SHOULD YOU AGE YOUR CIGARS?
Yes. Ageing your cigars elevates your smoking experience to an exciting new level. Much like fine wine, cigars are crafted with complex flavours that develop and grow with time. By allowing your precious cigars to age, you’re smoothing out any rough edges, sparks of flavour and inconsistencies resulting in a more consistent and ultimately better-tasting cigar.
Ageing is best achieved within a cedar humidor calibrated at 70% humidity and 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celcius). This balance is important yet delicate; if your humidor becomes too humid, your cigars will go mouldy. If it becomes too dry, the ageing process won’t occur. Read about calibrating your humidor to ensure you can achieve this delicate balance to protect your fragile cigar collection and to ensure they age perfectly for optimal enjoyment.
TIME IS RELATIVE WHEN IT COMES TO AGING
The taste of young cigars is most affected by ageing, whereas older cigars are less drastically influenced by the ageing process. Three months can completely change the characteristics of a young freshly rolled cigar, making it far more agreeable. Conversely, three months will barely alter a five-year-old cigar.
When a cigar manufacturer receives its tobacco leaves from their growers, most will roll the cigars immediately and then hold them for a year or two to age properly before shipping. Unfortunately, popular brands often ship immediately in order to keep up with demand, meaning the tobacco you receive has not been aged at all post-rolling. If you purchase cigars that have not been post-roll aged, keep in mind they'll need to be aged in a cedar humidor for at least one year, preferably longer, for the flavours to fully mature before they’re ‘smoke-ready.’
KEEPING THAT FRESH ROLL FLAVOUR
For those of you who relish the tantalising pure taste of a freshly rolled cigar, it still pays to wait for at least four weeks before enjoying them. This is the bare minimum ageing period required for any cigar before smoking, but a month isn't long enough to allow the complex chemical process of ageing to do its magic. It takes at least three months for the dissipation of oils in your humidor and the tobacco leaf oil within your cigars to blend.
MINIMUM STAND DOWN PERIOD IS 6 MONTHS TO A YEAR
It’s universally acknowledged that cigars smoke better after one year of ageing. This isn’t brand or size-dependant, the rule applies to all cigars. If you’re just starting your collection of cigars and desperate to get into a few earlier, stick to milder blends as they can be ready after only six months of ageing.
THICKER CIGARS AGE MORE SLOWLY
Cigars crafted with stronger, full-bodied tobacco age better over a longer period of time. Two to five years is a standard ageing period, with thicker and stronger cigars generally best enjoyed after five years of ageing. Large ring gauge cigars are filled with a greater variety of tobacco that need to develop in complexity during a longer ageing process. Plus, a hefty diameter means the oils and aromas of your cedar humidor will take longer to fully infiltrate the contents of a thicker cigar. So carefully tuck them into your humidor and forget about them for five years and you'll be rewarded with a full-bodied, well-developed smoke.
If you have the patience to wait, you'll find that after ageing for ten years, the flavours of a cigar become extremely mellow and gentle. Some say this ruins the intended flavour of the tobacco, but if this is your preference, there’s really no limit to how long you can age a full-bodied cigar.
THERE'S NO NEED TO REMOVE THE CELLOPHANE WRAPPERS FOR AGING
Many new cigar smokers unwrap their cellophane-encased cigars before placing them in a humidor, thinking they will benefit from being directly exposed to the humidor’s flavours and humidity. Don’t do this.
For a number of reasons, it's generally best to keep your cigars in their cellophane wrappers until you're ready to smoke. If you’re ageing a number of different cigars in a humidor and haven’t installed dividing compartments, definitely leave the wrappers on. The wrappers minimise the intermingling of different flavours and aromas of contrasting cigars, allowing each individual smoke to retain its unique characteristics.
If you store your daily smokes with your ageing cigars, again keep the wrappers on. Every time you open your humidor to retrieve a smoke, you are exposing your entire collection to fluctuations in temperature and humidity. These fluctuations can cause the cigar’s tobacco leaves to crack, which will disrupt the ageing process and likely affect the quality. The cellophane wrapper gently protects your cigars from these fluctuations when you open your humidor, so keep them wrapped.
CONSISTENCY IS THE KEY
There are many different aspects to ageing, but remember consistency is one of the most important. Keeping the temperature and humidity consistent will ensure the carefully crafted tobacco in your cigars blend with the rich cedar oils of your humidor to soften any imperfections in aroma and flavour. You'll only need to let your cigars age for at least a year in order to discover the luxury of aged tobacco and it just might become the beginning of a great habit.