In my time in the customer service department I would frequently speak with wives or friends of cigar smokers trying to find a birthday, wedding, or Christmas gift for their loved one. Often they would ask how long cigars can last before they go stale. Even some regular cigar smokers would ask this every once in a while, and it always left me a little speechless when a cigar smoker asked me. You would think someone who picked up cigars as a hobby would know that cigars actually never really go “stale.” Let me explain…
The only way cigars go stale is when they are stored improperly. If a cigar dries out, it will start losing its nicotine content and flavor in about 2 months. Even if you try to re-humidify it, which would take forever, it’s a lost cause. I had a customer say he found a box from 3 years ago that he had simply forgotten to put in his humidor. He asked me if they would still be good to smoke if there was any way to salvage them. Sadly, the answer was an emphatic no. However, if properly stored, a cigar can last decades and still be ready to light and enjoy.
Keep in mind that even though a cigar can last a long time in proper storage, the flavor profile of the cigar will change, mostly for the better. Maduros tend to get smoother, Connecticut wraps get a little more mellow and velvety, and Ligero starts to lose its power after about 1-2 years, turning from a powerhouse into a flavorful medium-full bodied smoke. A great example is when I visited Nat Sherman in NYC one afternoon. They showed me around the member’s only section, which featured a humidor that looked more like a dresser. Inside were all pre-embargo Cuban cigars gifted to Nat Sherman by the Fuente family after they fled Cuba. Hundreds of Cuban cigars, just sitting there behind glass, off limits to the public with only about 3 smoked. All were kept in pristine condition. Even though the cigars were over 50 years old they were all in perfect smoking condition, looking as though they were rolled just last week.
In fact, most of the cigars that you buy usually are aged in the factory for a minimum of 60 days, if not a few years, according to the manufacturer’s specifications. They then age even further while sitting in the warehouse of the retailer you are purchasing from. Sometimes boxes can sit for 2-3 years on top of a manufacturers aging period before they ship to your house. So next time you think your cigars have gotten stale because they sat in your humidor too long, they probably got better.