I’m surprised by how many people tell me they cannot retro-hale. Not only that they don’t quite know how to do it, but that they have tried and are incapable of it. Unless you come from another planet, or your sinuses are completely and permanently blocked so that you cannot, ever, breath through your nose, not being able to retro-hale is plainly impossible.
There is, in human beings (and in fact most all of the air-breathing vertebrate animals) a connection between the nose and the mouth. It is this connection that enables you to breath with your mouth closed. Air enters (or leaves) your nose, goes into (or out of) your mouth, and from there into (or out of) your trachea, the tube that goes from the back of your mouth to your lungs. Here is a diagram of the connection.
Retro-haling is something that, as cigar smokers, we want to be able to do. By pushing smoke out through your nose the aromatic molecules in the smoke are more fully sensed and appreciated. You don’t need to retro-hale to smell your cigar of course. First there is smoke in the air around the cigar that we can smell, and some of the smoke in your mouth will drift into your nose (though the holes in the roof of your mouth) whether you retro-hale or not. Retro-haling can be harsh on the nose especially with a peppery cigar. As a consequence most people who do retro-hale don’t do it on every puff, and they also learn to control the process so that only some of the smoke is pushed out through the nose.
Why many cigar smokers cannot retro-hale
Now it turns out that many people exhale, that is empty their lungs of air, before or during the act of taking a puff of a cigar. It is that habit, and nothing more, that makes retro-haling impossible. To retro-hale you need some air in your lungs. If your lungs are empty and your mouth is filled with smoke, you must take some air into your lungs before you can blow anything out through your nose. This is problematic with cigars because once there is smoke in your mouth, taking in air forces that smoke (at least some of it) into your lungs, something that most cigar smokers do not (for many good reasons) want to do. So the big secret to retro-haling is having some air in your lungs (and keeping it there) before you take a puff of the cigar.
Here are the simple steps to retro-haling
1. Take a breath. Get some air in your lungs.
2. Take a good puff of your cigar without exhaling while you do it.
3. Close your mouth.
4. Exhale with your mouth closed.
If there is any smoke in your mouth, it can only get out one way, through your nose! Congratulations! You have just retro-haled!
Controlling the process
As noted above, cigar smoke can be harsh on the nose. Cigar smokers control the retro-hale process in two ways.
First, take only a little smoke into your mouth.
Second, take a good puff but let some of the smoke out through your mouth before closing it and exhaling the rest through your nose.
The second method is usually preferred because you have more control over what is pushed out through your nose. The process takes a little practice — about 5 minutes worth! Give it a try and enhance your cigar experience!
May all of your cigars be good ones!