How to tell if a cigar has gone bad

Cigars, unlike perishable food items, don’t have a strict expiration date. However, they can degrade over time if not stored properly. Proper storage conditions, such as humidity and temperature, play a significant role in maintaining the quality of cigars and preventing them from going bad. We reveal how to know when your cigar has gone bad and how you can prevent it from happening. 

How can you make sure your cigars are fresh and ready to smoke?

To ensure your cigars are fresh and ready to smoke, it’s essential to pay attention to various factors related to storage, maintenance and how you can preserve the flavour, aroma and overall quality of your cigars. Here are our top tips:

What is the pinch test?

The pinch test is an effective method to assess the quality and condition of a cigar. By gently squeezing the cigar between your fingers, you can gather valuable information about its quality and moisture content. A well-constructed cigar should feel firm and evenly packed without lumps or soft spots. It should provide a slight give but not too tight or too loose. 

Additionally, the pinch test allows you to gauge the moisture level. The cigar should not feel dry or excessively moist – striking a balance that ensures an optimal smoking experience.

What should a cigar smell like?

A well-crafted cigar should exude an enticing and complex aroma that captivates the senses. The ideal scent of a cigar is often described as rich, earthy and woody, with subtle notes of spice, leather and roasted coffee. Aromas can vary depending on the cigar’s blend, wrapper and ageing process. That being said, a good quality cigar should emit a pleasant, sweet tobacco scent that showcases its craftsmanship and finest quality tobacco leaves. 

Plume versus mould

Plume and mould are two different phenomena that can occur on the surface of cigars. Understanding the differences between them is essential to ensuring the optimal smoking experience.

Plume is a desirable occurrence that can appear as a light, dusty, whitish-grey coating on the surface of a cigar. It is caused by the natural oils in the tobacco rising to the surface and crystallising. Plume is often seen as an indicator of a well-aged cigar and is considered a positive sign, enhancing the flavour and aroma. 

Mould, on the other hand, is an undesirable and potentially harmful occurrence. It appears as fuzzy, discoloured patches on the surface of the cigar and can have colours such as green, blue, white, or black. Mould is caused by the growth of various fungi – typically due to excess moisture or improper storage conditions. Unlike plume, mould can negatively affect the taste and smell of the cigar and may even pose health risks if consumed.

How can you distinguish plume from mould?

Differentiating between plume and mould can be challenging as they share a very similar appearance. Here are some key differences to help you distinguish between the two:

  1. Formation: Plume occurs naturally over time as the oils in the tobacco rise to the surface and crystallise. Mould, on the other hand, is the result of fungal growth due to excessive moisture.
  2. Appearance: Plume usually appears as a fine, powdery coating that is evenly distributed on the surface of the cigar. Mould, however, appears fuzzy and can have irregular patterns or patches.
  3. Colour: Plume is typically whitish-grey and has a more crystalline or powdery appearance. Mould can have various colours, including green, blue, white, or black.
  4. Brushing Off: Plume will generally brush off easily without leaving any residue or damage to the cigar. Mould tends to be firmly attached to the surface and may leave stains or damage when removed.

How can I ensure my cigar does not go bad?

To ensure the longevity of cigars, it’s recommended that you store them in a humidor – a specialised container designed to maintain proper humidity levels. The ideal conditions for cigar storage are around 70 degrees Fahrenheit and 70% humidity. When stored in a well-maintained humidor, cigars can retain their quality for an extended period – sometimes even improving with age.

When handling your cigar, ensure you have clean hands to avoid transferring oils or dirt, and avoid excessive touching of the wrapper to prevent damage. Also, consider individually wrapping cigars in cellophane or using cedar tubes for added protection.

It’s also essential that you inspect your cigars regularly, making sure to check for any signs of damage, mould or tobacco beetles. Should you come across any of these, remove any affected cigars from the humidor to prevent further contamination.

What cigars retain their flavour the longest?

Generally, premium handmade cigars made with high-quality tobacco and stored correctly have the longest potential shelf life. These cigars are crafted with a blend of aged tobacco, which can contribute to their longevity. Additionally, cigars individually wrapped in cellophane or stored in a sealed box tend to have better preservation capabilities. Certain types of cigars, such as well-aged, full-bodied cigars with thick wrappers, can also exhibit a longer shelf life due to their robustness and ability to withstand the effects of time.

With these helpful tips, you can ensure that your cigars remain fresh, nicely humidified and ready for a delightful smoking experience.