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A cigar is a dead plant. Sorry to dispel the aura of luxury, but it is what it is — a fragile collection of dead leaves bound together. As such, a cigar is incredibly susceptible to changes in moisture levels. When your cigar burns too fast or too slow, it is often due to subtle changes in the humidity of the cigar. But when your cigar is seriously over-moisturized or dehydrated, you’ve got a problem.
Cigars are often shipped ‘wet’ to lock humidity inside the cigar box, ensuring they can survive the long and dry shipping trip from Central America. We’re not talking dripping wet, but they’re often thrown in the box when they’re still moist, or aged in an area that retains the proper humidity levels. Cigars need moisture to survive, but it can also be their undoing. First we’ll look at the most common case — that dried out, rock-hard cigar you forgot you left in your glove box for a month.
There is hope! Under-humidified cigars are actually a common problem with an easy solution. If you squeeze the cigar gently and the wrapper feels like it’s about to break, or you feel like you’re going to break the wrapper just looking at this pathetic dried out cigar, it’s time for some tobacco resuscitation.
Dry cigars are easy to fix, but they take one key element: patience. You’re going to have to let your cigar rest in a properly seasoned humidor for as long as it takes — sometimes a couple weeks, sometimes over a month. You can do the squeeze test to figure out when the cigar is reentering smoking territory; the cigar will be firm but with a slight resistance, and you’ll no longer feel like the wrapper is going to disintegrate into tobacco flakes. If the wrapper was already starting to break apart before you set it to rest, you may have passed the point of no return.
We do know of a more drastic re-hydrating technique called “flash humidifying” whereby you toss your cigar in a Tupperware or similar container with its own humidifying element, thus speeding up the hydration process. We’ve honestly never tried it, mainly because it runs the risk of over-humidifying your cigar, possibly even introducing mold and screwing with the flavor of the tobacco. In addition, quick changes in humidity could damage the wrapper. As you’ll see below, this is also a concern with wet cigars.
So you dropped your cigar in a puddle, or maybe your hygrometer ran out of batteries and your humidor became a sauna. A wet cigar is a much bigger challenge than a dry one. If you’ve gone swimming underwater with a cigar, you might as well call the coroner ’cause that sucker’s toast — wet toast. But a cigar can take a little bit of moisture and survive. It just needs TLC of the drying variety.
So I just leave my cigar on the windowsill to dry in the sun, right? Sure, if you want to convert it into pipe tobacco. The wrapper and even binder have a tendency to crack when the tobacco expands as moisture evaporates. Of course, if your cigar’s only slightly too moist you could do this for a couple hours and probably be OK. But a seriously soaked stogie requires a different approach.
Humidors are lined with cedar because it’s the perfect wood for retaining high moisture levels while discouraging mold growth. A wet cigar placed in a completely unseasoned humidor will essentially ‘season’ the humidor with its own moisture. The cedar will absorb the humidity and your cigar will slowly go back to as close to normal as it’s gonna get. Considering the fact that most of us have already seasoned our humidors, an old cedar-lined cigar box will also do the trick. Just make sure when you check your progress you don’t see any mold developing.
Please note that if you re- or de-humidify a compromised cigar it will never be quite the same. You will be able to smoke it, but it will surely lose some of its nuance in flavor. But cigars ain’t cheap, and it’s totally worth the small effort to bring your sticks back to life. I’m one of those absent-minded people that leaves unsmoked cigars lying around everywhere, and I’ve used the methods above to great success. You can always tell by the taste that the cigar has been through the ringer a bit, but if it’s a great cigar to begin with, it will overcome the abuse it has suffered to deliver a pleasant smoking experience.
EXTREME CIGAR SMOKING
Now, you’re not gonna believe this, but there are people who run their cigar under tap water before smoking. Apparently it provides for a cooler smoke and makes “flash hydration” look like child’s play. We’re not gonna recommended it, quite honestly we’re surprised it’s possible. But I guess if you only run your uncut cigar under the tap for a few seconds and make sure the filler doesn’t get wet, the wrapper should expel most of the moisture. Now we’re intrigued — we’re going to try this soon and put the results up on our YouTube channel.