Not unlike fine wines, cigars age over time and improve in flavor. If you're a cigar smoker with an educated palate you probably already know this. For the rookies reading this, it may interest you to know that aging not only improves the overall "bouquet" of the cigar, but also helps stronger cigars mellow-out a little.
Prior to shipping, most premium handmade cigars are aged at the factory anywhere from 60-90 days. This is so the tobaccos can "marry" while allowing any remaining traces of ammoniac to exit the body (so to speak). By the time they arrive at your favorite online cigar store or local tobacconist, they've probably had at least another month to mature in their boxes. Then there's the period they sit in the warehouse. Of course, that's mainly dependent on how fast the reseller re-sells them. You may have purchased a box of cigars that has been in a warehouse for 2 or 3 years or more, and believe it or not, that can actually be a GOOD thing. To keep track of how old their inventory is, cigar stores like Famous Smoke Shop place date stickers on their shipments, so the consumer can also see exactly when the box or bundle they bought arrived and was stocked in their humidified warehouse.
But let's get to after your cigars have arrived at your house and discuss home aging cigars in your humidor. You do have a humidor, right? If you don't, you should, but cigars will continue to age in their factory boxes as long as the conditions they are kept in remain within reasonable climes - about 70 degrees average Fahrenheit with about a 66% average relative humidity.
Most cigar smokers have their own methods for aging their cigars. In some cases, they have separate humidors dedicated only for aging. After so many months, and in some cases, years, the cigars are "ready" for them. True! There are some cigar smokers who won't even light their cigars until they've had an additional year of aging on them. Other cigar smokers may only put a handful of cigars aside for aging and smoke through the rest of the box in a relatively shorter time period.
One of the most often asked questions is, "Will cigars age in their cellos?" Yes. Cigars will age nicely in their factory cellos. When aged for several years, you will notice a yellowish tint to the cello when the cigar is removed. This is just oily residue from the wrapper leaf and perfectly natural. The more traditional way to age cigars at home is by removing the cellos. This permits the cigars to "breathe" a little easier and many cigar pros feel this is a more effective way to age them. Moreover, even some bargain basement bundles will improve over time.
The best way to test celloed vs. un-celloed is to take 6, 8, or 10 of the same cigars from the same box and remove the cellos from half of them. We'll call the celloed cigars the "control" group. Let them all age that way for a month, smoke one of each, and see if there's any difference in flavor, character, aroma, etc., between the two. Do this each month until all of the cigars in the two groups are smoked-up. By then, be it three, four, five months or even longer, you will know which cigars of the two groups taste better to you.
Another way to age your cigars is by unintentionally ignoring them. If you have a really big collection, depending on the frequency you smoke, chances are it could take months or even years to smoke some of those cigars at the bottom of your humidor.
No matter how you age your cigars, it's pretty widely believed that even as little as a week can improve the way your cigars smoke and taste. Many cigar consumers like to let their cigars "settle" in their factory boxes or a humidor for about a week or more before smoking them.
Like so many things about enjoying premium cigars, whether you age your cigars or not is a matter of personal choice. If you haven't tried aging your cigars, give it a chance. You may find that, over time, it’s really worth the effort.
I recently discussed the word "gestalt" with Famous owner, Arthur, during lunch. As a German speaker, I'm well aware of the literal definition, "form, or shape." But it's the English counterpoint that's infinitely more fascinating.
In English, "gestalt" is the idea that something is greater than the sum of its parts. Walking back to my desk from the break room, I couldn’t help but ponder how this concept applies to premium cigars.
A premium cigar contains longfiller, binder, and wrapper tobaccos. Smoked separately, you taste those specific components. When handrolled in the right proportions, however, those same components render a fundamentally different experience.
Widen your focus to consider presentation. Most cigar smokers I know care more about a cigar's flavor, aroma, and burning qualities than its packaging, and rightfully so. But what about breaking the seal of an attractive box and observing the elegantly understated treasures within? A bundle could never whet my appetite like that!
Now zoom out to include drink pairing. A cigar you may normally enjoy suddenly attains new complexities when juxtaposed with a beverage. Zoom out another level…does it get any better than punctuating a delicious, well-prepared meal with a fine handmade cigar and digestive? Only if you take an even bigger perspective and consider the joy of good company.
My wife must often wonder what it is I like so much about cigars. It's all of these things, but so much more. In a word, it's the Gestalt. What about you?
-by Hayward L. Tenney
We recently published a guide to cigars for beginners that we hope will help novice cigar smokers become more knowledgeable about the world of cigars. The cigars guide is also available in downloadable PDF format - http://www.famous-smoke.com/cigars-guide.pdf.
This guide is broken down into 6 parts:
- Parts of a Cigar
- Shapes and Sizes
- Next Steps
Please share this guide with your fellow cigar smokers and friends who wish to gain a basic understanding of cigars.