Cigar Mold and Cigar Plume – JR University
The Difference Between Cigar Mold and Cigar Plume
For a cigar collector, there’s nothing as heartbreaking as looking into the humidor and finding a white substance clinging to some of your most precious cigars. Before you get alarmed and start frantically throwing out the affected sticks, inspect each one carefully; you may be dealing with a serious mold problem or the much more benign plume. Follow along and find out how to tell them apart.
What is Plume?
Plume, also called “bloom,” appears as a white dust on the surface and may have a bit of sparkle. This occurs when the oils within a cigar come to the surface and crystallize. Plume may also appear as a haze on the wrapper. Unlike mold, plume is always white or light gray and tends to cover the entire body.
If that white substance on your cigars is actually plume, no problem! It’s nothing to worry about; its appearance just shows that your humidor is doing its job of keeping your smokes fresh. In fact, plume is the sign of a well-aged cigar. If your smokes show a covering of crystalline powder, just brush off the powdery residue before smoking. Cigars made from oily tobacco, such as many Maduros, are more likely to develop plume after being stored for long periods of time.
What is Mold?
Most of us are familiar with the look of mold after discovering it on old bread or leftovers that stayed in the fridge too long. The type that affects cigars is very similar. Unlike plume, mold can present itself in an array of unattractive colors including green, yellow, gray, blue, and white. Mold is such a menace to your collection because this nasty substance is alive – it can grow and spread.
How to Recognize Mold
Unlike plume, which is flat, mold is three-dimensional and can appear to be fuzzy or bumpy. If you place a bit of mold under a microscope, you will see slender stalks topped by spores that can spread from one cigar to the next. Mold appears in spots and splotches, rather than covering the entire cigar. Look closely, and you may see webbing between the splotches. But it’s not just a surface problem.
In fact, mold can spread its roots deep inside the cigars, making the spots difficult to wipe off. Plus, rubbing a spot of mold will leave discoloration on the wrapper of the cigar. Further, mold can have an unpleasant smell, so give the cigar a quick sniff – if you detect a musty odor, it’s time to let that cigar go and maybe others.
What to Do If You Find Mold
If you do find mold – even if it’s just on one cigar – you must inspect every stick stored in the same humidor. Mold can potentially ruin an entire humidor full of cigars, so regular inspection is a must. While some types of mold are harmless to humans, others are toxic, so it’s best not to take chances. Cigars that are badly infected with mold should be thrown away so the fungus doesn’t continue to spread.
Cigars with small, isolated spots of mold can often be saved with a bit of treatment. Gently wipe off the cigar, being careful not to spread the mold to a wider area. Dip a cotton swab in a spirit with high alcohol content like vodka or 151-proof rum and apply it to the spots. These infected sticks should be removed from the humidor and, if not thrown out, then frequently inspected for new growth. If the mold continues to spread, toss the moldy sticks out.
Since plume never appears on the foot of the cigar, anything you find there is mold. Any mold on the foot usually means the cigar is too infested with the fungus to save and should be discarded.
How to Avoid Mold
Mold tends to grow in humidors with a relative humidity of 70% or higher, so keep your level below that and your chances of infestation will be reduced. Similarly, rotating your stock regularly can lessen the potential for mold growth.
Once mold has taken over your humidor, you will need to do a thorough cleaning. Remove all cigars and place the unharmed sticks in a clean, safe place. Brush out the empty humidor and then wipe it down with isopropyl alcohol. Allow the humidor to dry completely and air out for at least 24 hours. Re-humidify the humidor and allow it to reach the optimal level of humidity before re-inserting the cigars.
Check your hygrometer frequently and make sure humidity levels don’t get too high. Also, inspect all cigars regularly to make sure the mold has not returned. Use only distilled water or a solution of propylene glycol in your humidifier because tap water may contain mold spores or bacteria that have the potential to re-infect your entire collection.
Mold can decimate your entire stock of expensive premium cigars, so it’s worth the time and trouble to keep it away. Take these tips into consideration and you’ll have crisp, healthy cigars ready for any occasion!