Experienced cigar enthusiasts know well the pleasures of a well-aged cigar. The subtle flavors and complex constitution of a well-aged cigar is indescribably and unforgettable. Like wine, many cigar aficionados swear by the process of aging. A great cigar, the argument goes, is an aged one. All handmade long filler cigars improve with aging, so before you dismiss any cigar as "bad" you should allow it to rest untouched for a while. You will be genuinely surprised how many of those poor cigars blossom into enjoyable smokes. However, aging cannot improve cigars that are made from inferior or under cured tobacco. How can you attain a well-aged cigar that provides the mellow, complex flavors you crave? You can always fork over a good deal of your money and purchase a box of expensive vintage cigars. If you would rather save the money and experiment with aging on your own, here are a few tips to help you get started
How do we age the cigar?
In order to age your cigars, purchase a good quality humidor. Cigars must be stored in a constant and stable environment. Follow the 70-70 rules. That means the humidity must be at a constant humidity of 70%, and at a temperature of 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Of course, the environment in which they are stored is crucial. Follow the usual 70-70 rules for temperature and humidity. Any more and your cigars will get moldy; any less and the aging process begins to be stunted. Maintaining a stable environment for your cigars is key - a constantly fluctuation environment can be disastrous. Swings in temperature and humidity cause cigars to expand and contract, cracking their wrappers and it may disrupt the aging process. Ideally, the space in the humidor should be about twice the volume of cigars. The lining should be cedar - cedar wood is highly aromatic wood, full of its own oils. With the passage of time, the interaction of the tobacco oils amongst themselves, and with the cedar oil of the wood it leads to a mellowing and blending of flavors resulting in that subtle complexity you can only get from proper aging. Typically, aging makes a smoother, more pleasant, “round” cigar. Most experts agree that aging does not necessarily make a cigar better, but simply rounder, producing a mellower character with a less sharp tobacco taste. In fact, some cigar enthusiasts buy full boxes or bundles - not to smoke them right away, but to age or “rest” in their humidor. Many have the patience to let them stay for a year or more! Patience is indeed a virtue when it comes to aging your cigars.
Aging time Period
The amount of time you age your cigars is a matter of personal preference. In general, age them at least a year for optimum effect. Assigning fixed blocks of time is impossible, each box of cigars is different, and it will respond differently to aging. With that said, here are some ballpark figures to use:
1 YEAR - Cigars should be smoked within a few weeks of being rolled if you desire that "Chincales" type flavor, otherwise they should be allowed to rest for a year without exception. All cigars are better a year later in my opinion.
1-2 YEARS - This is a good time to start smoking those Habanos and Hondurans. This is also the peak period for many Dominicans, and most light bodied smokes.
2-5 YEARS - These are the peak years for most other cigars. Typically the stronger fuller bodied cigars age better over a longer duration of time. This is why Havana Bolivars, Partagas, and Ramon Allones are all considered cigars that age beautifully. The same logic applies to all countries of origin
7-10 YEARS - is about the maximum aging time for me on almost all cigars. After this point, I find most cigars become too mellow and too pale in body for me to enjoy.
10+ YEARS - At this point we enter into the realm of "vintage" cigars in my book. Many of these cigars will be so flat and boring they are worthless to smoke, while others will take on unique characteristics that will make them enjoyable smokes. One such trait is a musty smell and a taste that is similar to snuff. Another rarer long-term aging trait is cigars taking on an odd scent that is commonly referred to as the "stinky cheese-like smell." This odd reference is due to their pre-light bouquet being similar in scent to a ripe wheel of Stilton Cheese. Though it may sound unappealing, these cigars are a delight to smoke and are highly prized by vintage cigar collectors worldwide. Many pay top dollar to secure these smokes. Regardless of the flavor characteristics of vintage vitlolas, very seldom do any of these cigars maintain any quantitative strength at this level of aging. Also, only the fullest bodied cigars have any chance of being worthwhile smokes after this many years.
The best way to determine the impact of time on your cigars is to smoke one occasionally from an aging box and to take detailed tasting notes. I am certain that you will see drastic improvement in the quality of your smoking experience as you allow your cigars to age
What kind of cigar should we age?
Certain cigars are just naturally better suited for aging. An example is larger ring-gauge cigars. The thicker the cigar, the greater the variety of tobacco leaves and hence, the more complex the final flavor of the aged cigar will be. The insides of larger cigars tend to be somewhat shielded from the outside environment, less apt to be affected by fluctuations in humidity and temperature. This added stability that larger cigars provide is highly desirable for long-term aging. On the other hand, since the wrapper provides the lion's share of a cigar's taste, aging may not significantly affect the taste of some Maduros. In particular, maduro-wrapped cigars which are artificially "cooked" or "cured" to achieve the dark coloration of the wrapper and the distinctively strong, sweet flavor are prone to this problem. Due to such curing, they have essentially been "fixed," and thus any further benefits of aging have been stunted.
Removing the cello
A good cigar will certainly age in the wrapper, just as a good wine will age in the bottle. Aging cigars, as wine involves very complex chemical processes. Oxidations, slow chemical changes, blending of essential oils are all involved. If you age a number of similar cigars, then removing the wrappers will allow different cigars to "marry", resulting in more consistence from one to another, but will not make the individual cigars any better or worse.
When aging cigars in your "daily" humidor, you're better off leaving them in their wrappers for another reason. Frequent opening and closing (exchanging the air) will result in faster evaporation/dissipation of the essential oils which give a good cigar its taste.
Cigar's flavors "marrying"
The phenomenon called "marrying" is a common, and well-known fact of tobacco production. It's what makes LGC's taste "green" until the 3 tobaccos in the blend mix sufficiently. Some of this transfer is by smell (airborne ethers), but much of it is caused by direct contact - transfers of "essential oils" in the cigar's tobacco. These oils migrate through the cigar and can be transferred readily.
Marrying can be good or bad. If your humidor is full of the same (or very similar) types of smokes, it will guaranty a consistent smoke. If you inter-mix mild or spicy blends with strong or earthy blends, the mixing is quite noticeable. This is why you should consider leaving the cello on when mixing a broad range of cigars in one humidor (or removing it if they're all the same). Some smokers go one step further, and leave their Cuban's in a completely different box from their others.... ;-)