torm3nt

Why do cigars change flavour as they age?

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Fascinated by the mould report thread, I'm now super keen to find out how and why cigars age and either change completely or ripen like a nice wine or whiskey. What is the process that causes this to happen? I tend to smoke newer cigars, but that's simply because I'm not particularly well kitted out yet to age any, but I have had a few that are a good 4-5 years old, and in every case they've been much smoother experiences, less bitterness and generally a better flavour profile. Why is this?

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19 hours ago, Fuzz said:

Decomposition.

This is essentially what occurs, in my opinion. Although some may say 'decay', aficionados and the cigar industry may say (further) 'fermentation'.

In summary, this is what happens to your cigars as they age...

1. When you first put them in your humidor or storage system of choice, the moisture content in your cigars will stabilise, or at least it should if your system is reputable and trustworthy for maintaining consistent humidity conditions.

2. After a while, the stronger leaves in your cigars will begin to mellow and the flavours will blend, hopefully creating a refined complexity which builds as the cigars mature.

3. This 'blending' of flavours will reach a peak, whereby the cigar/s are at their desired optimum state of performance.

4. After this point, your cigars will not improve in flavour and in fact may lose intensity and begin to dull and become bland.

At what point do these steps all occur? Well, this is what our noble pursuit is all about, for the time taken varies according to the cigars, the storage system and the preference of the consumer. Hence, this is why it's advocated to sample a box of cigars at regular intervals to track progress.

There are a number of other generalisations which ring true also, such as bad cigars will not improve significantly with age (although you can never rule it out 100%), yet the reference quoted by @NSXCIGAR is an excellent read will assuredly enlighten further on this issue.

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Cogeners, (sp):D

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Maturation is an improvement in many things if the original product is good to start with.

wine

scotch

cheese

balsamic vinegar

etc..................

damn, going for a snack !!

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IMHO it's not just further fermentation, there may be none of that at all.  Fermentation requires a living organism (yeast in the case of wines) and supportive conditions of heat/humidity, both of which are long gone once the leaves leave the pilon.  From what I read, there are still microorganism based changes that can continue in a rolled cigar, but I've not seen it documented just what we need to do to encourage (or discourage) that.

There's oxidation of compounds.  Again, I've not seen a concise formula on what's good for which blends and how to accomplish that (or prevent it)

There's straight up compound chemistry that also imparts change: flavor compounds interacting with flavor compounds.  Again, no science that I've seen that can guide us on this.

there's evaporation of volatiles, mostly oils, and how that changes a cigar.  Again, no science.

Now the damn winery industry has this all figured out, so you know how to 'program' the development of your Chardonnay to get it buttery, oaky, etc. but here in stogie land we are wandering in the wilderness.

I see three broad camps among BOTL: 1) give cigars plenty of air in order to "age" them.  2) whatever you do don't let air get to your cigars if you want to age them (see Nino's excellent guidance on this).  3)  Keep them in the original packaging and store them somewhere stabile in temperature and rH, cabs of 50 preferred.

That's all pretty coarse, and having some definitive science on what more/less humidity will do (and to specific blends); more/less air, higher/lower temps, etc. would be really useful.  Right now most of us arrange our storage to prevent bugs and mould; anything better than that is a mystery.

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I completely agree. Everything out there on aging is merely an opinion... even coming from "experts." We simply can't compare cigars to wine. The production and blending is just not that consistent. Even if a panel of people were to dedicate years to applying actual scientific methods to aging and blind tastings, the results would not be valid due to the product inconsistencies. You have to experiment and form your own opinions.

 

Also, fermentation does not take place in the box, or outside of bales at higher humidity and temps. Just do some research on tobacco fermentation. As was stated, we are storing cigars with the goal of avoiding mold and beetles (with the secondary goal of controlled decay).

 

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The curing process, which is typified by chemical changes that occur within components of the tobacco leaf.

I've read some of the tenets of the biochemistry at play, but it quickly becomes overly technical beyond its utility (for my preference). For me, it's enough to know that it works!

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