You know the taste of a well-aged cigar: that subtle complexity, that certain “je ne c’est quois,” that light kiss of tobacco flavor left gently lingering. Aging is often what makes a good cigar a great one.
Cigars change as they age. Some prefer cigars young and fresh while others appreciate a mellower, more experienced cigar. To those who prefer the flavor of aged cigars but don’t want to choke up the duckets for aged Vintage cigars, your next question is probably “how can I age my own cigars properly?”
The amount of time you age your cigars is a matter of personal preference. In general, age them at least a year for optimum effect. Of course, some low-quality cigars won’t see much improvement with aging – remember "garbage in, garbage out.” However, keep in mind that some cigars after aging will have pleasantly rich flavors, even though now they smell like a dumpster – much the same way that good wines for aging are too tannic to drink when young.
But certain cigars are just naturally better suited for aging. An example is larger ring-gauge cigars. The thicker the cigar, the greater the variety of tobacco leaves and hence, the more complex the final flavor of the aged cigar will be. The insides of larger cigars tend to be somewhat shielded from the outside environment, less apt to be affected by fluctuations in humidity and temperature. This added stability that larger cigars provide is highly desirable for long-term aging. On the other hand, since the wrapper provides the lion's share of a cigar's taste, aging may not significantly affect the taste of some Maduros. In particular, maduro-wrapped cigars which are artificially “cooked” or “cured” to achieve the dark coloration of the wrapper and the distinctively strong, sweet flavor are prone to this problem. Due to such curing, they have essentially been “fixed,” and thus any further benefits of aging have been stunted.
Of course, the environment in which they are stored is crucial. Follow the usual 70-70 rule for temperature and humidity. Anymore and your cigars will get moldy; any less and the aging process begins to be stunted. Maintaining a stable environment for your cigars is key – a constantly fluctuating environment can be disastrous. Swings in temperature and humidity cause cigars to expand and contract, cracking their wrappers and may disrupt the aging process. Ideally, the space in the humidor should be about twice the volume of cigars. The lining should be cedar – cedar wood is a highly aromatic wood, full of its own oils. With the passage of time, the interaction of the tobacco oils internal and with the cedar of the wood leads to a mellowing and blending of flavors. This results in that subtle complexity you can only get from proper aging.