Whether or not you choose to age your cigars – in a humidor, a tupperdor, an igloodor, or a ziplock freezer bag — is strictly a matter of personal choice. Cigars are like wines – some people like the simple bright taste of the latest Beaujolais Nouveau, while others favor the deep, rich flavor of a vintage Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s a matter of taste – YOURS.
The tobacco in most premium cigars is aged up to 2 years. High-end premium tobacco is often 3 years old and some ultra-special blends use tobacco that’s been aging for more than a decade.
After receiving the leaves from the growers, the best manufacturers will roll cigars and then hold them (now rolled) for another 1-2 years before shipping. It’s unfortunate that many cigars are in such demand that manufacturers ship them directly off the roller’s tables, without the critical “post-rolling” rest period.
Then it’s up to the distributors, the tobacconists and YOU to take the time to age or mature them – two different processes.
‘Green cigars,’ those that have been brought to market with no aging by the manufacturer need to go through a short-term maturation process for 3-4 weeks. This allows the blending of filler leaves to occur and the taste to stabilize. After about a month, the stogies may be ready to go.
Other aficionados will squirrel away their stogies and age them for 5 years, 6 years, even 20 years before smoking them. (Think of a wine cellar for stogies). Fans of aging say that the process smoothes away any rough edges in the taste and brings out the best in the tobacco.
In Europe countries, and particularly in Great Britain, where it’s called ‘laying down a cigar,’ aging is a time-honored practice. The North American continent is just starting to embrace the practice.
HOW LONG, OH LORD, HOW LONG?
• 3 weeks stabilizes the mechanical tensions and moisture of a cigar, making it smoke better, particularly if it was shipped ‘green’
• 3 months allows the oils to begin their natural dissipation so that the flavors of the blend ‘marry’
• 3 years (in a temperature/humidity controlled environment) allows some more complex chemical processes of true aging to take place, creating deep, rich and subtle layers of flavor
• Beyond 3 years – Carefully stored, cigars just keep getting better and better
Several factors contribute to whether or not you should leave your cigars in their wrappers for aging. Aging is a complex process involving oxidation, the blending of essential oils and other chemical changes.
Note: The end of the cello is never sealed, it’s just folded over. This allows the ambient humidity to slowly infiltrate the cigar, but keeps out intruders like mold or the dreaded tobacco bugs.
If you’re aging a number of types of cigars in a humidor without compartments, you’re better off leaving the wrappers on. Wrappers can impede your spicy Jamaicans from overwhelming you mild Dominicans and other ‘hostile takeovers.’
You’re better off leaving them in their wrappers for another reason. If you’re aging your cigars alongside your ‘daily smokes,’ you’ll be exposing them to outside air every time you reach for another stogie. With the air, the essential oils will be affected along with the flavor of the cigars.
Keeping the cello on also slows down the transfer of humidity, the bane of cigars everywhere. Wrapped cigars remain more stable – even with opening and closing the humidor frequently.
Now, if you’re only keeping one or two similar brands in your humidor, you might consider letting them ‘go naked.” Removing the wrappers will results in a “mass marriage” as the chemical processes blend aspects of all the cigars. This approach will give the cigars a greater overall consistency of flavor, but will not significantly affect any individual cigar.