Vintage Cigars Pt. 1: What is Aged Tobacco?
Updated: Feb 26
Like any good vintage collectible; wine, cars, watches- vintage cigars have nuance and depth and deliver a unique enjoyment.
Vintage or aged cigars begin their journey as a premium tobacco crop. Premium tobacco can take up to 1 year to cultivate and cure. Up to another year to ferment and settle. At this junction, cigar tobacco intended for aging can take one of two paths: Aging the raw tobacco or the finished cigar.
Aging raw tobacco is a delicate process. It begins after the first fermentation. Fermenting tobacco is a method to expel naturally-causing impurities and bring out the flavor profile of the leaf.
Aging tobacco further past the first fermentation develops the flavor and body of the tobacco. This is accomplished in a number of ways, including en pilon or in piles where humidity and temperature are controlled to cause heat at the center of the tobacco pile. Barrel aging is rare and an admired aging method. This method is difficult to sustain as it is resource intensive, however, the benefits of barrel aging to the tobacco's flavor and filtering of impurities are unmatched.
The extent of time or how involved the fermenting process may be depends on the manufacture. Cuban cigar brands are known for the innovative "triple-fermentation" process that requires storing tobacco in oak barrels or specially designed tobacco barns and can take up to three years.
Cigars with Aged Tobacco
Renowned tobacco growers such as the Padron and Plasencia families maintain a "library" of aged tobacco- crops from varying years, each undergoing a different stage in the aging process. The tobacco from these libraries is used to make their award-winning cigars that are so highly coveted.
Maintaining Aged Cigars
After cigars are made using aged tobacco, the cigars are left to settle in humidors or cedar- lined vaults. Humidity control is almost always kept below 72%. Some experts will even advocate that 62-68% is the prime humidity control for aging cigars. At this humidity level, air can more easily breach the cigars, mellowing the flavors of the tobacco in the process.
Higher humidity levels work against aging since damper air causes the tobacco in the cigar to swell, not allowing air to reach the cigar's core. You will want to maintain consistent humidity levels and separate your aging cigars from the rest of your collection.
The Effect Aging a Cigar has on Quality
While some premium cigars will age better than others, all aged cigars impart qualities that develop over time. "Full-flavored" tobacco with linear tasting notes, like spice and wood, can subdue during aging and reveal a flavor profile with depth and piquancy. Medium-bodied cigars also have the potential to develop complex flavor profiles in the aging process.
How long tobacco or cigars should age is up to the person caring for the process. The best way to explore the benefits of aged cigars is to try them yourself.
Stay tuned for Vintage Cigars Pt. 2: What are Vintage Cigars?
Shop our artisanal cigars and set a few aside to begin your own aged cigar collection.