Pleasure / August 2016

Holy Smokes: The Art of Ageing Cigars

Ageing cigars requires patience and precision. The Rake’s resident habano sommelier provides the best way to experience a vintage cigar.

I'm not sure who first had the idea that ageing cigars would make such a difference to their taste (and value), but it probably wasn't a Cuban. Cubans understand the need to age their tobacco before they roll it but that's it. Indeed, up until recently, Cubans believed in smoking cigars "fresh", which meant within a year or so of production. I remember the second time I left Havana, I was mooching around the duty free cigar shop at the airport and staring through the glass like a snotty nosed schoolboy pressing his nose up on the window of a sweet shop (because they don't let you into the walk-in humidor there). In the right corner of the humidor, I spied a rather old looking box of Cuaba Diademas. I asked the assistant if I could see the box, her reply was intriguing, "these are no good, they're not fresh". The answer stumped me and I asked if I could see the box anyway. She wasn't very helpful but, showed me the box through the glass (she wouldn't even let me touch it). As she showed me the underside, I tried to stifle my smile as I saw the date 04 stamp. A 10 year old box of five individually cedar wood boxed Cuaba Diademas for 92 cuc (convertible Cuban currency) which at the time was about £65. Needless to say that box was purchased and sits in my humidor still, as I’m waiting a few more years before enjoying them.

The art of ageing cigars is not about just leaving them and trying them 5-10 years later. The cigars must be kept at constant levels of temperature and humidity. There are several schools of thought as to which is the best method of ageing cigars and the decision on how you wish to proceed is totally up to you, the options follow thus;

  • - Constant temperature, 16-20 degrees centigrade and 65-70% humidity
  • - Constant temperature, of 16-20 degrees centigrade but a lower humidity level between 50-60%
  • - Lower temperature of 9-12 degrees centigrade and a constant humidity of 65-70%

We at the Edward Sahakian Cigar Shop use option 3 to age our cigars. It's the method that Edward Sahakian, owner of Davidoff of London, has used for over 35 years and few would argue about the quality and taste of his vintage collection of cigars.

What I'm smoking today:

Cigar: Cohiba Lancero

Vitola name: Laguito no.1

Dimensions: 8 x 7.6” (192mm)

Strength: Medium

Smoke time: 1 hour 40 minutes

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Contributor

Mike Choi

These views are my personal views and you are welcome to yours and I respect that. They come from my experience of both smoking and managing a cigar shop. I have my own vintage cigar company called Casa Puro, I am a Master of Havana Cigars, Runner Up Habanosommelier World Championships, Winner UK Habanosommelier Championship and also won Cigar Journal’s World’s Best Cigar Lounge Award.