Today we want to explore what is available as manufacturer information for the aging of our cigars, with particular focus on cigars purchased individually, so not in box.
Date Stamp On Box
Cuban cigars enthusiasts are very familiar with the so-called ‘cuno’, the code stamped on the bottom of cigar boxes. It is not rare to see a date stamp on the bottom of boxes of cigars from other producing countries. Many premium cigar manufacturers provide this information, which is useful for them, but also for cigar lovers who want to experiment with the aging of cigars.
However, cigar lovers might want to experiment on individual cigars before buying boxes.
Having said this, our topic becomes more interesting when a consumer does not buy a box, but single cigars. If the tobacconist is not there to provide date stamp information when the cigar is taken out of the box, assuming there is a date stamp on it, it can be a problem. Let’s see some examples of how a few manufacturers are tackling this.
Date Stamp on Single Cigar Band
What we find extremely interesting for a consumer is the case in which a manufacturer goes the extra mile and prints a date in the back of the single cigar band.
To date we have found a small number of different cases, which we want to illustrate.
Tobacco Harvest Time
We attended a seminar last year where Andrea Molinari presented the re-introduction of OneOff cigars. While tasting his cigars, when we removed the band we found a year stamped on the back.Molinari explained that is the year in which the tobacco was harvested.
Cigar Rolling Time
Mombacho stamps all rings with the month and year relating to when the cigar was rolled.Claudio Sgroi, Mombacho’s president and master blender, asserts that Mombacho cigars are aged for a minimum of 6 months*.
He says: “A longer period of rest gives to cigars an elegance and balance that only time can give them. During this period the cigar breaths and sweats, so that it interacts with the environment and it purges all the residue material that can compromise the balance of the cigar. The specific size of 5 micron particle of vapor coming from water purified through a reverse osmosis system, 63% of relative humidity 24/7 and 71 degrees F, create the perfect conditions to age a cigar for a long time. The more you age a cigar, the more you get from the blend. Of course, if the blend comes with all the technical parameters meant by the blend concept. My philosophy requires: aromas, balance and persistence.”
Sgroi adds that boutique manufacturers – regardless of size – have the responsibility to combine craft, human skills and extra care to push the quality of the cigar to an extra level.
What’s In It For The Consumer?
As we have mentioned in a previous article on cigar aging, there is a difference between cigars rolled with aged tobaccos and cigars aged after rolling.
While Habanos defined their standards approved by the Regulatory Council for the Protected Denomination of Origin (DOP), Didier V. Hoevenaghel of NyB Cigars defined guidelines for the rest of world cigars:
“Average leaf aging : from 1 ½ to 4 ½ years from their harvest. This is the age range of all leaves for classic cigars, which constitute the vast majority of the market, probably around 98-99% of it.
Average cigar aging* : from 1 to 3 years from their rolling. This is probably the age range of the vast majority of cigars on the shop shelves. This depends on the distribution, retail shop aging and rotation of the brand.”
*Note that cigar aging for a manufacturer is the time during which the cigars rest in their aging rooms before they are shipped out for sale. Hoevenaghel refers to the average time a cigar has aged before being purchased by the end customer.
In conclusion, we believe that any additional factual information the manufacturers can provide to consumers is a plus. Nevertheless, the information a consumer can most practically use when observing how a cigar ages overtime is the rolling date. This is the most straight forward milestone that most cigar lovers would pencil down when taking notes about how the aging affected the organoleptic characteristics of the cigar, when they smoke another one with the same frontmark after months or years.
Reviewers who don’t procure boxes also have an interest in knowing the age of the single cigars they are testing. Sometimes testing occurs when cigars have only recently been shipped out to distributors and retailers, or even earlier than that in certain cases. Therefore it’s good to be able to recognize whether the young cigar has potential to improve with additional rest, and advise the consumers accordingly. This advice is most valuable when backed by data, such as the rolling date, unless the cigar is a limited batch production. In addition, such data also allows for the meaningful re-testing of a regular production cigar after it has been available on shop shelves for a while.
This article is based on the input from few manufacturers for now, therefore it could evolve as we gather more information. If you are aware of other specific manufacturer practices, please let us know so we can include them!
– Andrea Molinari, Philip S. Zanghi III, Claudio Sgroi – conversations in different formats
– Didier V. Hoevenaghel – Facebook note ‘The Cigar Ages‘
Featured image : Matteo Speranza