What is Retrohaling?  Why and How?

What is Retrohaling? Why and How?

Posted by Jeff Oda on Oct 26, 2018

For many people new to cigar smoking, retrohaling is a conundrum. Most don’t know how to do it or even why they should at least try it. Hopefully, this article will help to explain this aspect of the cigar experience.

What the heck is “retrohaling”?

When you take in smoke from a cigar, most of the smoke will be expelled back out through the mouth, but many smokers like to let some of that smoke out through the nose. That action, in cigar parlance, is called a “retrohale”.

Why should I try it?

As everyone knows, when ingesting anything, whether it’s food or drink, aroma plays a large part in what we perceive as flavor, and the same goes for smoke from a cigar. The aromas that are picked up through the olfactory receptors can add nuances to what we perceive and can add to the complexity of flavors from the cigar, giving it the full experience that the cigar maker has intended. Some of the ancillary flavors that can be picked up this way include wood (usually cedar or oak), spices, leather, various fruits, and especially pepper.

How to I accomplish this?

For most folks who have in the past been cigarette smokers, it’s an inherent part of smoking, but those who haven’t had that experience might have a hard time with the concept and method of doing so. The best way for me to explain it is push to smoke with your tongue to the roof of your mouth, and exhale through your nose. You should first blow most of the smoke back out of the mouth, but leave enough to release through the nose. Do not inhale any of the smoke. This will take some practice, and at first might burn like hell, so starting with just a very small amount of smoke, say, five percent of the smoke volume or even less, is prudent.

Once you get used to that, you can try going for a larger volume of smoke to retrohale, but it should only be enough to add those subtleties to your experience, so easy does it. It’s not like it’s supposed to be a macho chile eating contest. Some cigars are ferociously strong when retrohaled, producing a searing horseradish or hot mustard sensation in the sinuses, so it’s a good idea to start with a milder cigar to practice this and work your way up. The amount you retrohale will be dependent on the characteristics of each cigar, so adjust the amount of your retrohale accordingly.

It should be stressed that even some well-seasoned cigar smokers choose not to do this often, and it may not be for you; it’s all about what best fits your preferences, but give it a try to see if it is something that will enhance the enjoyment of your cigar experience.

Bonus section!

Perhaps you’re not convinced that this technique is for you, but here’s a good way to find out. Once you think you’ve got the method down, try a cigar from a mild, medium, or full category and post your thoughts here in the comments section. Or try all three. Was it easier to get the hang of it than you imagined? More difficult? Nastier? Were you able to moderate your retrohale to where you felt comfortable and enjoyed the experience, and were you able to pick up additional flavors? Seasoned smokers are welcomed to chime in, too.

Suggested cigars to try this experiment with:

Mild – My Father Connecticut

Medium - Arturo Fuente Rosado Sungrown

Strong - Matilde 1876 Oscura