Take a Whiff...
Walk into a cigar shop any given day and within minutes you’re guaranteed to see at least one customer with a cigar to his nostrils, sniffing the foot. This is a common practice used by most cigar enthusiasts. What exactly is he looking for, and can you really determine anything just by smelling the foot? In many cases, yes. By smelling the foot, one can quickly determine several characteristics which could sway your purchase. Here’s a short list of some of the most common trigger-scents:
70% or Bust...
- Ammonia – Let this baby sleep! An ammonia-like scent is usually a red flag signaling that a cigar is young and needs further aging prior to being enjoyed.
- Barnyard – Ironically, if your cigar smells like a fresh barnyard, you’ve got yourself a properly aged smoke that should prove to be incredibly tasty and well-balanced. Savor it!
- Spice – A spicy or peppery scent is usually caused by ligero, the strongest leaf on a tobacco plant. Ligero is the black tobacco often found in the foot of full-bodied cigars.
From day one, we’re all told that 70% is the optimum relative humidity for storing cigars. While this may be true, keeping your cigars at 70% is not a life or death situation for your precious handmades. I’ll explain. Take a maduro cigar. The maduro wrapper
is a thick, durable leaf that’s usually loaded with oily goodness. Naturally, these oils can result in an uneven burn, or even cause a cigar to go out from time to time. Normally, this is nothing your trusty torch lighter
can’t solve. However it can be rather cumbersome. One way to minimize occurrences such as these is to store your cigars at a lower humidity, causing the tobaccos within your cigars to hold less moisture. Many knowledgeable connoisseurs store their collection between 65 and 67 percent, and notice a significant increase in even, consistent burns. The moral of the story? While 70% is the rule of thumb it may not always be best. The true test for your humidor
is your cigars' performance while burning.
Firm White Ash...
There is a common misconception floating around the cigar world that a good cigar is denoted by a solid, white ash. While a solid ash does signify a well-made cigar, the latter does not. The color of a cigar’s ash is a product of the soil in which the tobacco was grown, and more specifically, the amount of magnesium within the soil itself. For example, Nicaraguan soils are high in magnesium. Because of this, most Nicaraguan
cigars burn to create a bright white ash. On the other hand, the soils of Honduras
and Cuba are very low in magnesium, resulting in cigars that produce a dark gray or black ash. So the next time your buddy that “only smokes Cubans” brags about the solid white ash his pricy Canadian-bought Cuban counterfeit produces, put him in his place with your newfound knowledge.
Attack of the…Mold?
Seeing white spots form on some of your cigars? Before resorting to drastic measures, take a deep breath, count to 10 and take a closer look. Your handmades may have developed plume (or bloom), a natural phenomenon in the cigar aging process that occurs when the oils exude from the wrapper leaf. This is a sign of proper aging, and will not happen with every cigar. It’s actually quite rare, and as a result, enthusiasts often chalk this up to the more serious problem of mold, and erroneously trash them. So how does plume differ from mold? Plume is a white powdery substance that can be brushed away. Mold is usually bluish or greenish in color and cannot be brushed off your cigars without staining the leaf. Just like that tricky barnyard scent, plume is good, so enjoy!