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post #1 of 1 Old 08-24-2011, 09:33 AM Thread Starter
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Cuban Cigar Aging

Many cigar smokers have commented over the years that some of their cigars have gone into a “sick period”, or in other words that when they smoke the cigar, that the flavors, tastes and complexity has become flat, bland and has some annoying ammonia smell, or in some degree off balance from what the profile of the same cigar smoked like a few short months, weeks or years ago. The discussion of cigars has never before reached the levels that let’s say Wine has, but with the educated level of the cigar aficionados in today’s market, these discussions are quickly and exponentially reaching this educated level. There is no consensus that I know of regarding the “Sick Period”.

When we explore what happens to cigars as they age, we find that while chemistry plays an important part in this hobby of ours, the general “layman” is not a student of these things, and the understanding of this is often misunderstood.

When a cigar is rolled, the tobacco has been fermenting or a period of time since it was harvested. Typically it takes a couple of years from harvest before the tobacco is ready to be rolled. Thus, the cigars that are box coded from 2004 are in actually tobacco that was harvested from the 2002 crop. When you consider the major change in blends that occurred with Habanos cigars around 1995; which co-insides with the period that Cuba had a period of Ligero shortage, the flavors of cigars produced during that period were affected. Now also consider this along with the flavor and construction issues of cigars from the late 99-00 period, we now find that with some age and maturation of these cigars, the flavors are beginning to come out and have developed into a pleasant tasting and complex smoking cigar.

Let us take a cigar through its cycle of you will. Once the tobacco has been fermented to the point that it is ready to be rolled into a cigar, it is wetted so that it is pliable enough to be worked and rolled. Once the tobacco is harvested, it is always in a state of fermentation, or for better or worse, aging. It actually never stops the fermentation process or aging. Many cigars that are fresh off the rollers table if smoked immediately even though very tannic and young tasting have a pleasant flavor, but most would agree that a fresh cigar is not extremely complex. This brings up several issues that are scientifically proven. There are three major activities that have a part in the fermentation process of tobacco; they are a. oxygen exposure, b. temperature, c. humidity. The more humid a cigar is, the more the fermentation that is occurring in the tobacco. Thus, the fresher a cigar is from the rollers table, the more that it is subject to higher amounts of fermentation and then takes time to stabilize and become blended to its desired state. The different tobaccos used; weather it is Volado, Seco or Ligero in the filler, binder or wrapper has not had a chance to “marry” and blend together and make the cigar a true tasting Habanos that it will develop into one day in the future. So, now the cigar is rolled and let’s say that it has already gone through the process of color sorting and placed into wheels and gone through the drying rooms and has been boxed for shipment out to the various distributors and thus the retailers for sale to the end user. I have seen available boxes already with early 2005 codes available for purchase. These would IMHO be considered very new and young cigars, which I would not even consider smokable for total enjoyment, but that is another subject, so I will not venture there in this post.

Some people have experienced smoking cigars that are in a period of flux in the aging process, which has been called the sick period. Many have stated that during this period the cigar will give off an ammonia type smell or flavor, which they associate with the fermentation or aging process. There is IMHO no exact period that the “sick period” can or will occur, but the cigar is always in a constant state of transition while it continues to develop, age and mature. I am a believer that aging is a process that all true lovers of the Habanos leaf will gain better flavors from. If I smoke a cigar and it is off balance, flat or what some call a “sick period”, then I leave the remainder of them alone buried deep in sleep resting in my humidor for some time, because I know that the cigar will change again and become a vibrant superb tasting, complex smoke again if leave them alone over time. I try to smoke the majority of the cigars I smoke with at least 3 years of age from the box code so that the tobacco has had ample time to blend together and stabilize. When I smoke a cigar that has longer aging, such as 5-8 years on them, they have usually been stellar tasting cigars. Smoking young cigars is in my opinion, almost a waste of time and money, but each different cigar smoker needs to make their own judgment and decision about when and how to enjoy their cigars.

These "Hope Cigars" are most likely not real if:

You bought it on a street anywhere in the world.
If came to you from a "friend" who knows a guy/girl.
A Cuban connection is involved
Cruise ships and the places they stop (LCDH Stores excluded).
Mexico (LCDH stores excluded)
Domestic tobacco shop back room.
It was a "deal" (Fer Christ sake click a banner ad somewhere and compare prices.. too good to be true is just that)

Posting questions and or pictures about cigars acquired through any of the methods above is probably going to end up badly. Take your hope cigars and smoke them. Then read and learn how to get some from a reputable source.

Real Cuban cigars:

Have a very controlled distribution and pricing process. (!/2 price don't ever happen)
They taste better.
Older ones taste alot better.
They are more expensive than the typically promoted NC cigars.
They are less expensive than their comparable NC counterparts.
They are “puros” rolled only from Cuban leaf.
Generally they are produced/smoked in smaller RG than NC.
When fresh their ash is darker grey… lighter as they age. (generally)
They come in dress boxes and cabinets with slide lid boxes. (generally)
They all have triple caps. Though I’ve seen a few with 4.
Smoking them slower makes them taste better.
Most people store them at 65% vs 70% for NC.

More good "stuff"

Using humidification beads is a good way to maintain their humidity.
Most used to taste sort of yucky fresh as they are not rolled from “aged tobacco”.
In the past few years they seem to be better fresh due to factory upgrades or other things.

Only serendipity and clumsiness causes them to roll on virgins thighs.
Since 2000 they have month, year and 3 digit factory codes stamped on the box.
From 1985-2000 they had factory codes and “coded” year month codes.
May-Dec of 1999 NETAGIDOCU (1=n, etc.) to determine the year month they were produced.

1985 – 1999 NIVELACUSO (1=n, etc) to determine year month they were produced.
A burned tobacco leaf with Cubatobacco on the bottom of the box = 1985-1995
HECHO EN CUBA burned on the bottom of the box means the cigars were produced in 1961 forward
1994 and forward cubatobacco replaced by Habanos S A on the bottom of the box.
Pre 85 cigars are frequently misrepresented (intentional or not) as to their age by those selling them .
They all come with a seal that should break the circular crest when opened.
There is printing on the seal visible under UV light.
The codes in red on the seal mean something relating to the box code. Two alphas 6 numbers started in 2000 with AA 000001.
First 2 digits should be different under the UV.
Lonsdales are the most frequently tight drawing cigars.
Blend changes occurred in many brands in 1995 to milder ones.
The tobacco changes somewhat every year as the seed is a hybrid.
Small RG Cubans can be shockingly strong and flavorful.
The traditional wrapper was changed to a more desease resistant one in 2000
Cohiba Linea Classica Line (Not Siglo) are 3x fermented (other brands are 2x)
Generally only a few thin RG cigars from the 80’s can still be found at retail.
Generally only medium RG cigars from the mid 90’s can be found at retail.
There is a reason it is hard to find larger RG cigars with age on them.
1999-2001 cigar boom years can have more production and leaf quality issues.
Many feel that 2003 and forward cigar quality has been superior...
This may be the result of better QC and aged leaf being used.
Recent CA article stated H Upmann factory using 99-00 bales now for 06-07 cigars.
Cohiba Behikes are friggin ridiculously priced.
Habanos SA holograms are only put on boxes made for domestic (cuba) consumption.
Holograms generally = fakes and usually come with a story about a friend or brother.
Did I mention they they taste better?

How to spot fake Habanos (Warrant seals):

Back at the beginning of the year 2000, Habanos changed their warranty seal. Among other changes, the most obvious one was the addition of an EIGHT CHARACTER serial number on each sticker. Two letters, followed by SIX numbers. A REAL seal will
ALWAYS have two letters followed by six numbers. If it doesn't, regardless of whether or not it checks out otherwise, it's fake.

Also, warranty seal serial numbers are issued consecutively. In other words, the first number issued was AA000000 or AA000001 thru AA999999. Then ABxxxxxx, ACxxxxxxx all the way to AZ999999 and then it became BAxxxxxx and so on. At this point in time, the '05 boxes I've seen had numbers beginning with G and H.

The reason this is important is that you can get a pretty good idea of what the date code SHOULD be by the alpha-numeric serial number on the seal. Warranty seal have been issued over the last five years in consecutive order. So if you have a box of, say, Cohiba Sublimes, which were introduced last year, but the warranty seal begins with, for example, and A or B, which designate the the first batches of warranty seals issued in 2000 and 2001, you can be almost certain that something is rotten in Denmark. Conversely, if you receive a box of Monte EL robustos with an early 01 box code, but the warranty seal begins with an F or G, you can also pretty much be assured they are fakes.

Now, there are boxes that have been reinspected and an additional warranty seal added over the top of the original. In 99% of the cases, this seal will start with XX which designates a RE-INSPECTED box. However, the sticker underneath should still have a serial number that more or less coincides with the date code on the box.

But the most important thing to remember is that the warranty seal serial number will always be eight characters, TWO letters, followed by SIX numbers. Anything else is a FAKE.
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