Whether you are aging your own cigars, or purchasing from vendors who might not be so careful with their stock, it’s important to be able to tell the difference between mold and plume on a cigar.
Cigar mold most often has a white, fuzzy appearance. Though it may also be green, blue, gray or yellow. Mold occurs generally in environments with a Relative Humidity of 70% or higher, so keeping your humidors below 70% will lessen the chances of mold. Please note, even if your hygrometer is reading below 70%, there will be wet and dry spots in your humidor. Opening up your humidor and rotating your stock can help reduce the potential mold growth. Mold also likes higher temperatures, so keeping your humidor cool will also help. However, you are storing fermenting leaves in a closed box with moisture, mold will happen eventually.
When you have mold on a cigar, it will first grow in patches. It can then spread over a larger area of the cigar.
Cigar mold might grow on, or spread over, the foot of a cigar. (My advice would be to throw these sticks away.)
Mold can spread from one cigar to another, and could potentially ruin an entire humidor of cigars.
The mold on cigars is generally, but not always, harmless to humans. (What is often called “Blue Mold” on cigars is actually a very toxic bacterial growth.) The safest thing to do is to throw away cigars that are badly infected with mold. However, you can also remove and treat the mold spots, especially if the mold isn’t too bad. To treat the mold, wipe it off the surface of the cigar gently; avoid spreading it over more of the cigar. Then treat the spots with a high alcohol content spirit. 151 proof rum and vodka are popular choices. Apply with a cotton swab. Don’t use any more alcohol than is needed to treat the spots. Saturating the wrapper could cause it to crack. You will need to monitor the infected sticks for new growth for a while.
Plume, also called Bloom, occurs when the oils on the surface of a cigar wrapper crystallize. It forms a white powdery or crystalline substance, which can easily be brushed off the surface of the cigar. Indeed, the presence of the crystals themselves do not affect the flavors of the cigar, but are a visual indication that the cigar has been stored in favorable conditions for a long period of time.
Unlike mold, which appears in patches, plume will appear evenly and over a large area of a cigar. Plume will NEVER appear on the foot of a cigar. Ever. If it’s on the foot, it’s mold.
Plume may look a lot like salt crystals, and even have a little bit of sparkle when held up to light.
So, I found this picture online with a title of “I love Plume”. I have bad news for this guy…
Yeah, that’s mold. (Happens a lot under cedar sleeves and in coffins.)
So, the next time some moron at a cigar store tries to convince you to buy that cigar that is fuzzier than a three-week-old kitten, tell him that you prefer to avoid smoking your penicillin.