Even the most solicitous and devoted cigar aficionado occasionally runs into a little trouble. Taste spoliation; a cigar humidor dial gone wonky; an infestation of tobacco beetles; mold; even the occasionally badly-made cigar from a generally reliable premium cigar factory--any and all of these little mishaps can blight the cigar stashes of even very careful and attentive premium cigar smokers. In these situations, as in so much of life, information is key, and an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Let's take some relatively common problems one at a time.
Uneven burn or poor construction. Of course, the best way to avoid these is to order premium cigars from a reliable source. But let's assume you're already doing that, and that your supply--not to mention your taste in smokes--is not what's at issue. Even excellent cigars, carefully shipped, need tender loving care.
When new cigars arrive, take a good look at them. (If you order by the box, this is especially easy to do--just grab one out of the box.) Two things to look out for at this point: excessive dryness; excessive moistness. If a cigar seems a little parched, or, on the other hand, a little moist, the solution for both situations is the same: make sure your humidor is set to its proper sixty-nine-to-seventy-four-degrees-with-seventy-percent-relative-humidity default, and let your new cigars settle for a week in the cigar humidor. That's their home, after all.
Another thing to keep in mind: if you're keeping your cigars in the humidor over a long period, it makes a lot of sense to rotate them every few months. Moisture doesn't diffuse itself perfectly, and every humidor will have places where the dryness is greater than normal. Make sure no one cigar has to bear being in one of these "dead zones" for too long. Also, avoid packing them in too tightly--they need air--and try not to allow any big fluctuations in the humidity level of your cigar humidor.
All of these practices will help to avoid problems setting in with the filler tobacco, which is where the taste comes from, and with the binders and wrappers, which keep the cigar together. An ideally-rolled cigar is firm with a bit of give, too moist to taste parched when you smoke it but too dry to develop mold, and ready to burn evenly. Cigars that are well-taken-care-of will stay this way.
Mold. You don't hear a lot about cigar mold, but it does happen--and unlike uneven burn or weak construction, it's something that can happen to any cigar no matter how brilliantly-made, because it has much more to do with the way the cigar is stored and kept than with the way it's originally put together. Let's say you've bought a great sampler of discount premium cigars: some Camachos, some Macanudos, a Montecristo, an Alec Bradley Maxx, even a Gurkha or two. You've given proper thought to the selection of the cigars you smoke--but for whatever reason you didn't exercise the same care in selecting a humidor, and now, when you open it up to find a good evening's smoke, your favorite Cohiba (the pick of the litter!) has little whitish spots. (Cigar mold, like most forms of common household mold, tends to vary between white, off-white, blue, green, or some combination thereof in terms of its color.)
Here's the first thing you do: take that moldy cigar and take it out of the humidor. It's a bad influence now. Mold spreads quickly. Now, after verifying that none of your other smokes are moldy, find out how humid your humidor is. (If your humidor doesn't come with its own hygrometer, one of these can be bought separately.) Any reading over seventy-five percent relative humidity is too much, and you need to dry out the humidor by adding a half-and-half mixture of Propylene Glycol plus water to the sponge that keeps the box humidified. Toss the bad cigar, and stow the other ones when your humidor reaches seventy-four percent humidity or lower. (On the other hand, don't let that figure dip underneath sixty-seven percent, either.)
But now here's the good news. Premium cigars have also been known to secrete a grayish, granulated substance that some cigar aficionados take for mold, but which is actually known as plume, and is totally harmless. It's given off by the oils in the tobacco leaves. If the cigars in your sampler of fine discount premium cigars are developing plume, it actually means they're aging well, and will give off a fine, tasty plume of smoke whenever you get around to smoking them.
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