here is my special recipe is these three items, taken in bed with a hot water bottle clamped to your agued bosoom! Asprin a pint of strong, Normandy cider and a hot toddy, in that order. The last time I did that I woke up at 10.00 the next morning, sitting up, with the light still on… and greatly reduced symptoms. I’m not sure if it’s the alcohol that kills them or the good long run your antibodies get during the ensuing 12 hour stupor. Whatever it is, it works for me.

    Glad you’re back on form now, anyway… and drought free (even if Georgia isn’t).



  6. December 14, 2007 at 6:05 pm

    I tend to drink filtered water that isn’t too cold when I have a smoke. Even though we don’t inhale cigars, the nicotine definately enters our blood anyway. I think I’ve actually OD’d smoking strong cigars.
    I’ll only drink coffee with a mild smoke, if anything to enhance the flavor. But once the joe is gone, I’ll switch to water. Seems to help and sort of clense the pallet a little.


  7. Brian said,

    December 14, 2007 at 7:29 pm

    That recipe sounds like a sure thing, BC, I’ll have to give it a shot. Maybe I’ll test it out beforehand to verify its healing potential… That reminds me, back in college, I used to take a shot of whiskey or tequila when I felt like I was coming down with something, and it seemed to work! I remember feeling great the following day.

    Oh yeah, Tom, the nicotine definitely sneaks in. I don’t think any avid cigar smoker hasn’t had a slight overdose from time to time.

    It sounds we have the same drink of choice! When I’m reviewing a cigar, I also go for a big mug of filtered water. However, when I’m lighting one up in the morning, I like to have a cup of coffee with it.

    All this talk of cigars is making me want one. Time to dig through the humidor…

  8. December 23, 2007 at 4:26 pm


    Just wanted to wish you the best holiday ever. And to say thanks.

    You were one of the first to leave a comment on my oh so new blog lo these many months ago and you’ve been with me ever since. I know life happens and ebbs and flows and we visit each other more sometimes and less on other occasions, but the support is still there and I thank you for that which you’ve extended.

    You’re a funny, talented guy with a great wife, a good gig and a penchant for good cigars. Life has a way of giving us what we want and need and sounds to me like you’re doing just fine.

    Here’s to continued success in 2008 and to finding all the inner peace we deserve.

    Merry Christmas Brian,
    Laurie Kendrick

  9. December 25, 2007 at 1:18 am

    On a unrelated note… I saw you over at Stogie Review on the latest YQMA episode. Good work. Your a natural on the camera, and had plenty of good input. Welcome aboard.

  10. Brian said,

    December 26, 2007 at 11:54 am

    Thanks Tom!
    Glad you enjoyed it. I was glad I didn’t go all deer-in-the-headlights. It looks like all those contract job interviews I do really help. Compared to a grilling in an interview room, YQMA is a walk in the park. (Thank god there’s no water… er, I mean, white boarding!)

  11. Brian said,

    December 26, 2007 at 11:57 am

    Thanks Laurie, that’s very kind of you!

    I wish you all the best during this holiday season. I hope your Christmas was great and that your New Year will bring you success and happiness in all your endeavors. (Actually, that’d be continued success when it comes to blogging!)

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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