What is retro-haling?

I received three contact form messages during the last week from users who wanted to know how to retro-hale and I decided to answer the question in a blog post.

First of all, what is retro-haling? According to the tobacconist university:

Retro-haling is the act of moving smoke from the back of the mouth, up through the sinuses, and exhaling through the nasal passages.

Now, why would one want to smoke a cigar through the nose? Well, it is simply because we have so many flavor detectors in our noses – much more than on the tongue that can only distinguish basic flavors. Smoking through the nose will maximize the flavors you will get out of your cigar.

Final question – how do you do it? That’s the tricky part, quite difficult to explain. Former cigarette smokers will certainly know how to retro-hale and I’ll try to describe it as concisely as I can. First of all, take a good puff on your cigar and release approximately half of the smoke through the mouth as you normally do. Do not inhale or swallow the remaining smoke. With your mouth closed, gently push the smoke to the back of the cavity with your tongue and at the same time start exhaling through the nose. That’s it!

Make sure you try this with the mildest cigar you can get and go slowly or you might end up coughing quite a bit. I usually do it a couple of times in each third but there are aficionados who retro-hale every single puff.

What is your experience with retro-haling? Have you noticed that it helps to detect more flavors?

22 thoughts on “What is retro-haling?

  1. I find that when I retrohale and push the smoke out quickly it burns my nose regardless of the strength of the smoke. If I breathe out slowly through my nose I find the burning sensation is much less prominent whether its mild or fuller bodied, and I have a longer period of time to taste various flavors.

  2. As a former cigarette smoker I retrohale frequently during each cigar. I find it a critical element to the full enjoyment of the cigar of the moment. The only reason I’m really responding though is that I do it in the reverse order. After purging, I take that nice puff and allow it to fill the nasal passages immediately and exhale through mouth and nose together. After that purging ill do that 2 or 3 times in succession (especially on the best cigars). Just my two cents.

  3. I retrohaled an LFD Digger in the final third once on a dare. Not something I’ll ever repeat. 😛

  4. I believe keeping the heat low and regular purging, followed by retrohaling are the ONLY way to taste all of the complexities of the fine cigars we smoke. If one uses only one’s mouth, the only taste you will get (according to science) is salty, sweet, bitter or sour. The sinus is what detects those delectable, complex and subtle tastes we so covet. I’m one who retrohales at least every other puff.

  5. Have only ever smoked cigars, granted majority have been mini/club/purito – but have only ever retro-haled. Defintely worth it for taste and not collapsed lungs!!

    1. Collapsed lungs? You don’t inhale your cigar smoke, do you? You shouldn’t be getting ANY cigar smoke into your lungs.

  6. Just bought my first cigar, a 1998 Connecticut Shade and perused this website while smoking. Thank you all for greatly enhancing my experience. Beautiful.

  7. I’m no pro but have smoked sticks for 40 years. just 3 things to say…1)blow out a small puff of the draw BEFORE you retrohale. 2) PURGE PURGE PURGE(about every 5-7 puffs,..just a small purge and large one every now and then)3. |Make smokeing a cigar an event…take your time and concentrate on each stoke….after a while it becomnes second nature You shouldn”t retro EVERY TIME, maybe 4-7 times per third..when you retro hale the flavor doesn’t leave you for 30 or so seconds(thats when you compliment your retro with a nice even puff)These aren’t gosple but I tell you it has really help me enjoy the event. Hope it works for you.

  8. I got mixed up and inhaled and my lung almost flew out my mouth! With the second try I got it right on with no burn in my nose which wasn’t surprising being an ex cigarette smoker! The flavours were intensified a bit but I don’t think it’s worth doing on every smoke!

  9. Funny: this is SOP in pipe smoking as well. That said: in my experience, pipe smoke is a bit softer than most cigars. Def. a nice way to detect subtler scents/flavors.

  10. I typically only retro-inhale on mild cigars, when the heat is low. It’s great to get some extra flavor out of a smoke that may otherwise be lacking. Burns something awful on the full bodied sticks though.

  11. Screw safe, I could die tomorrow crossing the street.

  12. In deference to Robtheman’s comments, it is true that when you retro-hale you are ingesting dubious amounts of ammonia and formaldehyde. The best compromise is to retro-hale (as it is the best method of tasting the stick) but only after purging the cigar first. Doing this routinely throughout the burn makes it both enjoyable and safer.

  13. Being a cigarette smoker (I roll my own 100% natural tobacco), retro-haling is second nature to me. Its is definitly a big part of the experience of smoking a cigar for me.

  14. Wonderful post. I fully agree with the technique of reto-haling. It was technique that I had to slowly get use to. Yes, you will probably experience some heat but, it’s all worth it in the end. I understand that this technique is regularly practiced with wine drinkers. So, like a good glass of wine, experiencing the full body of a cigar should be the ultimate goal of a cigar smoker. As I was recently explained to my mother, who does not understand the fascination with cigars, “for us cigar smokers, smoking a good cigar is like a woman’s love of chocolate…it’s a sensual experience.” What do you all think?

    On a similar note, I would like to know what my fellow aficionados think about eating certain foods while smoking a cigar. I’ve had quite a unique experience when combining the flavors of a cigar with, for example, steak or grilled chicken. Comments will be appreciated.

  15. I regularly retrohale when I am smoking good sticks. It enhances the detection of flavors tremendously. Very good post!

  16. Great introduction to retrohale, and I do agree that beginning with a milder cigar is a very wise choice. Also, smoking several of the same cigar will help improve taste recognizion. It is important to note that all tastes are subjective; one person may experience hay; others may taste chocolate.

    I would recommend Doc Stogie Fresh video on this subject: http://bit.ly/zoURH

  17. Personally I have always just called it nosing the cigar. Although I guess that sounds a bit dirtier adn far less technical.

    I think it’s a great technique but it’s really not for everyone. I do it for all cigars as I think it allows you to really experience the different flavors and scents that a cigar has to offer.

    sometimes it’s nice and pleasant though other times it can be a literal pain. It depends mostly on the cigar.

  18. Retrohaling definitely helps me pick out more subtle notes, especially the softer, sweeter spicy notes and floral notes. To avoid the sinus burn and to limit the amount of noxious gases pushed through the nose what I usually do is exhale the majority of the smoke through my mouth and then push just a little bit of the remaining smoke up into my sinus. I still get the flavor, but avoid the painful aspects.

  19. It is a great way to detect far more subtle components of the tobacco. I find it very enjoyable to do and hae done this periodically throughout the stick. However, further reading on the smoke components of the cigar, I have found that it contains adequate parts of ammonia and other noxious gases. Retro-haling does cause these to enter your blood stream to a FAR greater extent then just smoking normally; I do not do this very often any more due to this.

  20. Certainly helps me to bring out some of the more subtle notes. Especialy earth/humus as well as the more gentle sides of ammonia (as in stables) stand out. This of course, my personal experience…

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