Cigars & Whisky

An eye for detail

Cigars can be plagued by all sorts of defects. Christopher Coates shares a few details to look out for
By Christopher Coates
In the previous issue we discussed the dangers that over humidification can pose to your cigars while in transit. But what about keeping your precious tobacco in the best condition while at home? A number of environmental factors should be controlled to keep your cigars happy.

Paying close attention to both temperature and humidity is of paramount importance, though minimising exposure to direct sunlight and regular movement should also be considered when finding a home for your collection. Before placing your cigars in your chosen humidor, however, they should be inspected. Assuming there are no obvious signs of mould or over-humidification, the next step is to check for more subtle defects.

Lightly squeezing a cigar along its length will give some idea as to whether there are any construction issues. A cigar kept in ideal smoking humidity of around 65 per cent should depress slightly but should neither crack nor feel spongy.
Inconsistent soft spots could indicate hollow ‘caves’ (empty areas) where the cigar has not been packed properly, while particularly hard spots usually suggest the presence of a rogue stem (these should be stripped out of the leaf) or an over-packed area of filler, both can cause problems with the draw and burn.

Small green or yellow spots will sometimes be present on wrapper leaves and are usually the result of small drops of water coming into contact with the leaf or slightly uneven fermentation. But don’t worry, these marks will have no effect on enjoyment. Similarly, tiny cracks, splits or holes in the wrapper leaf, especially at the foot of the cigar, are more often than not simply the result of jostling during transit. Defects such as this that are around 1 to 2mm in size will not generally have any effect on the burn of a cigar and are not usually cause for concern. Large holes in the wrapper, however, can lead to problems while smoking and should be highlighted to the retailer and returned.

That’s not to say small holes should be ignored entirely, though, as they could have been caused by tobacco-beetle infestation. Usually an infected cigar will have multiple small (1mm) holes where the beetle has munched its way out of the tobacco.

Good retailers tend to be very vigilant when it comes to beetle infestation, for obvious reasons. It is good practice to freeze all sticks received from unfamiliar sources, and especially those that have multiple small holes, in order to ensure that no beetle larvae survive inside the cigars. Place the sticks in a ziplock bag, then place the bag in air-tight container before freezing. A 24-hour period in the fridge is recommended before and after freezing to avoid cracked wrappers due to rapid expansion and contraction.

If a cigar in your collection does show signs of mite infestation then all cigars that have come into contact with the contaminated stick should be frozen immediately in line with the advice above. If the contaminated cigar has been in your humidor, then this will require thorough cleaning, the entire contents should be frozen.

Regardless of the type of defect, good retailers will exchange cigars with moderate to severe damage, obvious blockages, or beetle infestation and a full box swap will generally be offered if more than 1/3 of cigars in the box are showing signs of serious problems. Diligence early on when building a cigar collection will insure against disappointment down the line.

Where to smoke

Casa de Montecristo by Cigar Inn

A superb walk-in humidor and great service can be expected at this superb New York cigar lounge. A relaxed atmosphere by day changes into a more high-energy music spot vibe by night.

1016 Second Avenue,
New York, NY, USA 
+1 212 750 0809
www.casademontecristo.com