How To Age Cigars

“The tobacco in this cigar has been aged for five years.” “After this stick was rolled, it was aged for two years before it was shipped out.” “I let my cigars age in my humidor for about six months before I smoke them.” You’ve probably heard these terms being bandied about cigar shops and lounges all the time. But what does it all mean?

Typically, tobacco and cigars undergo an extensive aging process in the factory. As a matter of fact, cigars purchased at a cigar shop do not need any further aging. However, some cigar enthusiasts prefer to allow their sticks additional time to age at home. This article will discuss both processes.

 Factory Aging

When tobacco leaves are pulled from the fields, they are stored in curing barns. Here the tobacco starts to dry and turn from green to yellow to brown as it releases chlorophyll and impurities. This process usually takes up to two months. Next, the tobacco is fermented, which allows the tobacco to release impurities and ammonia and develop its unique taste/aroma qualities.

The tobacco’s aging process starts right after fermentation. During anejamiento, the tobacco is sorted and stored by leaf type. Binder and filler leaves are stored in sackcloth bundles for aging. Wrapper leaves are packed in palm bark bundles, aka tercios, for aging. Typically, tobacco is aged from two to three years. However, some cigar makers like to age their binder and filler from 3 to 5 years, and their wrappers from 8 to 10 years. Other cigar makers like to age their tobacco in whiskey, sherry, or bourbon barrels; which creates an additional dimension to a cigar’s flavor profile. After the tobacco has been aged, it is rolled into a cigar.

 

Once rolled, the cigars are moved to a dehumidification room. This is done so that the cigars can stabilize and lose humidity. This process takes about a week. Afterwards, the cigars are placed in an aging room. The cigars are kept here until the cigar maker decides that they are ready to be boxed, shipped, and enjoyed by cigar aficionados. The length of time the cigars spend in the aging room is based on the master blender’s experience with the particular tobacco. Aging the blend allows the tobacco to marry and reach the blender’s goals in regards to flavor, aroma, strength, and body.

 

Home Aging

As the name implies, home aging is when the cigar is placed in a home humidor for additional aging. If you plan to smoke your cigars right away, a few days or a week is more than enough time. If you really want to home age your sticks, you will need to have a lot of patience and be willing to wait a few months and maybe several years.

Before you age your cigars at home, make sure your humidor provides a consistent temperature and humidity environment. This ensures that your cigars age properly, avoid mold, and prevents the proliferation of tobacco beetles. Home aging allows the cigar to reveal nuances, flavors, and complexities that were once hidden. Loss of strength and spice may be a downside to home aging.

When it comes to home aging, the big question is typically “how long?”. The answer is that it’s really up to you. However, as a rule of thumb, you should age your cigars anywhere from three months to three years. Like most natural products, cigars do peak and could run the risk of deteriorating if they sit in your humidor for too long.

In conclusion, before being rolled into a cigar, tobacco undergoes an aging process that typically last up to five years. Some blenders like to age their tobacco for longer periods of time when they are attempting to create a specific blend. Aging the tobacco allows it to mature and bring out its character. After the tobacco has been aged and rolled into a cigar, it is placed in an aging room. This allows the different tobaccos used in the blend to marry and create its unique flavor and strength profile. Cigar aging usually lasts several months or years depending on the effect the master blender wants to create. Once the blender feels the cigars are ready, they are boxed, shipped, sold, and ready to be smoked. Realistically speaking, a cigar purchased from a reputable tobacconist can be smoked right away. It does not need any further aging. However, some cigar lovers prefer to age their cigars in their humidor. This is referred to as home aging. This process allows a cigar to reveal complexities that would otherwise not be found if it were smoked at time of purchase. A drawback to home aging is that the cigar can lose its strength and spice. If you are going to home age your sticks, it is recommend that you age them for no more than three years.

By Luzzie Normand
Co-Founder & Editor; Neptune Cigars Inc.
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