Did you know that cigar maturation occurs in four stages? Today's tidbit on aging will cover a brief outline of the first and second stages.
The first stage of maturation normally lasts between 3-12 months and is known as the “sick period.” One reason it goes by this nomencleature - if you smoke the cigar during this time, it'll probably make you a little ill. The amount of ammonia present in the cigar is at its height due to the accelerated fermentation that occurs when the moistened leaves are rolled to make the cigar. This amount of amonia makes the cigar incredibly unpleasant to smoke, sharp to smell and taste.
In order to prevent you from unknowingly getting your hands on a cigar going through this unpleasant process, cigars ready for purchase are “pre-aged" 3-12 months. Cigars should not be smoked during the sick period as they can and will taste dreadful. No one wants a mouth full of ammonia.
By stage two the vast majority of the ammonia produced during the sick period has evaporated. This is when many cigars are consumed and enjoyed by the largest swath of smokers. During this stage, the tobacco still has power and singularities to it. As we have discussed before, aging a cigar will round out the edges of a cigars flavor profile. During the second stage flavors are a little sharper, with virtually softness; they tend to be more robust, with the smoke being thicker and more viscous. This is due in part to the freshness of the tobacco oils. The second stage typically lasts from one to five years, depending on the blend and the types of tobacco used.
Note: Many premium cigars use a combination of different aged tobaccos within their blend to create the amazing flavors we now take for granted.