A cigar humidor allows cigars to be kept in the optimal conditions, without losing any of their properties, characteristics, aromas or flavors. But, is it possible to also age cigars in the humidor? Well, as Pau Donés (may he rest in peace) would say – “It depends.”
What does it depend on? Generally speaking, it depends on the environment inside the humidor, the type of tobacco used in the blend of the cigars and the number of cigars you’re storing. But yes, it is possible.
But let’s go step by step. There are several factors to consider. The first one to take into account is that not all tobacco is the same; some blends will be able to continue aging in the humidor while others will not. In some cases, a period of aging inside a humidor with the right conditions will be beneficial, and in other cases, passing time in a humidor will not substantially improve the cigar, so while it would be aging, it wouldn’t necessarily be improving or maturing.
It is more individual to the cigar, it will depend on whether any of the tobacco that is part of the blend has been previously aged, how long it has already been aged for or if it has not been aged at all during its manufacturing process. Most tobacco companies, especially in countries such as Nicaragua, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, and the United States, age their tobacco during the manufacturing process. On the other hand, this period of aging is not always associated with Cuban tobacco.
“In this matter, I would absolutely separate ‘habano’, ‘canario (palmero)’ and certain Mexican tobaccos from the rest of the origins of tobacco,” says Dídac Alcalà Soler, Founder and Project Manager at @ledibyledi and Founder and Director of @tabacos_puros.
He continues: “In Cuban tobacco, you could get a cigar that has been rolled two, three or four months ago in Cuba and then you will have it there in your hand. Hence the issue that we must age cigars, because green (candela) cigars came, you had to leave them in your humidor for about six months and as with a relatively young tobacco if you let it rest it will improve, it will fit well and so on. This is how the issue of aging began to be explored.”
The aging in tobacco shops
Most tobacco companies normally carry out a curing process of the tobacco leaves once they are collected from the field. They can be subjected to aging prior to fermentation, before the destemming process. During this time, which is usually a minimum of three months, the tobacco acquires the consistency necessary to withstand the humidity in the fermentation process.
For his part, the director and creator of ‘Burkina the Magazine’, Javier Blanco Urgoiti, considers that tobacco can only be aged in bales and in thirds. “Once the tobacco has been de-stemmed, it gets old, it does not mature/age,” he says. Javier highlights the difference between a cigar maturing (aging), which he defines as the process in which tobacco improves over time, and the cigar getting old, which does not improve the cigar, in fact it weakens the flavors of the blend. “Time softens cigars” concludes Javier.
But even once rolled, many tobacco companies can leave their cigars in a room called the aging room. Here the cigars can be arranged in cedar boxes, with the humidity and temperatures well controlled. In this area, the cigars can remain, depending on the type they are, between one or two months and up to six months or a year. The main objective of this step is to homogenize the humidity of the tobacco in the layer, the capote and the filler.
Thus, since not all tobacco companies age their cigars the same, nor do all cigars age for the same time, nor do all cigars have the same tobacco time, aging in the humidor will not be the same for all cigars. It may or may not be beneficial, depending on the individual cigar. It will then be a matter of trying according to the tobacco box from which the cigar comes, the type of cigar we want to age or the types of tobacco in the blend.
How cigars mature in the humidor
If it is a young tobacco, it will continue to mature in the humidor and, in principle, during that period in the humidor it will improve. Obviously, in the humidor it will not age as it would in an aging room. But tobacco, which is organic matter, will mature over time in the humidor and its characteristics will somewhat change. Then it will be necessary to evaluate whether this development improves the cigars’ flavours and aromas or not.
For example, if you have four cigars that barely touch and have their own space within the humidor, with relatively fluctuating humidity and temperature, the tobacco may improve proportionate to how young the tobacco was when it reached the humidor. But it’s possible that it may not go beyond tasting slightly better.
The conditions for proper aging to occur inside the humidor depend on:
• The size of the humidor: if you have enough space to fit entire boxes or packs of 25 to 50 cigars that are in contact with each other.
• On humidity and temperature: for aging to be possible, a stable humidity (around 70%) and a stable temperature (around 21º) must be set inside the humidor for a certain amount of time. In that environment, tobacco will improve.
However, even if the optimal conditions are met for the aging of the cigar, it doesn’t mean that they will mature well or that they won’t ferment inside the humidor. Both are terms that – as we have explained previously – are produced in the tobacco shops. So having said this, keeping your cigars for a long time inside the humidor won’t ensure that a new blend of tobacco will be produced, that a mature layer of tobacco will have generated on the cigar nor that the tobacco will have fermented. But the humidor will ensure that your tobacco is going to change with the passing of time, in one way or another.
To this, Manuel Inoa (La Aurora’s master blender) adds that the cigars stored without their cellophane in the humidor will immediately continue working, because with contact with the right humidity and temperature, the tobacco begins to work again. “It will organoleptically change its strength and it will take on more flavor,” he says.
“As long as the organoleptic characteristics and construction characteristics of the cigar are intense, they will end up aging in the humidor. But there are very specific issues with the aging issue that must be taken into account. For example, you should not buy a box of Panatela by Rafael González to let them age when that blend is already mild. What ages well are cigars that have a lot of flavor ”, points out Javier Velasco Triana, Habanos s.a.
Maturing cigars or letting them get old, that’s the debate
For his part, the director and creator of ‘Burkina the Magazine’, Javier Blanco Urgoiti, considers that tobacco can only be aged in bales and in thirds. “Once the tobacco has been de-stemmed, it gets old, it does not mature/age,” he says. Javier highlights the difference between a cigar maturing (aging), which he defines as the process in which tobacco improves over time, and the cigar getting old, which he believes is when time makes cigars worse.
And he argues: “In that sense, inside the humidor it is not possible to mature cigars. The moment you put a cigar in the humidor in good condition, it gets older, loses properties, strength, and then becomes rounded and loses its refinement. In the first place, it loses the spicy and citrus touches. In the end, a cigar that has been in a humidor for 20 years tastes like cedar wood or has a sweet flavour, which is a very persistent flavor ”.
In his opinion, people like cigars that have been aged for a long time because their flavours become tamed and they lose strength. That is why he’s not in favor of keeping cigars in this way; although you may smoke it later and it still tastes good, it won’t be as the tobacco company intended it to taste or as they presented it to the market.
In any case, it is clear that branch aging, as is done for limited editions, reserves and large reserves, is not the same as aging rolling tobacco. The first is the authentic way of aging tobacco, in which the leaves mature to improve over time. On the other hand, the aging of a twisted cigar is a more subtle and slow refinement, but it also confers a change in the characteristics of the smoke.