How to Age a Cigar

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

CELLO WRAPPERS

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.

Comments

  1. Squeaker Bootsma (female) says:

    Hi,
    I am new (6 months) to smoking cigars, and I’ve been getting some pretty good cuban cigars (from some police buddies) and keep them in a small humidor.
    I just bought 3 different boxes of cigars at a garage sale and dom’t know anything about them. googled them, and got a little bit of info on 2 of them, but not the 3rd. They are all in sealed boxes ($20 for all 3 boxes).
    They are Maria Guerrero (dress box) 25 in box
    Primero Partagas series
    and Montecruz Volume X Inmenso (which I cannot find any info) inside of what looks like a BIG wooden Book.
    any info on these would help, but my Big question is how and where do I store all these cigars??? and do they have to be aged? Do I dare take the saran wrap off the boxes?
    Being a chic(!) I’m so confused.
    Help please….

    New and willing to learn…
    Squeaker Bootsma
    California

    • The Montecruz Volume X Inmenso never really killed it on the ratings (nor was it very expensive).

      As for storing…sound like it is time for you to step out for a bigger humidor. Some of the vendors on this site have some good ones at reasonable prices.

      If I either buy (or gifted) cigars that I don’t know their history, I usually have a small “quarantine’ humidor ready to go. The last thing you want to do is mix them with your inventory only to find out the new cigars have bugs! Keep them in there for a month or so (smoke a few) and move them over when they appear ok.

      Removing the wrapping is always under debate however, keeping it on will help preserve the flavor of that particular cigar (and not pick up all the other cigars characteristics). That said, if you don’t like them much, maybe removing the cello will help them out!

  2. Joe Ricucci says:

    Godfather, I ordered a XIKAR 250 humidifier which i did not receive yet, I have a 100 cigar humidor, can I use this or will it emit too much moisture for my humidor ?

    • You should be fine. The issue will most likely be that you have more of a humidifier than you need. Keep an eye on it for a bit. Make sure you use distilled water 🙂

  3. Joe Ricucci says:

    I used purified water to season my humidor thinking it was the same as distilled, did i ruin my humidor ? and can i correct it ?

    • No worries Joe. It won’t hurt the humidor (especially in the short term). Just switch over to distilled the next time you need to fill it up (or just open the humidor for a couple hours – it will evaporate – then add the distilled.).

      Good Luck !

  4. How many jars of jelly do you need?

    • Godfather says:

      Typically you won’t need more than the smallest available. If the cigars are in a small humidor (less than 300 count), a small jar (the size of a golf ball) will work fine.

  5. Thanks for the comments Frank.

    Sounds ok to me. Sounds like a pretty good shot at it. Make sure the sponge does not touch the bag if possible – you could end up with a small amount of water going through the hole in the bag and “swelling” the cigar(s) that it touches.

    The other thing to watch is that they don’t take on moisture too quickly (although you shouldn’t have to worry about rotating them if they are in the bag).

    Take your time and you may still have some great (aged) smokes in your future!

    Check out http://cigarsecrets.com/how-to/how-to-refresh-a-dry-smoke/

    Thanks again!

  6. Geez…where to begin? First off I loved your website. Great info!!!
    I came across a few Cohibas I had stored 2 years ago and I am in the process of restoring them now. What I did is make about 20 holes in the bag the cigars came in, took a brand new sponge and rinsed it like 20 times to get any lingering odors out, then placed the damp spnge in a plastic food container along with the bag of smokes…Im going to keep them there for at least 2 weeks…..that should do it?? Right?? Anyway, great site……I wish you many happy tokes.

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