I see so many misconceptions relating to the shelf-life of cigars that I want to set things straight in this article. If you want to build your cigar collection and enjoy this pastime, you must understand the science behind cigar longevity and what you can do to protect them.
One of the main questions to explore is, do cigars go bad? The simple answer is yes, but I want to take you further than that so below I look at factors affecting longevity, how to spot a bad cigar, and how to store your stogies properly.
Cigar Shelf Life Explained
Cigars are made with tobacco leaves which are a natural substance from the Nicotiana plant. Like any plant, tobacco leaves are subject to decay and degradation over time - particularly when they are not kept in the same conditions the plants are grown in.
In this instance, tobacco plants are typically grown in warmer climates closer to the equator such as northern South America, the Caribbean, and southeast Asia. Therefore, if you don’t store your cigars in a similar climate, they go “bad”.
Factors Affecting Cigar Longevity
As stated above, cigar longevity is affected when the tobacco leaves experience different climate conditions from what they typically grow in. This includes:
The humidity is the most important factor and without proper humidity, the tobacco leaves in your cigars will dry out and lose their flavor. It is generally accepted that the ideal humidity levels for cigar storage are between 65-70%.
Similarly, temperature should be controlled too as this contributes to the humidity and dryness of the stogies. Ideally, your cigars should be stored at temperatures of 64-70 degrees Fahrenheit (18/21 degrees Celsius) which will help the aging process and keep the cigars fresh.
The shelf life of unstored cigars therefore without the correct humidity can be as little as a few days compared to potentially years and even decades when your cigars are humidified.
Signs of a Bad Cigar
You now know why cigars go bad, but how do you identify if this is the case? There are several surefire signs including:
- A stale or moldy smell.
- It fails the pinch test.
- A stale or sour taste.
- Mold on the cigar.
Fresh cigars should have a mild scent of tobacco but if they have gone bad, this is replaced by a stale or moldy smell which is easy to identify. Similarly, they should taste pleasant in your mouth with perhaps fruity and earthy undertones whereas a bad cigar will taste wrank and even rancid!
You can do a simple pinch test too - when you pinch a cigar between your fingers it should be firm but have a little bounce too. You know that it's gone bad if it feels too firm - like a chunk of wood.
Lastly, cigars can grow mold! Mold is typically blueish or greenish spots on your cigar and the important factor is that they can’t be brushed off. This contrasts with cigar plume which is small white crystallized patches on the cigars that can be brushed off - these are a sign of proper aging and not mold.
How to Keep Your Cigars Fresh and Properly Stored
When looking at the question, do cigars go bad, there is light at the end of the tunnel and you can easily keep your cigars fresh for years by doing the following:
- Use a humidor.
- Keep them stored at the correct humidity and temperature.
- Avoid direct sunlight exposure.
- Keep the wrapper on if necessary.
A humidor is your primary defence against mold and degradation and I advise anyone who is serious about their cigars investing in one. These devices allow you to maintain the correct humidity and temperature so your stogies can stay fresh and age properly.
When you do take your cigars out of the humidor ready for use, it can be an idea to keep the plastic wrapper on until the point of smoking. This provides a little extra protection until that joyous moment when you light your stogie.
Lastly, your humidor should be kept in a relatively dark and secluded place to avoid direct sunlight as this can adversely affect the temperature and humidity and contribute to cigar dryness.
Keep Your Cigars Fresh With Correct Storage and Care
You should now have a clear answer to the question, do cigars go bad? Yes, they do. If not properly stored or kept in the wrong humidity, cigars can lose their flavor, and the tobacco leaves can grow mold which completely ruins them.
This can easily be avoided though by using a humidor! A humidor is the most effective storage device for cigars as it allows you to actively monitor the temperature and humidity and keep your treasured stogies fresh for years to come.