The short answer to "Should I age my cigars?" is YES.
When you age your cigars, it cranks the smoking experience up a few notches. If you're into fine wines, cigars are very similar in that they are handcrafted to develop their full flavors and grow in complexity over time. Aging cigars smooth out any potential rough edges in flavor and minimize any inconsistencies to reveal a better-tasting cigar.
The best way to age your cigars is storing them within a cedar humidor. The precise balance of humidity and temperature is vital. Keep your humidor calibrated at 70% humidity and 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celcius). If you let your humidor get too humid, mold can begin to develop. On the other hand, a humidor that is too dry prevents the aging process from happening at all.
So make sure you know how to calibrate your humidor correctly to ensure you are providing the ideal environment to protect your fragile cigars and to age them perfectly until the time is right to enjoy them at their best.
HOW LONG TO AGE CIGARS IS ALL RELATIVE
Is there a perfect amount of time to age a cigar? No, because aging alters the taste of young cigars most dramatically and has less of an effect on older cigars. For instance, waiting four months will transform the character of a freshly rolled cigar and smooth out any rough edges. But the same four months won't have much of a noticeable effect on a cigar that's five years old.
CHECK IF YOUR CIGAR HAS BEEN POST-ROLL AGED
Typically, to ensure freshness cigar manufacturers will roll its cigars as soon as it receives tobacco leaves from their growers but then store the cigars for a year or two, so they are aged properly and ready to smoke as soon as they before shipping. However, with the rise in demand for Cuban cigars, some popular brands these days are shipped immediately after rolling. It always pays to check if your cigars have been aged before shipping as all cigars need to be aged in a cedar humidor for a minimum of a year to be 'smoke ready,' preferably longer to let their flavors fully ripen.
TRY TO RESIST THAT FRESH-ROLL TASTE
There's no denying there is something tantalizing about a freshly rolled cigar that some find irresistible. However, distract yourself for at least four weeks at the absolute minimum before cutting a brand new cigar, especially if it hasn't been post-roll aged. A month is not nearly long enough for the aging process to work on a chemical level, but it is a long shot better than nothing. Keep in mind that it takes at least three months for the natural oils in your cigar to dissipate in the humidor and for the oil of various tobacco leaves to begin to meld.
RECOMMENDED STAND DOWN PERIOD
The basic rule of thumb for aging is that all cigars, regardless of size or brand, benefit from at least a year of aging. For those of us who lack the patience to wait a year or you've just started collecting cigars, begin with the milder blends, which can be ready in as little as six months.
SLENDER CIGARS AGE MORE RAPIDLY
Remember the more full-bodied and the stronger the cigar, the longer the tobacco will generally need to age. The standard aging period is two to five years, with more slender cigars on the two-year side and stronger, thicker cigars coming into their own closer to five years of aging. Cigars with a large ring gauge are often crafted with a greater variety of tobacco that will benefit from time to develop its complexity. It also takes longer for the oils and aromas from your cedar humidor to work their way through a thicker cigar. So especially for cigars with a hefty diameter, if you tuck them away safely in a humidor, in 5 years your cigar will reward your patience with an even more full-bodied, subtle experience. If you prefer your smokes mellow and very gentle, you'll want to tuck full-bodied cigars away for ten years or more to appreciate their transformation.
AGE CIGARS WITH WRAPPERS ON OR OFF?
Always keep the wrappers on your cigars until you're ready to smoke them. Novice cigar smokers often make the mistake of removing the cellophane wrappers from their cigars before placing them in their humidor. Cigars do not need to be directly exposed to the flavor and humidity of the humidor, in fact, the plastic wrapper provides a degree of protection from other cigars and minor fluctuations in temperature and humidity.
Especially when you're aging different cigars within the same humidor, you'll want to keep them as separate as possible so each cigar can retain its unique blend of flavors. Installing dividers can help, but you'll still want to leave the wrapper on until you're ready to cut the cigar to smoke.
Keeping your cigars wrapped in cellophane provides another layer or protection. Every time you open the humidor, the contents will be exposed to a fluctuation in temperature and humidity, which can crack the tobacco leaves and lower the quality.
One of the key aspects of aging your cigar is providing a consistent environment and allowing time to do its work gently. Keep the temperature and humidity consistent as much as possible so the careful blend of tobaccos in your cigar can mingle with the rich cedar oils in your humidor and balance out the aroma and flavors. Often it just takes aging that first batch of cigars for a year before smoking to appreciate the luxury of aged tobacco and that might be enough for the habit to stick.