Are cigars really better with age?

I find that one of the most widely held misconceptions about cigars is that they are always better with age. I say “always” because it is true that some cigars do improve with age, to a certain point. However, not all cigars age well, and those that do inevitably hit their peak and then begin to decline.

For example, Camachos tend to need down time; right out of the box they can just be over powering. La Flor Dominicana Double Ligeros age nicely, and after just 6 months down, they tend to calm down and develop into very nice cigars. And the famous Arturo Fuente Fuente Opus X ages, if not spectacularly, then certainly interestingly, over the course of a couple years. In addition, most Cuban cigars need down time (anywhere from 6 months to about 2 years), as Cuban cigar companies put less emphasis on creating a fine, well aged cigar and more emphasis on getting cigars out onto the market.

However, even cigars that age well, do so only to a certain point. Ashton’s VSG ages phenomenally to about 9 months, but by month 12 you just may find that your cigar has declines and lost flavor, body and character. Don Peppin’s Blue Label is another great example of a cigar that improves with down time, but much past a year and all that delicious spice has mellowed into something unrecognizable and quite ordinary. Even with my examples in the previous paragraph, age can be a good thing to a point, and after that your cigar will start to decline.

Yet, for some reason, when people come into A Little Taste of Cuba and see the Padron 1964 and 1926, many of them are overly impressed and say things like “Wow, was that cigar really rolled 83 years ago?” When I tell them it wasn’t many are downright disappointed. Now, I would never keep a Padron 1964 down for more than 6 months because its so subtle to begin with, after just a few months it simply loses flavor (I hold to the old cliche when it comes to the 1964: “Smoke ’em if you got ’em.” I do not let those guys sit). How bland would a Padron 1964 be after 45 years?

And yet people are constantly paying outrageous amounts of money for a “Pre-embargo” cuban cigar. The story is familiar to everyone: “Hey, we just found a bundle of tobacco from Cuba that was imported before the embargo…etc.” Really? Even if the story is true, they are trying to sell tobacco that is over 4 decades old? A cigar that old is going to taste like chalk and dust. It will have lost so much flavor and character, it won’t be worth a cent.

So please, don’t get sucked into the hype that the older something is, the better it is. Challenge the misconception the next time your local cigar shop tries to push some expensive 20 year old stogies on you, or one of your buddies starts talking about a deal he found for 60 year old Cubans. Cigars age quickly, you really shouldn’t ever have to age anything past a year or two. For those cigar-agers out there (and trust me, I am one), I would suggest buying 4 or 5 sticks whenever you decide to age a cigar, and smoke one every 3 or 4 months, so you can get a feel for the characteristics of that cigar. A well aged cigar can open up the potential and possibilities of the tobacco; A poorly aged cigar becomes tired, old and unremarkable.

Happy smoking.

– Nate

Published in: on January 31, 2009 at 12:07 pm  Comments (2)