Like many great things, cigars can often be improved with age. Whatever your budget, you can age your cigars at home fairly easily. Wherever your level of knowledge about cigars already is, you will be able to practice the cigar aging process with just a small amount of background knowledge.
A freshly rolled cigar should ideally be ready to smoke right away, but many premium cigars can benefit from short- and long-term aging. Aged cigars often have more mellow flavors. In the right storage conditions, the tobacco inside of the cigar and the wrapping will be able to meld together in taste and scent.
Proper aging can take months, or even years, of sitting in a cigar humidor. For the average cigar smoker, this generally will not be an issue, since many will not smoke through their collections for some time anyhow. That said, even a few days to a week can often be enough for a store-bought cigar to settle in the humidor and be ready for smoking.
The longer you wait, the more time the oils and humidity in the cigars will have to break down and round out the cigar’s flavors. When kept in a quality humidor, especially one made from Spanish cedar, the cigars are able to be stored in a space that has a consistent temperature and humidity level.
When the humidity and temperature fluctuate too much, the cigars will expand and contract. This can cause the wrapping to crack, and generally will compromise the consistency of your cigars. They may become staler or generally less enjoyable.
Before deciding on how long you want to try aging your cigars for, keep in mind that the tobacco used to roll most premium cigars is already aged. Depending on the opinion of the master blender who decides on the tobaccos being used in a blend, this process can take years before the cigars ever arrive in your store. After fermentation, the tobacco in the blend and the wrapping is aged for an average of 3 years before rolling.
During this time following the starting fermentation process, the tobaccos are usually aged in large bales where a smaller level of fermentation is able to continue without ruining the batch. A cigar maker may age their tobaccos with bark, or even in wooden barrels like some alcohols, to allow the flavors of the wood and tobacco to meld.
At many high-end cigar shops, the cigars may even spend an additional few months in an aging room before being sold. As a result, many great cigars are ready to smoke right out the door, especially if the store has the capacity to properly store many cigars.
While you may not always have to age a cigar for a longer period of time, knowing how long a cigar has been aged before your purchase is also beneficial. If you do decide to extend the aging process rather than smoke your cigars immediately, it can give you a better idea of how long you might want to let them wait.
Some cigars have even been sitting in stores since the 70s, or perhaps earlier, though these are surely rare. With that said, the reviews of these cigars tend to be mixed. While some cigars may be perfect for this kind of aging, many believe that the flavors mellow out too much, and the cigars are unpleasant.
It is also difficult to maintain consistent humidity and temperature for such an extended period of time, even for said stores that have such spaces to age cigars. As mentioned before, some cigars may even be better right out of the store, it is not always easy to know how to tell which though.
Aging cigars is not an exact science, and you will have to learn for yourself which cigars will benefit from aging and for how long. Just keep in mind that quality cigar makers will intentionally formulate their cigar blends and aging periods to have the cigar at its peak flavor level when it is sold.
Cigars can be fickle. You might buy large boxes of cigars only to find when smoking the first that the taste is unbearable. At this point, rather than throw them out, you will probably store them in your humidor and save them for company, or ultimately forget about them. Maybe months or more later, you decide to give one of the disgusting cigars another try, only to find that you suddenly love them!
Cigar humidors can make a fine cigar a great cigar, especially when maintained in the proper conditions. Most cigar aficionados will swear that solid Spanish cedar cigar boxes are the best around and that it is worth paying the premium above getting boxes that are only lined in Spanish cedar. This should aid in maintaining a consistent temperature and humidity levels within the humidor.
The general rule of thumb for these conditions is the 70/70 rule, where you should maintain a humidity level of 70 percent with a temperature of 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Some will opt to keep it a little lower when intentionally aging, closer to around 65/65. Humidors do require proper upkeep in order to keep them functioning properly.
You need to regularly refill the water reservoir and keep an eye to ensure that the temperature stays consistent throughout the aging process. Also, shifting the position of your cigars every few weeks can be beneficial in aging cigars. Move your cigars from the top level to the bottom, and if both sections are full, switch their locations. This will give them a chance to have time closer and further from the source of humidity.
While the process is simple at its core, aging your cigars at home requires patience. It is slow and requires a great deal of trial and error. As mentioned before, aging cigars is not an exact science, and also comes down to personal preference.
When first starting out, a good idea would be to get a box of 20 cigars. You can then store these in your humidor, smoking one within the first couple of days to get a baseline of the flavor profile and to try to gauge how long you think they will need to age. Every couple of weeks, or even months if you prefer, try another. It can be useful to take notes on the flavors so you do not forget how you feel about it at each time period.
Every cigar in a box is not always consistent, and they often will have some flavor notes of their own. Even so, once you have gone through the box of cigars over this long period of time, you should have a general sense of when the cigar peaked. You may find that that particular cigar was best-smoked right after purchasing, or you may feel that it should be aged for even longer.
Whatever the case, make a note of it if you decide to buy the same cigars again in the future. You may of course decide that you did not particularly enjoy the cigars at any stage, and decide to try a new set of cigars. At that point, it would be recommended to start the same process over again. Once you know which cigars you enjoy and what age you prefer for them to be, an aged box of cigars will make for an excellent treat for yourself or even as a gift for someone who may appreciate them.
If you have a cigar lover in your life and are not sure what their brand is, William Henry also has a gorgeous selection of folding knife cigar cutters that would make a great alternative. Look through the collection of cigar cutters made from exotic materials with Damascus steel blades and see which will go perfectly with a batch of well-aged cigars.