When we talk about aging cigars there is a lot of controversy, debate, and even fighting amongst those who claim to be the all-knowing cigar doctors. Usually, people get passionate about how and why to age cigars because there is both a lot of money and time that goes into cigars. After a certain period the cigars attain their own sentimental and emotional investment also, usually the longer they sit in your humidor, the more covetous cigar smokers get of those sticks. This seems natural, the longer you have something, the less likely you are to easily give it up. Here we will simply discuss some of the basics of cigar aging.
The best place to begin is why age cigars? Well, the answer is usually the same, but can be done for different motivations. Cigar smokers age their cigars for the purpose of changing their flavor profile. This happens because the essential oils that are present in the natural cigar leaf begin to change and move through the cigar. Old, and well-aged cigars typically have on their surface what is called plume which is nothing more than the essential oils of the cigar rising to the surface and slightly crystalizing. Some people often mistake plume as mold and throw their cigars away, not knowing that they just discarded a prized treasure. Secondly, the cigar over time, when allowed to properly age will break down some of the chemical compounds that are naturally found in the leaf. Chemicals like nicotine and ammonia will slowly change and break down over time which will mellow out the stick. many cigar smokers age their cigars because of this motivation.
Second question, Should you age all your cigars?This is a tough question to answer because it honestly depends on the cigars. Some cigars will get ‘better’ over time, the profiles will change, they mellow out and become more refined. This can be an amazing experience and well worth the wait. Other time beautifully balanced and rich cigars become too mellow and devoid of all flavor, thus ruining what was once an amazing stick. Choosing which cigars to age and which not to become part of the fun of cigar smoking. I have experienced both, and losing a box of cigars to poorly choosing to age them doesn’t discourage me from trying. Unfortunately, because the operative agent in aging is time, you will never know until you actually get to that point where you want to stop the aging cycle and try it.
Next, how do I age my cigars? Well, this questions comes down to the methods of storage, of which there are countless articles and even books on the subject. The best advice I could give is to use a Spanish cedar humidor set at your desired humidity (I prefer 65% RH for aging, and higher for more immediate smokes). Some people rotate their cigars when aging, moving them around while others leave them exactly where they put them so as to not disturb the movement of the oils. Either way has some logic behind it and you should explore that for yourself. Aside from that, the best way to age cigars is by the box. The only real way to keep track of the aging process and how you enjoy aged cigars is to intermittently try a cigar, probably every 6 months to a year to see how the flavors change and even to try and predict the current flavor trend path. This way, if you dislike where you think the flavors are going you can cut you losses and smoke the rest. If you are enjoying the mellowing flavours you can stop smoking them and save them all for some undetermined future time!
The blending of flavours, the mellowing of profiles and the surfacing of oils; all are what make the hobby of cigar smoking so nuanced and so utterly enjoyable. Aging cigars is both an art and a science. You have to keep some variables stable, but the outcome is still uncertain, the best way to know if you like a cigar aged it to set it in your humidor and wait…
By: Steven Umbrello – Senior Editor