Justin Harris / www.cigahr.com
It’s a question that cigar smokers have been pondering for years. When purchases are made, do I enjoy it now or do I store it away? Is this thing prime for smoking or will it take some time before it becomes the cigar of my hopes and dreams?
While opinions will differ, there are benefits and disadvantages to aging cigars. Because there are so many factors contributing to flavors and strength, it’s difficult to determine the exact timeframe in which to fire up your recent purchase or if you should stash that rare stick in the back of your humidor for a special occasion. It must be considered that cigars are organic material that change with temperature, time and humidity. While these factors can be regulated (not like the FDA) to some degree, nature is always involved and can alter one’s plans.
Let’s focus on the good stuff this week, the advantages. Next week we’ll explore the setbacks.
Benefits of Aging
Like wine, bourbon or one’s mate, cigars can get better the longer they’ve aged. Because tobacco in its raw form is naturally chalked full of ammonia, fermenting is done to rid cigars of this pungent, metallic taste. Before leafs make their way to rolling tables or ever see the light of day on retail shelves, they’ve already been aged for specific amounts of time in the factory (depending on the blend or manufacturer) to yield certain colors, flavors and to ensure that one can taste creativity and innovation, not chemicals.
Before packaging, cigars will “rest” in aging rooms inside the factory even longer to mellow out, rid them of undesirable flavors, and allow the different leafs in the blend to marry and complement one another. So by the time cigars reach consumers, they’ve already been aged for a considerable amount of time. Again remembering that leafs are organic, fermenting never ends. When maintained at the proper conditions over the course of time, cigar leafs continue to change and any remaining traces of bitterness (“green”taste) or harshness disappear. Like soup or sauce that is left to stew all day, maximum flavor comes with time and patience.
Aging is especially helpful when manufacturing has been rushed to meet high consumer demand. While this isn’t announced by manufactures, it happens. Additionally, aging is especially helpful when cigars have been obtained from less than ideal storing conditions, i.e. ill-maintained humidors. Letting cigars regain their balance in the proper conditions help to “bring cigars back to life” when they’ve been dried out or made soggy…which can affect performance and ultimately enjoyment.
Lastly, the natural oils that are in tobacco leafs become more prominent with time. As they age, the sheen in the wrappers becomes more prevalent (plume). The flavor in the various leafs become more seamless. Characteristics like sweetness are more noticeable and the smoke can become smoother and more complex as any remaining harshness or bite has naturally worked its way out. So when done correctly…with patience, care and thoughtful execution, aging can bring out some of the best qualities in your cigars.
Check out next week’s post where we’ll discuss the flipside, the yang to the ying, the disadvantages of cigar aging.