This is a topic that may seem foreign to any brand new smoker, but for the seasoned aficionado, it’s as old as time. One of the most common questions is “how can I tell the difference between mold and plume?”. The average person has probably never even heard of plume, also known as bloom, but to a cigar smoker, plume is like finding gold buried in your back yard.
Plume vs mold
Before we discuss their actual differences, we need to understand, scientifically, what plume is vs what mold is. Mold on cigars is easier to begin with because of how common it is. Mold is a form of fungus that grows on organic material. This occurs when there is an excess of mold and humidity. When it starts to grow, mold starts to degrade the organic material. While in certain foods, this is a wanted change, usually this decomposes the material where its growing. By storing your cigars with too high of a humidity, this will in turn cause mold to grow and fester. Once there is mold in your humidor – that’s the end game. Your cigars are no longer viable and will have to be thrown out. Most likely, your humidor will have to be heavily disinfected, however we recommend just buying a new one.
Now plume, or bloom, is quite the opposite indeed. Plume is a form of crystalized tobacco oils. When an oily cigar is stored in perfect conditions, particularly somewhere enclosed such as a tube, the oils on the wrapper crystalize into a white powder. While plume on cigars doesn’t necessarily add any flavor, it is an indicator of perfect storage conditions. Cigars in plume are highly sought after by people who know what they are looking for.
Difference between mold and plume
Here is how you tell the difference between mold and plume. Plume appears as a white crystal powder along the outside of the wrapper. It can be easily removed by wiping your finger or nail along the wrapper. Mold, however, appears as a green/grey fuzzy material. It usually is embedded in both the wrapper and can appear in the foot of the cigar as well. When its mold, you will not be able to remove it by using your finger or nail. You will also notice that your cigars are moist, much more moist then normal. This will also be accompanied by a musty smell.
It can be difficult for the untrained eye to differentiate between mold and plume, which in turn causes issues with customers. If you think a cigar you purchased is infected with mold, just look for the tell tale signs. If they are covered in plume, keep them to yourself and enjoy.