Home aging “seconds” and bundle cigars

Q. I read some where 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, you can find some real dog rockets in the bundle aisles, but like boxed “firsts”, the tobacco in bundles and second cigars has been cured and aged prior to rolling. That said, I wouldn’t doubt that many bundle cigars are not aged after rolling, as are most boxed premium handmade cigars.

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 any cigar improves after a few months. Cigars from the better manufacturers are usually not permitted to ship until it’s determined that they’re “ready.” In other words, you should be able to open a box of Partagas right out of the store, and they should be ready to smoke. Note that sometimes the boxes have been in the store for several months or more depending on how fast the retailer sells 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 a few months. If they don’t improve after that, they were probably no good in the first place.

For many cigar smokers, bundle buying is often a hedged bet. They assume some of the cigars will be dogs (bad draw, bad burn, bad taste), but the low price makes up for the majority in the pack, which are generally OK.

If you look around, there are some very good quality bundles that are very consistent in quality and flavor – and not all are seconds either. Some that come to mind are Flor de Oliva, Cusano M1, Occidental Reserve, Perdomo Remainders, Roly, and Rocky Patel Sun Grown Factory Seconds. If you stick with bundles from the better manufacturers, in most cases you probably won’t have to extra-age them at all.