Earlier this year I wrote an article about setting up and maintaining your humidor in which I briefly touched on avoiding mold in your humidor. I purposely did not mention the Mold Vs. Plume argument because it is a subject in itself, which deserves its own article. The Mold Vs. Plume argument isn’t a very complicated subject, but because there is a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding on this subject it is and has been one of the top controversies in the cigar community for a very long time.
I am going to tackle this article from several different angles, first by explaining why plume isn’t a myth and also by explaining exactly what plume and mold actually are. My hope in writing this article is that you will walk away from reading it with a deeper understanding while hopefully relieving any confusion on this subject. I am not an expert by any means, nor do I claim that this will be the greatest plume vs. mold dissertation, however I am confident that I will help to put to rest a lot of the misconceptions on this subject. Now let’s begin….
Is Plume a myth?
Upon researching for this article I ran across a few different stances on the matter. It is safe to say, there is a segment of the cigar smoking community that believes plume is a myth. Those that claim this may have come to their conclusion because of a study done by Friends Of Habanos who conducted a study with a lab called “Australia Biotech Laboratories”. The study tested 10 cigars and in each lot they found different types of mold on the different cigars that were believed to be plume. There were 4 different types of mold found on the different cigars. I am quoting each different type of mold found below, there were a few of the same cigar used that is why it only counts out to 8 cigars.
(Romeo y Julieta Millie Fleurs)
“a fungal species of the yeast family that has become a significant cause of sepsis and of wound and tissue infections in immuno-compromised patients. The immune system is a major player in Candida parapsilosis infections. Candida parapsilosis is not an exclusive human pathogen, having been isolated from nonhuman sources such as domestic animals, insects or soil. Candida parapsilosis is a normal human biological relation and it is one of the fungi most frequently isolated from the human hands.”(Source: https://www.friendsofhabanos.com/forum/topic/131757-foh-mould-study/)
(Bolivar No. 2)/Diplomatico No. 2)
“Penicillium ascomycetous fungi is of major importance in the natural environment as well as food and drug production. Some members of the genus produce penicillin, a molecule that is used as an antibiotic, which kills or stops the growth of certain kinds of bacteria inside the body. Other species are used in cheese-making. According to the Dictionary of the Fungi (10th edition, 2008), the widespread genus contains over 300 species.“(Source: https://www.friendsofhabanos.com/forum/topic/131757-foh-mould-study/)
(Partagas Lonsdale)/ (Por Larranaga Petit Corona)/ (Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure Especial)
“defined as a group of conidial fungi – that is, fungi in an asexual state. Members of the genus possess the ability to grow where a high osmotic concentration (high sugar, salt, etc.) exists. Aspergillus species are highly aerobic and are found in almost all oxygen-rich environments, where they commonly grow as moulds on the surface of a substrate, because of the high oxygen tension. Commonly, fungi grow on carbon-rich substrates like monosaccharides (such as glucose) and polysaccharides (such as amylose). Aspergillus species are common contaminants of starchy foods (such as bread and potatoes), and grow in or on many plants and trees. In addition to growth on carbon sources, many species of Aspergillus demonstrate oligotrophy where they can grow in nutrient-depleted environments, or environments with a complete lack of key nutrients.“(Source: https://www.friendsofhabanos.com/forum/topic/131757-foh-mould-study/)
( H Upmann Magnum 50)/ (Montecristo no.4)
“Wallemia sebi is a dry fungus of the phylum Basidiomycota. It is commonly found on highly sugared or salted materials, such as jams, bread, cakes, sugar, bacon, salted meets, and salted fish. It is also found in indoor air, house dust, and soil. One distinctive feature of W. sebi is its relationship with water activity. Most fungi are profoundly affected by the availability of water. The ability to tolerate environments with low water activity has been found mostly in Ascomycota, but rarely in Basidiomycota. However, W. sebi. can adjust its morphology and physiology to adapt to different environmental conditions and survive osmotic stress. Wallemia sebi have lower limits for growth below water activity of 0.75aw (water activity), while most microorganisms are limited to 0.95 and above. Wallemia sebi has been isolated from hair, hay, textiles and man. It can grow slowly without additional solute in the growth medium, and form small, reddish-brown, powdery colonies.“(Source: https://www.friendsofhabanos.com/forum/topic/131757-foh-mould-study/)
Unfortunately, people are taking the results of this particular study and using it to back up their stance on plume being a myth, which causes confusion for the consumer. The study does not come to the conclusion that plume is a myth. Friends of Habanos simply asked people to send them cigars that were believed to have plume, for store credit, and they would send the cigars to the lab to test and verify if it was plume or mold. In this day and age it is fairly easy to take a small tidbit of information to use in backing up a personal opinion.
Plume is Not Made Up
There has also been online rumors spread through various cigar forums and Reddit groups, that the cigar industry created the myth of plume to sell more cigars. I personally find that to be silly, but the internet is a wild place filled with every type of fantasy known to man! The truth is, every person in the cigar industry that you talk to would agree that plume is in fact not a myth, but is a natural occurrence. Plume is scientific and is the result of cigars being stored in absolutely perfect conditions. Tobacco is alive, so even after a cigar is in its final form, the leaf continues to live, although it is no longer in the ground attached to the plant. Changes will occur if kept in optimal conditions which result in oils rising to the surface of the wrapper and crystallizing. That is what we call plume. Essentially plume is a chemical reaction to the perfect resting environment.
It is unreasonable to equate plume to being mold and accusing the cigar industry of making up the idea of plume in order to sell cigars that have slight mold on them. I simply found no data backing up the notion that plume is mold or that plume is a myth. Every major cigar publication I have read while researching this has agreed with my stance on plume. I am not the biggest scientific minded person, so I apologize if my findings aren’t deep enough. Due to consistency in what I read, I find it hard to believe that plume is a myth or a made up faction of the cigar industry. Plume is simply an indication of a cigar stored in perfect conditions nothing more, nothing less.
What is Plume?
Plume or “Bloom” is a light dust that appears to crystallize. Plume covers the entire body of the cigar, and is white or light gray in color. Plume develops when cigars are kept in perfect conditions; usually between 69-73 percent humidity. When a cigar ages in perfect conditions for long periods of time, the natural oils from within the cigar rise to the surface and crystallize resulting in plume.
Plume is a very good sign of a well aged cigar and also a very welcomed treat! Plume does not necessarily improve the flavors in a cigar, but there is nothing better than smoking a cigar that has been kept in optimal conditions. Although plume isn’t necessarily going to improve notes you get from the cigar, a well aged cigar might mellow out some and create a smoother smoking experience. Of course, this all depends on the types of tobacco used and from which region. Normally, stronger oily wrappers will develop plume. With that said, different tobaccos react differently over time and that is the beauty of cigars. Sometimes it is hard to tell how age will affect a cigar, but like wine, over time they always get better!
To sum it up, plume is good and should be a welcome sign and an indication of your cigars being stored in optimal conditions. Below are a few examples of plume so that you can see for yourself exactly how plume looks so there won’t be any confusion with mold. Which brings me to my next question….
What is mold?
Now that you know what plume is, with clear distinctions, I will now tell you what mold is!
Mold is not good. Having cigars with mold on them is a sign that your cigars have not been kept in optimal conditions. If your humidor has too much moisture from humidity, it won’t be long before your prized stash develops mold. Mold is normally found around the foot of a cigar but can be anywhere on a cigar and can be white, blue or green. I have read that if the mold is white you can still smoke that cigar, but my personal opinion is, you shouldn’t smoke any moldy cigar! I say this because mold is a sign of a cigar being kept in less than optimal conditions, so it isn’t a good idea to smoke a cigar that is kept in inadequate conditions.
The best indicator of a cigar having mold is a simple test. Mold does not wipe off as easily like plume does! The mold embeds into the leaf. Cigars are no different than any other object that can grow mold. Cigars kept in an environment that is too moist will surely develop mold. By now I know you are wondering, “What should I do if I find mold on any of my cigars?” The first thing you should do is determine if all or just some of your cigars have been affected by mold. Separate the cigars that have obviously been affected and dispose of them. After all the affected cigars are disposed of, mix a little rubbing alcohol with distilled water and wipe down your humidor. DO NOT soak it, just wipe enough to kill any mold and leave your humidor open to dry for a few days. Once your humidor is dry just re season your humidor making sure the temperature and humidity inside it is within the perfect conditions to avoid any future mold problems.
I realize that no matter what is said on this subject there be people who will still hold to the same opinion. My goal for this article was to make the topic a little less confusing while giving everyone something to think about. What we can all take away from this is that the plume vs. mold debate is not as complicated as people make it out to be. All it takes is a little common sense to understand the issue. Regardless of where you stand, we can agree that we ALL want to smoke our cigars in pristine condition and not worry about the unnecessary bullshit that life throws at us. Pssita (put some smoke in the air) to my cigar family worldwide! Also comment below if you want to discuss this topic further.