Cuban Cigars: The Stages of Ageing
All of the cigars online on our website have undergone unique ageing and fermentation processes, with some in our Limited Editions range undergoing up to eight years of ageing. We take a look at the years after these cigars have been rolled up until they are smoked and understand what occurs during this taste altering time.
Those that smoke aged cigars are considered the most patient, wise and passionate of all aficionados. This is because they appreciate the true value of time and the delicacy in which Cuban cigars are made, willing to wait years at a time to smoke some of the most vintage and venerable cigars for sale.
Cigar experts around the world have agreed that the life of a cigar when it is aged can be classified into three main stages:
YOUTH/FRESH CIGAR: 0-4 YEARS
In these primary years, the cigar is considered as one that should not be smoked. Generally, this stage is referred to as the ‘sick period’ which means the ammonia in the cigar is still very much present. This stage begins immediately after rolling and is owed to the fact that before rolling, the tobacco leaves are moistened and undergo a quick fermentation period which produces high ammonia levels. The rate at which the ammonia is eradicated from the cigar depends on the chemical constituents, the size of the cigar and the way it is packaged and stored. Min Ron Nee, world famous Hong Kong based Cuban cigar smoker and renowned collector, explains that most cigars will lose their ammoniac smell within a few months, 95-99% within the first year and almost all of the cigars will have lost it within the first two years.
SENIOR/ AGED CIGAR: 5-6 YEARS UP TO 15-20 YEARS
According to Zino Davidoff, author of The Connoisseur’s Book of the Cigar, the eye and nose for cigar ageing is a skill that is bereft of those that do not pay enough attention and only the most observant and those with the keenest sense of smell will reap the rewards.
This is where things become a little complicated and this is because cigar aficionados and experts around the world believe that this ageing process occurs in two parts:
- The First Maturation
The continuous fermentation of cigars produces ever increasing pleasant flavours and aromas and can be found within the first 5-6 years after they have been rolled. It’s said that during this period, less pleasant flavours are eradicated thanks to evaporation and chemical reactions etc. This stage is known to last for around 2-3 years for milder cigars which have been stored in non-airtight containers (such as the Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure No.2) compared to around 10-15 for stronger cigars like any of our Bolivar cigars.
The Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure No.2 (pictured above) is milder in flavour and considered ideal for smoking after being aged for 2-3 years
- The Second Maturation
During the second maturation process, tannic acids decompose and this accentuates the flavours and aromas which continue to develop as the fermentation process goes on. Typically in this period tannic and wood properties make themselves known. Nevertheless, some cigars do not contain enough wood and tannic elements and may need around 20-25 years of ageing for these to really develop.
Some cigars are unfairly judged because of these differentials and may be smoked prior to their full potential, that’s why a lot of research and conversations must be had with and by cigar aficionados to ensure every cigar reaches its peak age. The Sancho Panza cigars for example are considered to be better when they enter the second maturation period.
OLD AGE/ VINTAGE CIGAR- OVER TWENTY YEARS OF AGE
As with all cigars, whether you have decided to put them away to age for a couple of years or you hope to smoke them within the next few months, it's best to ensure they are kept in optimal conditions, more so with cigars you'd like to age because over time, as all things do, the cigar will become more fragile and susceptible. Therefore, only the most experienced and meticulous cigar aficionado will take the time and effort it requires to age a cigar properly.
This stage has caused dispute within the cigar world, with some believing cigars that have been aged for over twenty years is equal to an exquisite aged Bordeaux wine and others opposing with claims that cigars that have been aged for this long have already exhibited their best qualities.
In the end though, it’s very subjective, with some preferring the tannic qualities found in fresh cigars and others preferring the intense aromas of an older cigar. Which cigars for sale online would you choose to smoke earlier and which ones would you choose to age? Let us know in our comments below or on any of our social media platforms.