How to Rescue Cigars
- Tuesday, 20 May 2014
The most common reason for having to rescue, or rather recover, cigars are through humidification problems.
This is not necessarily a reflection of not looking after them properly, but rather, their needs may have subtly changed and you either did not notice, or not enough time had lapsed to notice the change.
Today we will look at two scenarios, too little moisture and too much moisture. Both situations are fairly similar, so if you are suffering from one, it’s worth reading the other as well as it will give you some context.
So, did you have a shaky hand while topping up the hydro solution last week? Or did you go away on holiday and forget to hydrate at all? Read on!
Main symptoms are; cigars feel dry, do not bounce when gently squeezed and make a cracking sound, difficulty lighting, often creating glacier like overhands, very light to draw when lit.
Simply put, your cigars didn’t get enough moisture. However, if you act swiftly, there is a chance they can be recovered. There is a time limit on this however; cigars that have been in trouble for more than a week are unlikely to be salvageable. Therefore if you just went a couple of extra days without looking after them, we can probably save them, but if they have been neglected for a month, it’s unlikely.
First things first, identify exactly which cigars are too dry. It could be the whole box (nice and simple) or specific cigars. You can throw the baby out with the bathwater here so be absolutely sure which ones you need to work on. If it’s not the whole box (which is hopefully likely), then transfer operations to a sealable freezer bag, or numerous, if you have a lot of cigars. I find putting a few in a freezer bag and a source of higher humidity can restore them. This is a bit of a ‘crash’ treatment, so can only be done for a day or so. Take a piece of kitchen roll, wet it under the tap. This provides the high moisture for the bag. Critically – make sure the kitchen paper has NO DIRECT CONTACT with any of the cigars, as this will just ruin the stick. Double-wrap the paper if you need to. Place the package somewhere in a cool dark place and revisit every day to see how they are taking on the moisture. Once the cigars have some more moisture, move them back to the main humidor and monitor them. This process takes time – although no single stay in the moisture bag should take long, it may take weeks or even a month before the cigars are truly back to normal. Be warned, this trick does take some of the life out of a cigar, so see it as an emergency measure and not a day to day routine.
This usually happens when you think everything is going OK. You have been topping up the water on a regular basis, but – truth be told – a little too much. Ooops.
So on first sight, the cigars are probably a little bit puffy and inflated. They respond way too easily to being squeezed, and in some cases, the outer wrapper may well be torn (from the expansion of the leaf itself rather than manhandling). First thing to do is stop handling them. As before, with under-hydration, carefully identify the targets and isolate them. Simply, the easiest way to bring them back to normally is to expose them to the humidity levels of the UK. Somehow, you managed to create an environment in your humidor of which is more moisture rich than Cuba(!), so with the UK not being as muggy, they will come back down of their own accord. But it’s not a walk in the park, be very, very careful that they do not slingshot the other way and dry out. If in doubt, and if you want to slow the change down, put them back in the main humidor for a few hours, and then bring them out again.
The Golden Rules
Never try and smoke an over-hydrated or under-hydrated cigar. It just doesn’t work and you will throw away a chance at saving it for another day.
Stop touching them! Constantly picking them up and checking on them will only damage them further. That said; make sure you keep moving them.
Keep them moving. This is best achieved by picking up the whole tray or divider in the humidor and moving it physically, to avoid touching them. But keep them circulating so they get a fresh perspective on air circulation in your box, of which will usually help in either under or over hydration.
No matter how much you want the sticks to be moist, never, ever allow them to directly touch water, even briefly; it always ruins the stick (even brief exposure through kitchen roll results in an unsightly stain on the wrapper).
If a good cigar has a hope of being saved, do try. It’s worth it, and you would be surprised how many can come right in the end. I have personally salved hundred of pounds worth of cigars over the years with these tips. It takes practise to get it right (and a lot of luck), but it’s a better game than throwing the money in the bin.