There is nothing worse than anticipating a special occasion when it is finally time to fire up that premium cigar you have been hanging onto for months, only to discover your precious smoke does not quite look the same as when you laid it down in your humidor. Why do my cigars appear to have a coating over them – is this normal? Depends on what the coating is.
Cigar Plume Is Okay
Plume (also called cigar bloom) is a white or grey crystalline substance that simply derives from the natural oils in a cigar’s tobaccos. Plume appears as white spots on your cigars and is harmless. It indicates that your humidor is working perfectly and that your cigars are ageing – a welcome condition in any aficionado’s collection. Plume can be easily dusted off the cigar’s surface and will never form on the foot of your cigars.
What Does Cigar Mould Look Like?
Cigar mould, on the other hand, can be a catastrophic condition for any humidor or cigar collection. Cigar mould is bluish-green in colour and often exhibits a fuzzy, moss-like texture accompanied by a musty odour. If you check on your cigars regularly, chances are good you will catch any potential instances of mould before they really have a chance to spread, but recognising them is key. Mould can grow anywhere on your cigars, but if you notice anything growing on the foot, there’s a very high likelihood it is mould. If you suspect you have got a mouldy cigar, immediately remove it from the humidor. It is also wise to remove any cigars in close proximity to the mouldy ones as a precaution. Carefully inspect the inside of your humidor to make sure mould is not growing on the interior of the box itself. Toss out any mouldy cigars.
What Causes Cigar Mould?
Cigars can get mouldy due to a variety of circumstances. Most common are either over-humidifying your cigars or using non-distilled water in your humidor. Cigars should be kept at 70% RH (relative humidity). Storing your smokes above 70% RH greatly increases the chances mould will grow. We often recommend storing your cigars in the range of 65 to 70% RH. This will lower the probability for mould to set in.
The Best Ways to Prevent Cigar Mould
Following are few helpful tips for preventing mould in the first place. Maintaining a humidor is less work than watering a house plant, but caring for your cigars begins with an attentive approach.
Invest in a Digital Hygrometer
Insure that you are storing your smokes at an optimal humidity level with a quality hygrometer. Digital hygrometers are far more accurate than their analogue counterparts, for example. Digital hygrometers typically take a watch battery and will give you a very accurate reading. Even if your humidor came with an analogue hygrometer, relying on a digital reading is a sensible move. Knowing precisely what your humidity level is prevents the likelihood of over-humidification.
Only Use Distilled Water in Your Humidor
More importantly, make sure you are only using distilled water or a propyl glycol solution to fill the reservoir in your humidor. Using tap water, or even a fancy brand of bottled water, in your humidor is a recipe for disaster. Distilled water greatly reduces the risk mould will take root in your cigars or humidor. If you prefer a more hands-off approach, humidity pouches also make a great alternative to a traditional humidification reservoir. Humidity pouches don’t need to be refilled. Simply add the appropriate number of pouches to your humidor for the number of cigars you are storing and replace them when their humidity is exhausted (each pouch will stiffen up to indicate there is no moisture left).
Rotate Your Cigars
Rotate your cigars on a weekly or bi-weekly basis so that the same cigar are not always buffered up against the humidification unit. Move the bottom rows to the top and vice versa periodically. This exercise also gives you the chance to regularly inspect your collection, lowering the risk that an adverse condition can go unnoticed for extended period of time.
Do Not Over-Pack Your Humidor
Leave a little extra space in your box, roughly 20-25%, so that moisture and air can flow a bit more freely around your cigars. Doing so insures your humidor will not be overwhelmed with the collection you have got going.
Buy Your Cigars from a Trustworthy Source
Buying cigars from a street vendor during an exotic vacation is generally not a good idea. Stick to getting your cigars from a reputable retailer or online shop and avoid getting stuck with cigars that do not burn correctly, are made from poor-quality tobaccos, or worse – cigars that are infected with mould. Introducing even a single mouldy cigar into a pristine humidor can ruin your entire collection, plus the box itself.
Can I Smoke a Mouldy Cigar?
Knowingly firing up a mouldy cigar is never a good idea. Some types of mole may be harmless, but many are toxic, and none will provide any benefit to a cigar. If one of your favourite or oldest cigars is unfortunately conflicted with mould, our advice is chalk it up to a learning experience and toss it out. While some experts advise the use of isopropyl alcohol to eradicate mould spores either on your cigars or in your humidor, we generally think it is best to part ways with any mouldy product.
The only way to know if your efforts to get rid of mould work is to let a good amount of time pass after wiping down your humidor with isopropyl alcohol and re-humidifying the box (without cigars inside it) for an extended period. It takes time for mould to show up and you definitely don’t want to load up a questionable humidor with a new batch of expensive cigars if there is a chance the mould could recur and continue to infect your future collection. Do not take any chances.