What are wet cigars?
The term “wet” when used to describe cigars can mean a couple of different things, neither of which being very desirable. It can apply to young cigars that were released before they were completely cured. It can also apply to older, aged cigars that have been stored incorrectly.
Young cigars are sometimes also referred to as “wet” or “green”, but the terms really aren’t interchangeable. Wet (or green) cigars are also young cigars, but they differ from young cigars in that the tobacco in them is still in the curing process…in other words, they’re still fermenting. Fermenting is a vital element in the cigar curing process; it’s what gives cigar tobacco its unique characteristics. After the tobacco is fermented, it’s made into bales and stored for a period of time--typically a couple of years. Some additional fermentation happens during this period as the tobacco leaves continue to develop their complex character.
Before the leaves can be fashioned into cigars some moisture has to be added back into them so they’re sprayed down with a fine mist of water. This rekindles the fermentation process, which is why cigars are typically allowed to rest for a few months after they’re made.
Subjecting cigars to humidity levels higher than the ideal 68 to 70 percent can also make them moist or wet. As they take up the excess moisture in their surroundings, they can swell and their wrappers can split. Mold can be a problem with these cigars.
You’ll almost never see a wet cigar direct from a manufacturer, but if you get a whiff of ammonia that’s definitely what you have as ammonia is a by-product of the fermentation process. If this is the case, simply take the cellophane off the cigars (if they have it) and let them sit for a while, preferably in the box they came in.
If you’re dealing with cigars that you’ve had for a while and they look soft and/or swollen, they’re wet from over-humidification. If they came from your humidor, and their wrappers haven’t split and they haven’t sprouted mold, you can probably save them. Get the relative humidity in that humidor balanced right away. Leave the cigars in it; as the humidity balances out they should balance out along with it. Don’t put them out in the open to dry; this will rob them of their humidity way too quickly and further damage their leaves.
Cigars with split wrappers are usually beyond hope. Depending on where the split happened you might be able to trim the cigar past it, but it’s usually not worth the effort as the wrapper will probably split again when you start smoking it.
If the cigars are moldy as well as wet, think twice about keeping them. You might be able to wipe off any mold you see on the wrapper, but if it’s on the wrapper it’s probably inside the cigar too, and do you really want to be ingesting mold? We think not.