How about vintage ratings and cigar wrapper selections? An all Colorado Rosado mature montage sounds absolutely stunning in our book. Or perhaps it's time to conduct a 5-year, 5-stick Maduro cigar wrapper experiment.
Throwing a vintage smoke from a legacy cigar brand into a properly calibrated humidor for a few months while you formulate your smoking schedule is one thing. Aging a cigar for a few years (or decades) is a completely different form of preservation, and requires a certain level of knowledge, care, and preparation.
You can’t just toss a cigar into a humidor, age the damn thing for a decade or so, and then expect it to provide a sublime smoking experience unlike any other.
Aging conditions, humidity levels, and fellow cigar companions all affect how a cigar smells, tastes, and combusts. And that’s just one part of the equation. The longer you expose your cigars to these sorts of scenarios, the more profound the result. And by profound, we mean impacted, not enhanced.
Here’s why you may or may not want to age your cigars for prolonged periods, and what you need to know before you pack that humidor time capsule with primo long-filler tobacco.
How the Hands of Time Shape a Cigar
To keep those legacy tobacco brand options or boutique cigar selections in outstanding shape for the duration of the long haul, some form of inspection and aftercare regiment must be implemented. Here are a few considerations to keep in mind when your cigar embarks upon its clandestine final evolution.
Like your uncle’s beer gut sitting poolside, premium long-filler cigar flavor profiles tend to become softer and rounder as they age.
Like a balanced blend of Scotch whiskies, a premium cigar blend is intended to evolve as it ages, with post-production maturation times determining much of a cigar’s release date.
As all of those sugars, oils, resins, and fermented bacterial byproducts get busy with one another beneath that blanket of a premium cigar wrapper, something magical happens. Subtle premium cigar blend nuances are born. The longer you allow those microbial beasties to bump uglies, the better your chances that the offspring will be a complex character.
“We trust aged cheeses from the store, but we generally don’t attempt additional maturation at home. The same can be said for cigars.” — Klaro Cigars
Another factor to consider, is that with adequate humidity and temperature levels, and very little fluctuation within either, decades of premium cigar blend aging are indeed achievable. Here, slightly drier (60% to 68% humidity) and consistent temperatures between 60°F to 68°F (15°C to 20°C) are the norm, so slow your roll. Those stogies aren't going anywhere anytime soon.
Tobacco Nerd Note: If you enjoy buying medium-strength cigars in 5-pack form, try setting one or two aside for testing a year or so from now, and set a reminder. Then a year later, when your reminder chimes, go buy the same stogie once more and smoke it fresh from the cellophane. A day or two later, torch the aged cigar, give it a puff, and begin to compare tasting notes. If you like the result, try out a fresh variety of medium/full-strength aged smokes and see what happens. It’s shocking how different a cigar flavor profile can be after seeing some seasons of seasoning within a quality humidor box.
Cigars Age at Every Stage
As we have discussed in previous Klaro Cigar journal entries, premium long-filler cigar types are both fermented and aged. Months, years, even decades – the aging and maturation of various cigar types is determined by the particular premium cigar blend in question, and the knowledge base of the master blender themselves.
Stored and routinely inspected by the world’s greatest tobacco specialists, premium cigar tobacco is aged both before, during, and after rolling. The premium cigar blend is formulated and released for sale at carefully calculated points within the cigar’s lifespan. Moments when the master blender(s) predict the premium cigar blend to be in peak form.
That said, this doesn’t mean that the selection of stogies down at the local walk-in humidor are going to be at their very “freshest” when you procure them. A slow seller, or an accidental additional order can cause a cigar box to languish on the shelf for months before it is finally emptied. Fortunately, a properly maintained walk-in cigar humidor will be plenty sufficient for keeping those stogies in pristine form for the duration of their stay.
As for those who worry about this sort of thing, opting for a premium cigar membership club subscription easily eliminates this issue, for the cigars are distributed directly to the consumer via postal delivery.
Tobacco Nerd Note: Looking to get your hands on some vintage cigars? Familiarize yourself with the dates and stamps on cigar boxes to determine whether or not you have an aged product on your hands. Older packaging and cigar bands are also a dead giveaway, as are limited release and seasonal cigar types.
The Potential Pitfalls of Additional Cigar Aging
Like fine port wine, Scotch whiskies, imperial stouts, Japanese miso, sharp cheeses, and many other forms of aged flavor profiles, there is a certain level of risk associated with setting a cigar aside for a lengthy period.
The first risk is that of damage, for a lot can happen within the span of a few years. Fluctuations in temperature and humidity, physical impact, and wrapper splits occurring of their own accord are not uncommon.
Encountering a taut binder or a super snug cigar wrapper is also a concern. Being unable to get a whiff of smoke from a plugged cigar is both disheartening and frustrating, so bear this in mind and massage those smokes on humidor inspection day.
Then there’s the reality that the average premium cigar blend can become quite boring if it is allowed to age for entirely too long. As a previously fermented product, premium cigar tobacco can mellow to the point of being considered bland, so having the intuition to know when to torch that aged tobacco is vital.
Finally, there is the concern over off-flavors, which in certain circumstances can occur. This is fermented organic matter we are dealing with here folks, so you bet your ass there’s still a certain amount of living bacteria within that cigar. Allowing a cigar to evolve past what is deemed the peak of smoking pleasure can be disastrous. A rare occurrence, but not a wholly improbable one either.
Aging Cigars the Right Way
Select the Appropriate Stogie
When it comes to additional aging periods post-purchase, cigars are very much like craft beer. Therefore, picking the appropriate premium cigar blend for prolonged aging is the first consideration that must be weighed.
Lighter, milder cigars are like lagers and IPAs and are best consumed as quickly as possible. Medium-bodied, more robust premium cigar blends are like amber ales, dry stouts, and browns. You can throw a little bit of storage time their way, but don’t expect prolonged periods of maturation to make them taste any better than when they are fresh.
Then there are robust, full-strength cigars, which are the ones you will need to seek out if you wish to age a particular premium cigar blend for a lengthy time. These are the Belgian Grand Crus, Russian Imperial Stouts, Barleywines, and Fruit Lambics of the cigar world. Cigars that when stored properly and put to palate at the opportune time, have the ability to truly hit all the right receptors at once.
Choose Your Time Capsule
Another important aspect of long-term cigar maturation and aging is providing your cigars with an ideal atmosphere. Selecting a high-quality humidor box that has all of the trappings that a premium cigar blend appreciates is vital.
So even if you are forced to rely upon an old cigar box humidor, make sure that it comes constructed from solid Spanish cedar internals. Then, be sure that your hygrometer has been calibrated properly, and that an adequate hydration system is put into play.
Overload at Your Own Risk!
Throwing a ton of selectively permeable organic matter like dried tobacco into a closed-loop environment is only going to cause serious headaches over time. That’s why stuffing entirely too many cigars into your humidor is only going to make a mess.
The effectiveness of something like humidor packs, refillable humidor humidifiers, or any number of other humidification device are put under enormous strain in these sorts of situations. This is why it is so important to know when it is time to upgrade to a larger humidor of some form.
Yes, Humidity Still Matters
On the upside, if you toss just the right amount of humidor “roommates” in with one another for a “mature individuals party,” you run the chance of lowering the humidity to precisely the perfect point.
A 60-66% humidity level is a sweet spot where the tobacco leaf’s final transformation can occur at a leisurely rate, with very little fluctuations in temperature and humidity along the way.
You don’t want to run too dry, or you might have a plugged pull, a cracked cigar wrapper, or flavors of sawdust and remorse. Entirely too much moisture and heat, and you will find yourself removing mold from your humidor box.
That’s why when in doubt, we suggest throwing a few additional sheets of cedar spills into the humidor box, as they will help keep things a bit more balanced internally humidity-wise.
Keep That Cell Block on Lock
By this point, you, the cigar smoker, are the ever-watchful humidor warden. Considering that your humidor has been properly seasoned and that it has been adjusted for optimum aging conditions, of course.
So… now what? Just sit back with a brewski and wait?
Nope. It’s time to pencil a routine hygrometer calibration test into your bi-monthly smartphone calendar. That or just get a really good unit, like the top-tier digital hygrometers we load into every humidor box over at Case Elegance.
Obtaining accurate readings at a glance can spell the difference between a well-aged Oscuro, or a mushy Maduro. So set that reminder, tell Siri, notify Google, send a signal flare, jot it down on your fridge calendar, and ask your neighbor Shirley to “surely” remind you every month about testing that hygrometer.
Select Your Cigar Roommates Wisely
Here at Klaro Cigars, we believe that stogie love is love, no matter what the intensity, flavor, or color of the filler, binder, or wrapper may be.
However, stuffing a kaleidoscope of premium tobacco blends into one humidor box and locking it away for a decade or so is only going to result in a muddled affair. Tobacco is a master of absorbing and retaining flavors, so try to keep similar premium cigar blends together when aging long term.
Yes, you can utilize a travel humidor as a substitute and keep those stogies separated from one another. Hell, if you’re desperate you can use plastic baggies, glass canning jars, or any number of other makeshift cigar humidor to conduct your little experiment. So consider your cigar aging companions carefully, and never throw flavored, sweetened, infused, or barrel-aged stogies into your long-term aging program.
One of the other considerations you must factor into the long-term cigar aging saga, is how much space you have inside that humidor box.
If size constraints are not an issue, will you be loading in entire unopened boxes for aging and maturation?
What about brands? Will you only store a single style of smoke or a particular premium cigar blend?
Whatever the occasion or intended experiment, the act of intentionally aging a premium cigar blend tends to result in more successes than failures. Sure, we’ve regrettably screwed-up a few sticks by allowing them to languish in the bottom of the humidor for entirely too long.
But that’s alright. Most of these cigars were still smokable, and pretty damn delicious to boot. So study up, give it a shot, and don’t hesitate to contact us if you need advice. We’re all in the same premium tobacco boat. We might as well be rowing in the same direction.