Retrohaling Cigars is the process in which you release the smoke from your nose. I’ve sometimes noticed that the flavor of the cigar changes substantially when I practice this. The normal way of smoking a cigar would be to expel the smoke from the mouth. Throughout the cigar industry, clients of mine have practiced the art of retrohaling, and many of them remark on how much better the taste and experience is that they receive when doing so. In my opinion, if you haven’t released smoke out of your nose when smoking a stogie, you’ve never really experienced the true flavor and freshness of a cigar. My question I will be answering in this article today is: Does retrohaling work and if so, how and why?
Under no circumstances should cigar-smoking be inhaled into the lungs. This causes all sorts of problems concerning the respiratory and worsens them in many cases. It is extremely bad for your health and may in fact introduce oneself to nicotine addiction.
The word ‘retrohale’ is often split into two other terms: retronasal olfaction and exhale. This is how we end up with retrohale. I find this term is far more accurate compared to the old phrase ‘exhale through the nose’. This is simply because it is not recommended to inhale cigar smoke and inhaling is the opposite term to exhaling. When the body retrohales, the smoke completely misses the lungs and instead makes its way from the mouth to the nose and out again.
New smokers must be asking how retrohaling cigars affects the taste of the cigar and to answer that for you, we must first take a look at the two primary senses that are stimulated when you drawing on a cigar. These senses are gustation (taste) and olfaction (smell). When combining these two senses you produce flavor.
Gustation: This term refers to the sensation you receive from your taste buds and taste receptor cells. These are mostly found in the tongue and throughout your mouth.
Olfaction: This term refers to the other sensation you feel in your olfactory neutrons found in your nose. Your nose is full of nerves and tiny bones. But within all this structure, the main area of sensitivity is coming from the olfactory bulb (it’s the yellow section of the picture above). The air particles coming from the cigar smoke can reach the olfactory bulb through two different paths – orthonasal and retronasal olfaction.
The orthonasal olfaction area of your nose receives the aromas traveling through your nose and this is where we get the term ‘smelling’. However, retronasal olfaction is where the sensations that come from the aroma particles travel through the throat into the nasal cavity. Retronasal olfaction has one primary purpose and that’s to act as a last-minute warning signal to your brain if it thinks there’s something harmful you are about to swallow.
In many cases, there could be no molecules being transmitted to the olfactory bulb compared to how many molecules are usually transmitted to the orthonasal olfaction via the retronasal olfaction. If there are aroma particles being transmitted through the retronasal olfaction, they only have a small channel to move through and in actual fact, they have a further distance to travel to get to the olfactory nerves.
On the contrary, the particles of smoke travelling through the nasal cavity and being released through the nose drastically increases the number of aroma particles transmitted to your olfactory nerves. This increases the pleasure dramatically.
The Difference Between Orthonasal and Retronasal Olfaction
There are several differences between these types of olfaction that are quite important. For those of you wondering, “Why should I put the effort into learning how to blow smoke out my nose when it just leads to the same effects as pulling the smoke in through my nose by sniffing?”
The difference in the composition of the aroma particles is probably one of the most important differences we should take into account. For instance, when you sniff the air around you, you may smoke through your nose, but with it also the aroma particles of your cologne, the scent of flowers you pass by, or even somebody’s odors. This is what can happen if you smoke the air via your orthonasal olfaction (basically sniffing). You take in the aroma particles surrounding you. However, uring retrohalation, you only smoke the aroma molecules drawn out of the cigar through the mouth that reach the olfactory receptors.
Secondly, another big difference is how the two types of olfaction can affect the location or source the smell if coming from. There have been a number of scientific experiments where the results have shown that orthonasal olfaction triggers the perception that the source of the smell is located in the outside environment whereas retronasal olfaction causes the perception that the particles causing the aromas are in the mouth. Sometimes we believe our sensations produced by retrohaling are a part of taste. For instance, when we taste food and say it’s spicy or fruity. These aren’t sensations detected by our mouth or taste buds but are more likely to be the sensation coming from your nasal cavity or retronasal olfaction nerves. In most cases when you feel a spicy sensation in your mouth, most people would think that’s our mouth responding to the flavor but in actual fact, it’s our nose. In cigar terms, some smokers think they are tasting a ‘leathery’ sensation in their mouth but it’s most likely to be triggered in your retronasal olfaction.
My last reason regarding the promotion of retrohaling is that when you are smoking ambient air, that smoke is most likely not going to be missed by your lungs. When retrohaling, not only will you experience a more pronounced flavor, you will also benefit your lungs by not inhaling.
How does it work?
First, you draw the cigar smoke into your mouth, then close your mouth. Hold the smoke and your breath. In order to retrohale properly, open your throat valve and let the pressure inside your lungs force the smoke through your nose. Your body will; do this naturally – the key is to hold your breath and build pressure in your lungs. To help channel the air through to your nasal cavity, use you diaphragm muscles.
Be slow when letting the air out of your airway. It’s kind of like holding your breath underwater. All you’re doing is allowing pressure to buid inside your lungs then slowly allowing thet air pressure to be exhaled through the nose. As with any other art, retrohaling does take a bit of practicing. When I first began to retrohale, I used to blow out 70-80% of the smoke from my mouth and then trying to open my throat to retrohale the excess air.
It doesn’t take long, and once you’ve got the hang of it, your body kind of remembers the whole process. That ‘back door’ is only used in retrohaling and once opened lets in a whole new experience and flavor that enhances your enjoyment and pleaure. If you haven’t found that secret back door yet – and don’t worry if you haven’t ‘cos it always gonna be there – keep searching and one afternoon in your back porch you may find yourself divulging into a brand new shot of extreme flavor!
Some More Reading on Retrohaling Cigars