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Cigar 101 – Mold vs. Bloom (or Plume)

Every once in a while, I like to ask our customer service department if they’ve been getting any particular customer cigar questions more often than others. More often than not, we’ll throw answers to those questions onto the FAQ section of our website, but every once in a while we want to go more in depth about something.

“bloom” or “plume”–note the white, powdery appearance

Today, our reps tipped me off to the fact that many of our customers have trouble identifying mold versus “bloom” or “plume” (either term works, but I personally call it “bloom”). Without getting into detail, the difference between mold and bloom is that mold will ruin your cigars, and bloom is simply a sign that your cigars are aging well.

Bloom occurs when a cigar is aging in optimal conditions and the oils in a tobacco leaf crystallize and come to the surface. It is best described as a fine white or very light gray powder that accumulates on the cigar’s wrapper in seemingly random spots, and can easily be rubbed off with a finger. It is never any other color besides white or light gray, and it will not stain your cigar’s wrapper once it is brushed off.

Mold, on the other hand, can be several different colors. The mold you would find on cigars is generally yellowish or greenish, though in rarer cases, it can be blue or even red. It has a “hairy” appearance and will be difficult to rub off of the cigar because of its roots. If you do rub it off, it will most likely leave behind discoloration on the wrapper. It can also have a musty, unpleasant odor, so if the sight test doesn’t work, give the cigar a whiff. If you find mold on any of your cigars, inspect the rest of your collection and also the inside of your humidor.

nasty mold–notice the yellow, “hairy” appearance

On rare occasions, generally when a humidification unit is being used improperly, a third type of white substance will appear on cigars: mineral deposits. This can occur if you use tap water in a humidification unit that only accepts distilled water or propylene glycol solution. Mineral deposits won’t ruin your cigars, but they can be a sign of a bigger problem: the quality of your tap water. Tap water can also contain mold spores and bacteria, so unless your humidifier is specifically made to use with tap water, it’s not worth taking the risk.

Anyway, if you keep your humidor at a proper humidity level (between 65 and 75 percent, depending on your own preference) and follow the instructions for your humidifier, you most likely won’t have any problems with mold or mineral deposits. For more information, give us a call at 888-41-CIGAR (888-412-4427) or visit the Help section of our website.