The mold discussion

The mold discussion. You can’t open social media nowadays and not run into a post asking ‘is this mold or not?’. That’s followed by a discussion whether it’s mold, bloom (or plume), what to do with it, and what is the cause. We see a lot of good, solid advice being given. We also see a lot of bad advice, coming from poor knowledge. We do not claim we know everything, but we know a thing or two so let’s share our knowledge.

What is plume?

What is plume, or bloom as some call it? Cigar Aficionado defines it as a naturally occurring phenomenon in the cigar aging process. Oils that exude from the tobacco in a finished cigar will appear as a fine white powder and can be brushed off without leaving a mark. Plume is not to be confused with mold, which has color to it and stains the wrapper.

This definition is partially right and is also partially the reason for a lot of the misinformation that you read online. They are wrong about mold. There are different kinds (or strains) of mild that can occur on cigars. Some of them are white, so don’t have color as Cigar Aficionado claims. And most can be wiped off without leaving stains on the wrapper. More on that later.

Is plume a myth?

In 2017, Friends of Habanos and a team at Australia Biotech Laboratories did a study. Several cigars, some with clear mold, but others with what people consider plume, were sent to the laboratory. And the results were clear, all of the samples were mold. Even the ones that experienced cigar smokers considered plume turned out to be moldy. With Aspergillus to be exact.

Now very experienced cigar manufacturers and tobacco growers swear that plume exists. Who are we to discredit their knowledge? We admit that we don’t have the answer to the question if plume is a myth. We are not scientists. On one hand, we have the word and experience of people we hold in high regard. On the other hand, there is this small yet scientific test. So our answer to the question is “we don’t know”.

What’s true and what’s not?

The basic rule is: if it is fuzzy and hairy it is mold. And if it’s spotty, it is mold too. 100 percent, no doubt about it. Plume or bloom, if that isn’t mold, is dusty and not spotty. So fuzzy and spots here and there, that’s mold for sure. If it’s in the foot of the cigar, it is mold too. There is no discussion about that.

Some people claim that if it’s white, it’s plume. That is utter bullshit to say politely. Mold can be black, greenish, blueish, but also white. We have seen white mold on cigars on plenty of occasions over the years. And most of that mold was white. If someone says that ‘mold has color’, please educate that botl/sotl, as their knowledge needs an update.

What to do when you find mold?

The first thing you should do is check the cigar. Where is the mold? Is it only on the wrapper or is it in the foot? If it’s in the foot, there’s only one smart thing to do. Throw away the cigar as you can’t see how deep the mold has penetrated. If it’s just on the wrapper, wipe it off. Use a pencil or a cloth and carefully wipe it away. The density of the wrapper makes it virtually impossible for the mold to penetrate through the wrapper. And even in the slight chance it does, there is another binder to penetrate before it ends up in the filler. 

Then, check the humidity of your humidor. Mold only appears in humid areas. If your humidor is fine, it could also be the cigar itself. Speaking out of personal experience, we had a humidor with 500+ lanceros. 5 of them had mold, on several occasions while none of the other cigars had any issue. Not surprisingly, those were Cuban cigars, the Bolivar Lancero, a regional edition for Germany. The cigars were young and therefore contained a little more moisture than the other cigars in the humidor. Keep wiping and keep monitoring.

Is it okay to smoke a cigar with mold?

If the mold is in the foot, be smart and throw it away. Smoking itself isn’t the most healthy thing to do (although smoking cigars isn’t as unhealthy as cigarettes, vape, hookah, and rolling tobacco), but don’t up the risks by smoking a cigar with mold in the foot. You never know how deep the mold goes. As long as the mold is not in the foot, you should be fine. Wipe the mold off, cut the cigar, light it and puff away.

photo credit header photo Sandy Millar on Unsplash


2 thoughts on “The mold discussion

  1. I think it’s all mold, but not all mold is bad.
    A bit like cheese or air cured meat, some mold or bacteria is beneficial.

  2. The most important thing is that if there is mold or plume it means that the tobacco is still alive, otherwise they could not develop

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