Aging Report: Camacho Havana Monarca

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Introduction
There is no dearth of information on the internet about how to store and age cigars. Vintage cigar smokers have been hoarding boxes in their climate controlled cellars for a long time now, and they’re the real experts on the subject. Now I’d be happy to pontificate on the 70/70 rule for you (I don’t agree with it.) And I’ll tell you all about the Great Cellophane Debate (it’s air permeable and taking it off doesn’t make a damn bit of difference.) And some will agree with me. Some won’t.

What I can’t tell you is how aging affects cigar flavors and performance, because I don’t know. But I aim to find out.

Up until a few months ago I didn’t even date the singles in my humidor. Now most of them have neat little stickers on them and my humble collection looks like it has smallpox. I do have a few boxes that I had the presence of mind to date stamp, but not many. Smoke ’em if I got ’em is usually what I do, and quite promptly, so there aren’t too many cigars in my humidor that have escaped that pithy credo for long.

But there are a few long-term survivors. Periodically I plan to round up these refugees and put them to the test for a new category here called “Aging Reports.” Most of them will be cigars that I have reviewed here before, so there will be a reference point of comparison.

But this Camacho Havana is an unusual case: a box that I purchased already aged. I didn’t know it would be aged when I received it in the mail, but I was happy about it, because an aged cigar is always better… right? The box was stamped 2002 and by all appearances it was kept in great condition. But now that I’ve burned my way through most of the box, I have to say that an aged cigar is not always, without exception, a better cigar.

The Report

The Camacho Havana has been around for a long time. According to cigarcyclopedia it was originally produced in Nicaragua in the 1960’s. Later production was moved to Honduras, where it remains today. Like many Camacho cigars, the Havana is a Honduran puro — in this case a Jamastran criollo wrapper surrounding a corojo blend filler.

This is a great looking and well constructed robusto. The burn on all of these oldsters has been sharp and even, they have a perfect draw, and they form a strong solid light gray ash. Absolutely no complaints there whatsoever.

When I first received these about six months ago I noticed that they seemed incredibly mild when compared with the box of churchills I started in 2006. The Havana line is relatively mild, for a Camacho, but they still have a nice little kick to them when fresh. The flavor, if memory serves, is basically leather with a dash of black pepper. I like the fresh ones quite a bit.

After smoking through most of this 2002 box I have come to the conclusion that they are well past their prime. They still have a nice aroma — it’s almost like fresh sawdust and mild ginger. But the body has been completely sapped out of these poor seniors, and there’s nothing that Richard Simmons can do about it. No Sweatin’ to the Oldies for these guys.

There is almost no flavor left here. They start out super mild, and at the mid-point they take on a slightly unpleasant burnt rubber flavor, like air from an old tire. The wrapper is still putting out good vibrations, but it has no backup from the filler so I have been pitching them at this point, mostly from boredom.

The Camacho Havana line is normally a punchy smoke, and I would expect that a certain amount of age would mellow it a bit, but obviously six years is a few years past the mark. The aroma is still quite nice, though very subtle, and that’s about all that remains of a once admirable cigar.

I am doing a little research about tobacco chemistry and the aging process and if I can make any sense of some very technical papers I will post my findings here in the near future. Meanwhile, check out Stogie Fresh, where the good Doctor compiles reviews and ratings of many premium cigars at different points in the aging process. Definitely worth a gander if you’re at all curious about cigar aging.

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13 thoughts on “Aging Report: Camacho Havana Monarca

  1. This is really a great topic because I’ve heard opposing views about aging cigars. I’ve come to the conclusion that it depends on the cigar and your own individual preferences. I personally would age a cigar I found too peppery whereas someone else may enjoy that heat. I’m curious as to the obligation of a cigar retailer to provide fresh cigars unless otherwise requested to the consumer. At what point should the retailer sell the cigars as “aged”?

  2. I tend to agree that it really depends on the cigar and individual preference. Just like wine, some cigars are made for long term development, and some aren’t. There seems to be a correlation with strength, in that full bodied cigars mature better than lighter ones. But I’m not sure if that’s true across the board. That’s one of the reasons I’m conducting this experiment. Based on body, I really thought the Camacho Havana would have stood the test of time better. And now I wonder, why not?

    As for retailers, full disclosure about the product is always best. The vendor in question here is really good and I’m sure he would have allowed me to return this box had I been unsatisfied, but at the same time it would have been nice to know how “aged” these cigars were when I ordered them.

    I’m not sure when a cigar qualifies as “aged.” I suppose it depends on the cigar, but if a box has been sitting in the warehouse for more than a year I think it’s time for the vendor to ‘fess up.

  3. Burnt rubber. Yikes. Thanks for the heads up, because I have about 30 Camacho H2s (exact same blend as yours, as I understand it, but packed in the round instead of the square press) that I should probably start smoking a little faster. They’re a couple of years old. When I last smoked one they were holding up fine, but better safe than sorry. I’m going to step it up.

    And yes, I too would have expected the Camacho Havana to age gracefully.

  4. I’ve explored this topic quite a bit and written on it as well, primarily for the Doc at StogieFresh.com. And I still haven’t really reached any iron-clad conclusions. My general sense, though, is that most quality cigars these days are, like most wines, made to be enjoyed when they are produced and not after lengthy aging periods. In many cases, I don’t think aging will make a lot of difference and can, as you discovered, result in losing some flavor. Of course, that’s only my opinion.

  5. Here’s a link to George’s article , a good summary of the current thoughts on cigar aging.

    My experience so far has been that you’re right, George. In most cases long-term aging is not beneficial. But keeping in mind the opinions of vintage cigar smokers I’m hesitant to make a general statement to that effect. I’m going to keep at it for a while with my puny little collection of “aged” smokes and see what happens.

  6. As someone who never smokes cigars quick enough I always end up smoking something with a few years age on it. My experience has been the majority of cigars don’t age well. Mild (in flavor) cigars only get milder, but medium to full flavored seem to fair better.

    Now I want to find something older in my humidor.

  7. Of all things surrounding this wonderful pastime of ours, cigar aging do’s and don’t are the toughest to figure out. It just takes too long. I think, like many folks, early on I made the assumption prevailing discussion was correct. Age, for cigars, was a great thing … across the board. Like you, I am now of the opinion it is as much personal taste as most other parts of the cigar experience. The evolution of a smoker’s palette over time has a major impact as well.

    George E has some interesting tidbits. I found this article titled “Cigar Aging” by Steve Saka interesting as well.

    Been thinking about Pepin’s aging opinion since we read that CS thread. I don’t know I can trust the aging opinion of someone so close to the manufacture of cigars. They must evaluate and select freshly fermented tobaccos for their blends and quality control the smokes as they come off the line. They are so used smoking fresh it has become their preference … maybe. Just my opinion.

    My oldest stick is one Hoyo De Monterrey Petit Robusto aging since May 2005. This vitola was my first ISOM experience and quite a little powerhouse it was. Had one from the same batch last summer and it still packed quite a punch but was much more balanced. I’m going to try to make my last one the first cigar to reach 5 years within my collection.

    Just remember though … if Dion Giolito is right, none of us should be worried about aging anything past December 2012 anyway!

  8. It’s a little discouraging when Min Ron Nee says something like “very nice after five years” and goes on to recommend 20 for full appreciation. Sorry mate, it ain’t happening. I don’t have the facilities or the patience. (Or the wealth to acquire vintage cigars.)

    Despite all this, I’m still curious from a theoretical POV. I can exercise a bit of restraint (a bit) and see what happens.

    And if Dion is right, it’s going to be a shorter experiment than I anticipated. Can we can expect a really specially limited edition Illusione in 2011?

  9. I just opened a year-old box of Camacho Havana Nacionales. What a disappointment! Bitter and foul, with a finish that could only be described as roofing asphalt. And aging is supposed to improve a good cigar? These may be headed for the garbage bin. . . .

  10. I think it really depends on the cigar… some cigars are great out of the box, some are better with age. I also find when some cigar lines are newly released, they sometimes tend to be a little young and need a little more age on them to really mature into their flavor.

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