Cigar Mold vs Plume: How To Know Which is Which
Have you ever opened your humidor ready to smoke, only to find strange powdery stuff on your favorite cigar?
I have, and it's an odd feeling. Did I screw something up? Is it too humid in here? What is that?
If you've been in this position, relax. You have one of two problems: you either have mold or plume on your sticks, and we're going to talk about which is which.
Cigar Mold vs Plume:
How To Know Which is Which
Ok, so, you pick up your affected cigar to examine it. How do you know if it's mold or plume?
Well, before I answer that question, let's look at what mold is and what plume (sometimes called “bloom”) is.
What is cigar mold?
As with the nasty mold you might find around your house, cigar mold is a result of excessive moisture, (usually) warm temperatures, and stale air. Which, if you keep your humidor at the 70s (70 degrees Fahrenheit and 70% humidity) is an almost perfect breeding ground for mold.
If the humidity in your humidor rises above 85% and stays there for too long, you run the risk of having mold grow and form on your cigars.
What is cigar plume?
While cigar plume might look similar to mold, it's quite different. Technically, cigar plume is the result of the natural oils and sugars in the tobacco leaves rising to the surface or wrapper of the cigar and crystallizing.
Ok, so cigar mold is bad and plume is good. So, how do you know which is which?
Before I got into too much detail, check out the video below where CAO's head blender, Rick Rodriguez, explains the difference between mold and plume.
How to recognize cigar mold
Cigar mold is green or blue in color. It's three-dimensional and comes up off of the surface of your cigars. Cigar mold also forms at or around the foot (the smoking end) of your cigars.
Mold comes from the inside of your cigars and grows. Mold is a fungus and can cause an unpleasant, “musty” odor in your cigars.
How to recognize cigar plume
Cigar plume is usually white or gray in color. Plume is not three-dimensional and usually looks like a fine powder on the wrapper of your cigars. Where mold will grow in splotches or patches, plume will often cover most of the outside in its fine, crystallized dust.
Unlike mold, cigar plume almost never forms at the foot of your cigars.
What to do if you find mold on your cigars
If you find mold on one of your cigars, the first thing you should do is remove it from the humidor. Like a bad apple spoils the barrel, a bad cigar can ruin an entire humidor and waste hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars worth of cigars.
After removing the bad cigar, examine all of your other cigars to see if any others have mold on them. Mold on cigars spreads like mold anywhere else – if it gets a foothold, it can grow and spread quickly.
Since some mold is really bad for you (other molds are “good” like you'd find in bleu cheese), my suggestion would be to throw out the moldy cigars. You don't want to run the risk of getting sick over a $10 cigar. Some people say you can put vodka or another high-alcohol-content liquid on the mold to kill it, but I'd rather not worry about it.
My suggestion would be to toss the moldy cigar, weep for its passing, and move on to one of its cousins.
What to do if you find plume on your cigars
Finding plume on a cigar is a rare and joyous occasion. Since you can't grow plume, you can't predict when it will show up.
You don't choose cigar plume; cigar plume chooses you!
If you find a cigar with plume on it, smoke that bad boy! Plume is your cigar's way of telling you it's as ripe as it will ever get and that it's time to enjoy it. So grab your favorite beverage and light that bad boy up!
Quick Tips for Keeping Your Humidor Mold-Free
- Use a refillable humidification system like these from Xikar or these simple packets from Boveda
- Keep your humidor away from windows
- Open your humidor periodically to allow fresh air in and stale air out
- Rotate your cigars
And if you're still curious about the substance on the outside of your cigar and whether it's mold or plume, find your local cigar lounge, bring in your sticks, and ask the owner or store manager what they think.