Your love for cigars may have made you overlook this essential question. So, how long can you store your cigars? Do they have a timeline before they need to be used? These burning questions need proper responses. Read on to know more these and get all queries related to this topic answered.
Cigars are made by rolling dried leaves of tobacco. The word cigar is thought to have come from Mayan language. The origins of smoking cigars remain largely unconfirmed. Shards of pottery reclaimed from Mayan civilization show residents smoking the leaves of tobacco. These shards date several centuries back. Modern cigars are made with three distinctive parts namely, a leaf to serve as its wrapper (which is usually the best possible leaf), filler and a leaf to bind the filler. Modern cigars may also have a band sporting the name of the manufacturer.
Central American region is best known for tobacco plantation. Apart from this region, Italy, Spain, Indonesia and the Caribbean islands are also known to grow tobacco used in cigars. The making of cigars includes curing the leaves harvested from tobacco plants. Curing is commonly done by exposing the leaves to heat as well as shade. These exposures help reduce humidity from the leaves as well as help decrease their sugar content. The aging process is then continued with periodic inspection and baling, interspersed with addition of moisture to ensure the leaves do not rot.
The cigars are then rolled and cut to a high precision size. Even today, most of the well-known cigars are hand rolled. Experienced hands can roll several hundreds of cigars each day. Dominican Republic is widely regarded as the capital of cigars. Especially, a town called Tamboril in Santiago (Dominican Republic) is home to more number of cigar-rolling artisans as well as cigar-making factories.
So, how long do cigars last?
You may also have a few other questions- such as, do cigars carry an expiry date? Can cigars turn bad? The answer is- there is no such explicit thing called as an expiry date. This is because cigars do not perish like vegetables. But, yes- cigars can turn bad if you have not stored them in proper storage conditions.
If you have handmade cigars – these are considered as premium cigars – they may be kept fresh for a fairly long time. Here again, the catch rests with the storage conditions. The answer to the above question is- cigars do carry a sizably longer shelf life if they are stored in ideal humidity and temperature conditions. Cigars may get stale; but, it only means you have stored it in an excessively humid or less humid condition. So, similar to wine- cigars can also age. Just like wine, its flavour can get better over a period of time.
A well-aged cigar is capable of giving an exquisite taste. However, cigars packed with stronger flavour may lose their strength if stored for too long time from the date of packing.
What are the right storage conditions for cigars to last long?
The natural conditions keep varying all the time. With changing weather, conditions such as humidity and temperature also change continuously. The best way to make cigars last long is to make sure these changing conditions have little or no impact on them. This is required because the extent of humidity in your cigar can influence its burn and taste to a greater extent. It is found that cigars taste better if kept at a relative humidity of 67%. The best storage temperature is found to be 18 deg Celsius or 64 deg Fahrenheit. But, how do you maintain such humidity and temperature conditions? There are many ways to store cigars with proper care. Some of the most effective methods are listed below.
In general, cigars are known to assume their ambient temperature and humidity in less than three days. Dampened cigars can give an acidic taste and can also burn in an uneven manner. Humidors are boxes used to store cigars under controlled humidity and temperature conditions. These boxes may have a hygrometer inside them to help measure levels of humidity. These boxes are often made of wood or metal. The inner lining is made of Spanish cedar – a wood that can hold added moisture content. The wood can also work against beetles that are attracted by tobacco. Pests such as beetles are encouraged when the temperature is 24 deg Celsius or a few degrees more. Humidors ensure the inner temperature never cross beyond 19 deg Celsius.
Cigar humidifiers and other storage options
These are pouches made to store cigars to last long. Such pouches are used when humidors are not in use. These can also be handy while you are making a short trip with only a few cigars to store. You can also consider storing your cigars in airlock pouches. At times, when you do not have any of these options, an airtight box can also help you store them well.
What are the ingredients of cigars and how to keep them from turning bad?
The principal items that get into making a cigar are water and tobacco. Moisture content is so very essential to a cigar. The catch however is your cigar needs to retain its desired level of humidity till the time you decide to smoke one. Hence, if your cigar is exposed to excessive humidity, you may only get to smoke one with damaged texture and consistency. The higher moisture content can make it almost wet, causing problems to its steady burning. Often times, cigars with excess moisture content run the risk of developing mold on them.
On the same note- when your cigar gets dried up, dryness can adversely alter its flavor and taste. A lot of such factors come together to make the flavor of each cigar. These include quality of cigar’s wrapper, binder, filler, etc. Other factors are- methods used for aging the leaves, techniques adopted to make it (viz. machine cut, hand rolled, etc.) and also addition of flavors, if any. Wetness of cigars may ruin all these aspects and as a result may yield an unsatisfying experience. Dry cigars are known to crack often and may also burn soon.
Improper humidification can change the quality of smoke as well. The substances that yield a unique odor to your smoke are called pyrazines and pyridines. Odor of these substances may be sensed even in diluted concentrations of smoke. Right humidity levels in your cigars are known to boost the breaking down of chemical bonding of nicotine. These levels can also influence the mixture of sugars in tobacco with amino acids. In essence, once you have an excessively dry or humid cigar, these chemical actions may not occur at an optimal level. As a net effect, you are likely to get a substandard smoking experience.
Factors that can risk your cigar’s shelf life
The widely observed causes for cigars turning bad are- storing them in a box or pouch that has no access to humidity or keeping them exposed to excessive moisture. The lack of moisture effect can be reversed. How? You can humidify it again by keeping it in a container with access to needful moisture or storing it in a humidor.
Humidifying your cigars again – especially after longer exposure to dryness – can take longer time. It has been observed that it has even taken months for it to become humidified again. Why? It is important that you expose your dry cigars to moisture in a slow but steady manner. A quick exposure to excessive moisture only disturbs the tobacco further. However, if the wrapping leaf has dried out beyond any possible scope to humidify it, it is difficult to reverse such effects.
If dryness is one major cause, excessive wetness is another serious cause for damage of cigars. Cigars need to be soft and firm to give a good smoking experience. Excessive wetness can make cigars too very soft and sagged. Such cigars may become loose and also become easier to bend. Shops vending cigars often take great care to ensure firmness of cigars and keep them in best possible storage conditions. There have also been instances wherein excessively moistened cigars have made humidors develop mold.
How to spot well-aged cigars?
Cigars kept for long in humidors may develop a white colored salt called plume. These salts or crystals get formed by an activity called bloom. The plume is an indicator of a well-aged cigar. You can ignore these crystals and enjoy smoking such cigars.
However, some people may get confused between plume and mold. While mold is harmful, plume is a welcome thing. Mold is caused when humidification of the cigar is done with untreated water. The odds of mold formation are remote on cigars treated with neutral water (also called as distilled water). In many cases, humidors may need to be disposed when cigars have developed mold in them; especially formation of mold on linings of humidors.
In sum, cigars are extremely sensitive to humidity around them. With proper storage conditions, there had been cases of cigars aging for more than 30 years! The premium handmade cigars sold in stores are often stored in ideal storage conditions. If you wish to have your cigars last long, you may need to understand the storage conditions such stores follow. These are not difficult to achieve though. The important numbers to remember are relative humidity at around 67%, maintained at a mild temperature of around 18 deg Celsius. Also, stay aware that higher temperatures – say, above 24 deg. Celsius – may invite pests such as beetles to your cigars. Knowledge of the ideal level of relative humidity as well as temperatures is part of the job. The rest is about the box or humidor you may use to physically keep the cigars. So, get the basics right and get set to smoke high quality cigars that last for a longer time.
Above all, to answer the primary question here- yes, cigars can last long if stored well. The relative humidity and temperature make the shelf life to last. There have been instances of cigars being stored for 50 years and more. But, at the end, it does not matter; whether you are going to smoke after 7 weeks or 7 months, offer needful care to your cigars if you wish to see them last truly long.