Q. I read somewhere that overruns and seconds need to be aged up to 6 months before they can be a good smoke. The article said that when sticks are not picked as firsts they are bundled up immediately and sold, therefore they do not get aged. Because they are not aged they still contain ammonia or other chemicals that make for a harsh smoke. Is this true?
A. Not necessarily. Each manufacturer has their own way of “processing” bundle cigars. Sure, there are some real “dog rockets” out there in the bundle aisles, but remember, even before the decision is made to bundle rather than box the cigar, the tobacco has been cured and aged prior to selection. That said, I don’t doubt that a good portion of bundle cigars are not aged after rolling.
Even with boxed brands, regardless of price, it doesn’t hurt to give them a little extra time in your home humidor. My personal experience has shown that most cigars improve after a few months. Cigars from some of the top manufacturers are not permitted to ship until they’re ready. Case in point: The CAO Vision, which was recently held back because the company felt they needed more time. But ordinarily, you should be able to open a box of most any reputable label right out of the store, and they should be ready to smoke. Note that sometimes the boxes have been in aging in the store for several months or more depending on how fast the retailer goes through his inventory.
Extra-age your cigars on a “per-cigar” basis – that goes for all cigars. If they taste “green” and bitter, give them at least three months. If they don’t improve even a little after that, they were probably no good in the first place.
Buying bundles is usually a hedged bet. The experienced buyer knows up-front that some of the cigars will have a tight draw, burn crooked, taste bitter, or all of the above. Moreover, one of the reasons for this is that many bundle cigars are cigars that have been rolled by apprentices who are learning the trade. Kind of makes sense now, doesn’t it? Of course, the low price tends to makes up for the majority of cigars in the pack, which can range from “passable” to “excellent.”
There are also dozens of bundles that are made as firsts. Some of the better ones that come to mind are Flor de Oliva (shown above), Dominique, Cusano M1, and Occidental Reserve. Roly (Puros Indios), General Honduran Bundles, and Rocky Patel Factory Seconds are other good selections that are “true” seconds. If you stick with bundles from the better manufacturers you’ll probably fare much better and won’t have to extra-age them very long, if at all.
There are countless good quality bundles out there to be had, but you’ve got be willing to experiment. As noted in the introduction to Perelman’s Pocket Cyclopedia of Cigars, “The best cigar you will ever smoke might be the next one you try.”