What Is Cigar Plume?
You may have previously heard of something called either “plume” or “bloom”, which is said to be the sign of a well-aged cigar.
According to an alarming number of cigar enthusiasts, plume is supposedly a natural phenomenon produced during a cigar’s ageing process. The oils rise to the surface and crystalise as the cigar ages, which resembles a thin layer of white powder on the wrapper.
Although it has all the hallmarks of cigar mold, it is instead claimed that the white powder is crystalised sugars that improve the cigar’s flavour. Typically, if you find powdery cigars in your humidor, you should be horrified. However, plume or bloom is instead somehow meant to be a good sign.
Sadly, we believe that plume is a myth, which has been perpetuated by both the cigar community and its industry for far too long.
We’re not sure how or why it first started, and since it’s marketed as a desirable trait, we hope that it wasn’t a myth spread by unscrupulous retailers who simply wanted to offload moldy cigars at a premium.
Cigar Mold Vs Plume
Indeed, both cigar plume (or “bloom”) and mold are identical. Some smokers and cigar authorities may claim that mold is blue or green, whereas plume is powdery and white in appearance. Furthermore, it is also sometimes suggested that plume is flat while mold is three-dimensional.
Yet, there is no scientific evidence to support such claims. Cigar mold is more commonly white than any other colour and often is powdery due to the way it grows.
Most cigar mold is highly aerobic fungi and is found in almost all oxygen-rich environments. It spreads through the air and will search for areas where it can feed off sugars. However, different types of mold will like various substances and will quickly find places to grow.
Nevertheless, what concerns us most is that there is a lot of misinformation that suggest that plume is a good sign of a functioning humidor.
Is Cigar Plume Good?
Humans and many other organisms can instinctively recognise mold as harmful. For instance, spoiled milk makes us gag and our noses wrinkle when we smell rotten food. Indeed, recorded remedies have existed since the Old Testament yet our understanding of mold is surprisingly recent.
We have heard arguments where cigar enthusiasts will indeed concede that plume is mold but will then suggest that it is akin to the veins on blue cheese.
Indeed, blue cheese develops its distinctive colour thanks to Penicillium, which should sound familiar. However, Penicillium is a large genus of over 300 species, and only some are specially cultivated for making cheese or developing antibiotics.
Furthermore, plume or bloom rarely has a positive effect on the cigar’s flavour. Any potential benefits are largely psychological, whereas mold tends to have a damp, earthy flavour. Sometimes, this will be referred to as “musty” in the cigar community when discussing cigars with plume.
If you enjoy blue cheese, you’ll likely note that it can often have a certain musty flavour. In these circumstances, it tastes great. However, it’s debatable whether it’s a genuinely flavoursome quality in a cigar.
In most cases, cigar mold is only common bacterial plant growth and has no harmful effects in small amounts. Our immune systems are equipped against most bacterial spores. Every day, we consume or ingest microscopic quantities of mold, but we simply don’t realise it.
Nevertheless, it’s a gamble every time you smoke a moldy cigar. A well-known by Australia Biotech Laboratories analysed cigars that were supposedly coated in plume.
On every occasion, they discovered a wide variety of fungi and bacteria including, Aspergillus, Penicillium ascomycetous, and Wallemia Sebi. Additionally, they even found Candida Parapsilosis, a pathogen, which causes sepsis and infections.
Can I Still Smoke Cigars With Plume?
Fortunately, tobacco leaves have a dense structure, which means that the mold will struggle to penetrate the wrapper and bury itself inside the cigar. Therefore, the mold or plume can usually be wiped off the surface with a cloth and be perfectly safe to smoke.
However, if you find mold on the foot of the cigar, it means that it may have found its way into the filler. Consequently, it will be difficult to remove safely, and you may have to throw it away.
Nevertheless, if the idea of plume, bloom, or mold doesn’t disturb you, you can always use a cigar cutter to remove the infected foot. Simply snip away half an inch of the cigar, and it should be safe to smoke if you can’t see any more mold.
That being said, you should do this at your own risk! The best solution against plume is preventative.
How To Prevent Cigar Plume
Mombacho Quality Control
As stated above, plume is never produced by oils. An oily cigar will instead glisten with a healthy sheen. Instead, it is just cigar mold. Therefore, it’s crucial to try to prevent it rather than have to treat any outbreaks.
Firstly, it’s no coincidence that Cuban cigars are typically prized for their plume. Indeed, this is likely because Cuban cigars are often boxed when they are too young and still humid after production. Therefore, the moisture is locked inside the box and is unable to escape, which causes mold to develop.
Additionally, it is of vital importance that cigar manufacturers ensure that their staff practices good hygiene. Generally, plume or mold is produced by an existing contagion being able to thrive in the right environment. If the cigars are clean when introduced in a humidor, it’s unlikely you will ever see any mold.
Although it’s not yet a standard process, we find that Mombacho Cigars practices one of the best approaches we’ve seen to ensure that their cigars are clean.
The director and Master Blender, Claudio Sgroi, developed a 25% organic vinegar from matured bananas that is used to disinfect the cigar wrappers without tainting the flavour or stripping away its natural oils. It was produced with just enough acidity to kill any fungi yet makes no other change to the cigar itself.
We hope that Sgroi and Mombacho decide to one day commercialise their unique vinegar as we’d certainly buy it! Until then, the best thing you can do is make sure that you store your cigars properly.
Preventing Cigar Plume At Home
Cigar mold thrives in high levels of humidity above 70% RH. Therefore, when there is too much moisture in the air of your humidor, it may result in outbreaks of so-called plume. Additionally, your choice in humidifier can also be a cause of an epidemic.
For instance, floral foam and gel-based humidifiers release high levels of humidity in its immediate surroundings, which doesn’t always manage to diffuse within the entire humidor. Consequently, you can find yourself with concentrated pockets of moisture, which cause focused outbreaks of mold.
Even if the rest of the humidor is at an acceptable level of humidity, visible spores can quickly spread across your entire collection.
For this very reason, we like using Boveda for storing our cigars. Thanks to the reverse-osmosis diffusion produced by their two-way membrane, Boveda packs evenly distribute the humidity throughout your humidor.
Furthermore, Boveda is one of the only brands to offer two-way humidification. As a result, their packs don’t just release moisture but also absorb excess amounts to prevent you from inadvertently causing mold by over-humidifying your cigars.
It’s also vital to search regularly for signs of plume inside your humidor. As mentioned earlier, a cigar may have already been contaminated. Therefore, even acceptable humidity levels may result in a small outbreak.
Additionaly, make sure that your hygrometer is properly calibrated! Most of the time, plume is caused by high levels of humidity because an uncalibrated hygrometer indicated incorrect readings.
Finally, another step that you can also practice is ensuring that your hands are clean every time you handle your cigars. After all, you don’t want to be the cause of an outbreak in your humidor!
Now that you have read our detailed breakdown surrounding plume and its myths, check out our guides to improve or continue building your setup: