Do cigars expire? Everything you need to know

February 12, 2024

Whether you’re saving your cigar for a special occasion or a rainy day, understanding how long it could last is important.

Learn everything you need to know about the lifespan of cigars, from storing them properly to spotting the signs of a cigar past its prime.

Puff away any doubts about the shelf life of your favorite smokes with JR Cigars.

Do cigars expire?

Cigars don’t expire in the same way food does. Unlike your groceries, they aren’t labeled with a “best before” or “use by” date to follow.

In fact, some premium cigars even improve with age.

Like a fine wine or spirit, a cigar’s flavor and complexity can deepen over the years. When properly cared for, they keep their quality for decades and are still ready to light up and enjoy long after you’ve bought them.

However, a cigar’s freshness can quickly disappear if not stored appropriately. This affects the taste, texture, smell, and overall smoking experience.

Knowing how to look after your cigar can help extend its lifespan and give you a delicious, satisfying smoke for years to come.

How long do cigars last?

How long a cigar lasts depends on the type and how you’ve stored it.

Most stogies last two to three days out of the wrapper and without humidor storage — enough time to enjoy them immediately.

However, if you plan to save your premium smoke for a meaningful event, you’ll want to ensure it keeps its quality for as long as possible.

Here’s where good storage and general maintenance are essential.

The right temperature and humidity can make your cigar last for years (sometimes decades) instead of mere days. It shouldn’t lose its flavor and may even get better in storage.

What causes a cigar to go bad?

Poor storage conditions are the main reason cigars go bad.

By “bad,” we mean they’ve either dried out, become too moist, developed mold, or just generally lost their quality.

Cigars need to be kept in a controlled environment, ideally with a temperature of around 65° to 70°F and a humidity level of 70%. Somewhere too cold, hot, dry, or moist can harm a cigar, so it’s imperative to find the right balance.

Watch out for spaces with bright light — your cigar won’t be happy anywhere other than where it’s nice and dark. Whether sunlight or artificial, too much light exposure can break down the cigar’s flavors and oils in the tobacco, making it lose its taste and aroma.

Being around strong smells, chemicals, or other contaminants can also taint cigar flavors and cause an unpleasant smoke. Infestations by insects like tobacco beetles are other pesky things that can damage cigars and ruin their quality.

How to test if a cigar is bad

You can usually tell if a cigar has gone bad by looking at it. A visual inspection should reveal any signs of mold, discoloration, or damage to the wrapper. The mold might appear as white or green spots — if you see any, it’s best to get rid of the cigar.

Further tests can also help you decide whether your cigar is OK to enjoy or should be trashed.

The pinch test

A pinch test is when you gently squeeze the cigar between your fingers, making sure not to pinch too tight and cause damage to the stick. A properly humidified cigar should have some give but not feel too soft or mushy. If it feels very soft or spongy, it might be too moist or have mold growth, suggesting it’s gone bad.

The smell

Take a whiff of the cigar, both before and after cutting the cap. A good cigar should have a pleasant tobacco aroma with subtle notes, depending on its blend. It probably needs to be thrown away if it smells musty, moldy, or sour.

The taste

Light the cigar and take a few puffs. Pay attention to the flavor profile — a well-aged cigar should have a smooth, balanced taste with complexity and depth. If it tastes bitter, sour, or harsh, it may have lost its quality or gone bad.

The texture

As you smoke, think about the texture of the smoke and the feel of the cigar in your mouth. It should produce a creamy, smooth smoke with a satisfying mouthfeel. If the smoke feels harsh, acrid, or abrasive, it could be a sign the cigar is no longer suitable to smoke.

How to prevent a cigar going bad

A little love and care for your cigars goes a long way. By making sure they have the best storage conditions, you can ensure your cigars remain fresh and ready for when you want to spark up.

Here are some tips for preventing a cigar from going bad.

  • Use a humidor: Choose a high-quality humidor specifically designed for storing cigars. This helps regulate humidity levels, preventing cigars from drying out or becoming too moist.
  • Maintain humidity: Keep your humidor’s humidity level at around 65 to 70%. You can also add or remove humidification devices, like humidifiers or humidity beads.
  • Control temperature: Place the humidor in a cool place between 65° and 70°F. Don’t place it anywhere prone to temperature changes, such as in direct sunlight or by a heater or vent.
  • Rotate your cigars: Rotating the cigars in your humidors ensures they age and absorb moisture evenly. Ensure regular rotation to encourage long-lasting satisfaction and an optimal smoking experience when it comes to lighting.
  • Don’t freeze or refrigerate: While it may seem like an excellent way to prevent pests, freezing or refrigerating your cigars can dry them out and damage their flavor and structure.
  • Check regularly: Remember to check your cigars regularly. Removing ones that show signs of mold or deterioration stops them from affecting the rest of your collection.

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