There is nothing worse than good cigars gone bad. Cigars are like a fine wine — they get better with age. However, you must handle them carefully and give them special attention to maintain their flavor and freshness. If your stogie has taken a downturn, it’s not necessarily unsalvageable, but it will leave a bad taste in your mouth and bank account.
Learning how to tell if a cigar has gone bad will give you the confidence to ensure the stogies you pluck from your humidor are fresh and ready to smoke. Many signs can help you spot a bad cigar, so let’s investigate these further, along with some handy tips to help you avoid this inconvenience.
Can cigars expire?
Cigars are not perishable like fruits and vegetables, meaning they don’t have an expiration date. However, they can turn bad if kept in the wrong conditions. If you store your cheap cigars correctly, they will last you a long time and exude more flavor.
How to know if a cigar has gone bad
If you maintain a constant environment, your stogies will smoke perfectly. You ideally want to keep your smokes between 65% and 72% humidity and a temperature of 64-70°F (18-21°C). If you don’t store your cut-price cigars properly, you must check whether they have taken a turn for the worse. Here are several key indicators that can point to your cigar going bad.
It’s good practice to smell your cigars before smoking them. Each cigar has a distinctive taste, but it should never smell rotten. If your stogie emits a moldy or stale smell, it will deliver an experience equally as unpleasant when lit. A fresh stick should have a mild tobacco scent, whereas a cigar that’s dried out (gone stale) won’t deliver much aroma because its humidity and oils have dissipated.
You can occasionally rescue dried-out cigars through one of the different methods used to rehydrate cigars, providing the wrapper has not cracked or unraveled. On the other hand, you should discard cigars that smell moldy immediately.
Cigar mold is a nasty substance with a musty smell, blue-green color, and moss-like structure. It’s another sign your cheap cigar has turned bad. Mold will not brush off your cigars and is usually caused by excessive humidity in your humidor. Humidifying your stogies with tap water instead of distilled water can also breed mold.
As we’ve already discussed, if a cigar has mold, throw it away — it’s too late to save it. Moldy cigars can contaminate fresh cigars if stored in the same place, so it is imperative to catch cigars that are developing mold before it spreads to the rest of your collection.
Do not confuse mold with plume. Plume is a harmless, fine white powder usually appearing on the wrapper’s surface as small white spots. It’s a welcome sign of proper cigar maintenance and can be brushed off.
Another way you can tell if your cheap cigar has gone bad is by its excessive dryness. Squeeze your cigar or rub it between your fingers — if you hear crunchy noise (cracking), it’s too dry. Cigars dry out due to a lack of humidity, causing a loss of essential oils in the wrapper and filler, translating to a loss of flavor.
You can still smoke a stale cigar, but it tastes bitter and burns faster and hotter. Even more importantly, your tastebuds won’t be mesmerized by the flavor notes the cigar initially promised.
Taste of your cigar
A cigar should always feel at home in your mouth — a cigar that has gone bad may taste rancid, sour, or stale. Other times, it may have an aftertaste reminiscent of dirt and sand. Again, it’s a sign the cigar is no longer smokeable. Avoid putting fire to the foot of a cigar that tastes off because it usually tastes even worse when lit.
Experience with a specific stogie is also an advantage when analyzing a cigar’s freshness. If it tastes markedly different from the last time you smoked it, something could be awry with its freshness. As you sample cigars and develop your palate, you’ll learn to recognize the unique and character-distinctive flavor profiles associated with different blends and brands.
Feeling the cigar out
The “pinch test” is reliable for discovering if your stogie has gone bad. While a dry cigar will crunch when you squeeze it, a cigar that’s too moist will feel soggy in your hands. Cigars that feel too cushiony or soft have likely been exposed to high humidity. A wet cigar also delivers a constricted draw, which requires extra effort. If it becomes too wet, it will not smoke.
Cracks or ripples on the wrapper leaf indicate the cigar has been exposed to the damaging effects of fluctuating humidity levels, which harm the cigar’s internal composition.
Remember, your cigar should feel firm and resilient, with a slight bounce to it — like how your finger feels when you squeeze it.
If you handle and store your cheap cigars in the proper humidity, there’s no reason they can’t last for years and even outlive you. Most cigars get better with age, so if you store them correctly, they can mature perfectly instead of going bad.
Even if you manage to re-humidify a dry cigar, it won’t taste as good as it would have initially. If a cigar is past the point of no return (for example, moldy), your best bet is to cut your losses and replace it with a fresh stogie.