My thoughts on the \"sick period\"


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We all see fairly frequent references to some Cuban cigars entering into a "sick period." I think it would be helpful if we were all on one page with the nomenclature.

There are some (OK RyJ7x47 at cA) who insist that the whole notion of "sick period" is nonsense invented by Vahe Gerard years ago to try to justify some bad tasting stock he sold. At least I think that's Bob's view as I recall it.

I have to say that, in my own experience, he might just be right.

NEE defines the "sick period" as that time for a few months to a year after a cigar has been first rolled that it continues to exude the odor and flavor of ammonia. Inevitably, he claims, this "sickness" disappears over time simply through natural oxidization.

What many have described as the "sick period" is a totally different phenomenon wherein cigars in a box seem to withdraw into themselves and give off little in the way or taste or "strength." I experienced this with a couple boxes of PSD4's. The ones I smoked were great for the first six months, but for two years thereafter every one I tried was muted and dull. Thereafter until they were gone they were phenomenal. I think it was I who first dubbed this phenomenon the "dumb period" back on cA years ago.

The problem with all this, of course, is that it's not consistent from box to box, model to model or otherwise. And some models are simply dumb from the start and never get better e.g. recent H. Umpann Magnum 46. I smoked a Partagas Seleccion No. 1 the other day t from FEB 99 that was as dull and tasteless as any Cuban cigar (see review) I have ever tried. Surely it was not in a "sick period." It was just a bad cigar -- which happens from time to time given that cigars are a hand made agricultural product.

For the most part -- particularly in my own recent experience -- Cuban cigars aren't "sick" as NEE defines it, even within the early months after release; and most boxes never "go dumb." So I expect what most of us have experienced is not a matter of a process that many, most or all cigars seem to go through but a matter of luck of the draw. To try to explain that kind of thing in a generality or two such as "the sick period" or "the dumb period" seems to me to be making excuses rather than accepting our bad luck for what it is.

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I'm confused on what exactly you're arguing here. You start out by saying that RyJ7x47 may be right that the "sick period" is just a figment of our imagination, but then you say you've experienced it yourself . . . Based on what your points were, I can only conclude that the thesis of your post is, "Some cigar boxes have a period in which they smoke poorly." Isn't that common knowledge?

I don't believe there are many people out there who think that every cigar goes through a "sick period." Maybe I'm wrong, but don't most understand that it's pretty much luck of the draw on if they actually get this problem? I'm going through a sick period right now with a box of Fonseca Cadetes that smoked great (for what they are) for about two months, and then the next couple I had were terrible. They're going to sit for quite a while before I try them again.

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» I'm confused on what exactly you're arguing here.

I didn't mean to confuse you. Let me clarify.

1. I agree with NEE's definition of "sick period" -- that it is specifically that time shortly after rolling when cigars taste and smell of ammonia.

2. The "dumb period" is a different phenomenon that may or may not be part of some cigars natural evolution in which they are dull and relatively tasteless. As I said, my experience with those PSD4 may be an example; however, that experience is totally anecdotal, as are other stories of cigars going dumb. What may be occurring is that we are simply getting an occasional ration of bad cigars consecutively and some or all others in the box are just fine.

3. There's no scientific way of proving the existence or non-existence of a so-called (by me) dumb period.

4. The dumb period may be nothing but the luck of the draw.

Clear now?

By the way, Grasso, your handsome kid looks a lot like that baby with the adult voice in the etrade commercials.

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MY 2 cents on this.......

When MRN stated his opinion on the sick period, Habanos was not using the standard of aged fillers and wrapper they use now. So in my opinion, this is going to effect the time for any cigar, say from 2006 on. Now some cigars have had their sick time for me, mainly Upmann #2, first lite this thing and POW, terrible, terrible ammonia. Then 2.5 years later they are the bomb!

Dumb period ......i have had those as well. I attribute this dumb period to maybe over humidified cigars. Reason i say this is after i dry box them the flavor seems to shine, with out having those dull spot somewhere while enjoying the cigar. This has happened with monte 2, PSD4, and RASS.....well almost all my cigars seemed to have hit a "muted point". After dry box they are all good!

just my opinion and my personal observations.

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I reject the notion of a dumb period as opposed to a sick period and agree that MRN's book is outdated in some respects.

It is all the same to me. I also think that this is a difficult subject to generalize on due to the product and mitigating factors. :-D

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This is one of those topics will be fodder for discussion and debate for, well, for as long as there are cigars. Alas, forever without resolution. There are simply too many things that can vary from materials to processes to storage to personal state at the time of smoking to gather anything other than a vague sense of something that happens sometimes with some cigars.

Frankly, I think this is one topic worth dropping because the odds of making fruitful progress are as practically close to nil as can be.

Call me a curmudgeon, but unless some breakthrough is made in the definition of the processes involved (i.e., there is no fermentation once tobacco is removed from the fermentation pylons and certainly none in cigars in the box) we'll know just as much in the coming year as we did ten years ago.

I applaud the effort to spark discussion. I just think that this is one of those topics that is not likely to reward our joint consideration.

Wilkey

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»

» I applaud the effort to spark discussion. I just think that this is one of

» those topics that is not likely to reward our joint consideration.

Is there any way that we can reach consensus that there's a difference between the early ammoniac stage of most freshly rolled cigars and something that may or may not happen to some cigars or boxes of cigars at a later stage? If so, can we reach consensus that only the former should be properly referred to as the "sick period"?

If so, my objective will have been achieved. ;-)

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» Is there any way that we can reach consensus that there's a difference between the early ammoniac stage of most freshly rolled cigars and something that may or may not happen to some cigars or boxes of cigars at a later stage? If so, can we reach consensus that only the former should be properly referred to as the "sick period"?

»

» If so, my objective will have been achieved. ;-)

Hi Van55

As you said previously, you do not disagree the MRN's Sick Period. I believe most people accept this concept also.

I believe that your "dumb period" is what MRN referred to as the "First Vacuum Period". See Interesting Note page 4 of MRN 2nd printing. i.e.. "Some cigars unfortunately lack adequate pleasant flavors during the time of the first maturation......"

Sounds to me as the same condition, different names.

Trevor

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I am a dumb bugger.

Some cigars taste great out of the box, great 3 months later, great 6 months later and never stop tasting great. Others taste great out of the box, become muddled within 6 months and come around 12-18 months later. Some 3 years later. A few never do come good.

Others were never good to begin with and never come good. Others still are woefull to begin with but blossom later in life 3-5 years.

If anyone can pull a definitive theory out of that ....good luck ;-)

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» Some cigars taste great out of the box, great 3 months later, great 6 months later and never stop tasting great. Others taste great out of the box, become muddled within 6 months and come around 12-18 months later. Some 3 years later. A few never do come good. Others were never good to begin with and never come good. Others still are woefull to begin with but blossom later in life 3-5 years.

»

» If anyone can pull a definitive theory out of that ....good luck ;-)

...........Chaos Theory ?

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» I am a dumb bugger.

»

» Some cigars taste great out of the box, great 3 months later, great 6

» months later and never stop tasting great. Others taste great out of the

» box, become muddled within 6 months and come around 12-18 months later.

» Some 3 years later. A few never do come good.

» Others were never good to begin with and never come good. Others still are

» woefull to begin with but blossom later in life 3-5 years.

»

» If anyone can pull a definitive theory out of that ....good luck ;-)

And some cigars are so variable from one to the next within the same box that you can't tell bugger all what they're about. Same thing from one box to the next with the same box code. Which is sort of my point.

Chaos theory is right. Or as I said, luck of the draw at times.

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» » I am a dumb bugger.

» »

» » Some cigars taste great out of the box, great 3 months later, great 6

» » months later and never stop tasting great. Others taste great out of

» the

» » box, become muddled within 6 months and come around 12-18 months later.

» » Some 3 years later. A few never do come good.

» » Others were never good to begin with and never come good. Others still

» are

» » woefull to begin with but blossom later in life 3-5 years.

» »

» » If anyone can pull a definitive theory out of that ....good luck ;-)

»

» And some cigars are so variable from one to the next within the same box

» that you can't tell bugger all what they're about. Same thing from one

» box to the next with the same box code. Which is sort of my point.

»

» Chaos theory is right. Or as I said, luck of the draw at times.

There is no argument that a cigar's characteristic changes with time. The fact is that everybody is different and one person will not like what others like. I personally enjoy cigars most (generally) when they are between 5-15 years old. Some cigars I enjoy fresh, but not all. Some I enjoy with 30 years and definitely not all! There are too many variables to cigars to make any kind of rules so I really don't think we will come up with anything worthwhile. Smoking is such a personal experience, just like wine or beer. I can't understand someone that will drink commercial American lagers on a regular basis (I'll drink them on the golf course) and many of my friends don't understand why I buy beer by the bottle.

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» I believe that your "dumb period" is what MRN referred to as the "First

» Vacuum Period". See Interesting Note page 4 of MRN 2nd printing. i.e..

» "Some cigars unfortunately lack adequate pleasant flavors during the time

» of the first maturation......"

»

» Sounds to me as the same condition, different names.

»

» Trevor

Agreed. :-)

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» I am a dumb bugger.

Agreed :lol3:

» Some cigars taste great out of the box, great 3 months later, great 6

» months later and never stop tasting great. Others taste great out of the

» box, become muddled within 6 months and come around 12-18 months later.

» Some 3 years later. A few never do come good.

» Others were never good to begin with and never come good. Others still are

» woefull to begin with but blossom later in life 3-5 years.

»

» If anyone can pull a definitive theory out of that ....good luck ;-)

Agreed. :-)

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I posted this here on FOH about 3.5 years ago. The Search function is a really nice feature!

Maybe this will help, Of course, I could just be talking out my a$$

Many cigar smokers have commented over the years that some of their cigars have gone into a “sick period”, or in other words that when they smoke the cigar, that the flavors, tastes and complexity has become flat, bland, or in some degree off balance from what the profile of the same cigar smoked like a few short months, weeks or years ago.

When we explore what happens to cigars as they age, we find that while chemistry plays an important part in this hobby of ours, the general “layman” is not a student of these things, and the understanding of this is often misunderstood.

When a cigar is rolled, the tobacco has been fermenting or a period of time since it was harvested. Typically it takes a couple of years from harvest before the tobacco is ready to be rolled. Thus, the cigars that are box coded from 2004 are in actually tobacco that was harvested from the 2002 crop. When you consider the major change in blends that occurred with Habanos cigars around 1995; which co-insides with the period that Cuba had a period of Ligero shortage, the flavors of cigars produced during that period were affected. Now also consider this along with the flavor and construction issues of cigars from the late 99-00 period, we now find that with some age and maturation of these cigars, the flavors are beginning to come out and have developed into a pleasant tasting and complex smoking cigar.

Let us take a cigar through its cycle of you will. Once the tobacco has been fermented to the point that it is ready to be rolled into a cigar, it is wetted so that it is pliable enough to be worked and rolled. This generally stops the actual fermentation process long enough for the cigar to be constructed. Once the tobacco is harvested, it is always in a state of fermentation, or for better or worse, aging. It actually never stops the fermentation process or aging. Many cigars that are fresh off the rollers table if smoked immediately even though very tannic and young tasting have a pleasant flavor, but most would agree that a fresh cigar is not extremely complex. This is mainly in my opinion due to the fact that the tobacco is still very wet and in a suspended state of fermentation. The different tobaccos used; weather it is volado, seco or ligero in the filler, binder or wrapper has not had a chance to “marry” and blend together and make the cigar a true tasting Habanos that it will develop into one day in the future. So, now the cigar is rolled and let’s say that it has already gone through the process of color sorting and placed into wheels and gone through the drying rooms and has been boxed for shipment out to the various distributors and thus the retailers for sale to the end user. I have seen available boxes already with early 2005 codes available for purchase. These would IMHO be considered very new and young cigars, which I would not even consider smokable for total enjoyment, but that is another subject, so I will not venture there in this post.

Some people have experienced smoking cigars that are in a period of flux in the aging process, which has been called the sick period. Many have stated that during this period the cigar will give off an ammonia type smell or flavor, which they associate with the fermentation or aging process. There is IMHO no exact period that the “sick period” can or will occur, but the cigar is always in a constant state of transition while it continues to develop, age and mature. I am a believer that aging is a process that all true lovers of the Habanos leaf will gain better flavors from. If I smoke a cigar and it is off balance, flat or what some call a “sick period”, then I leave it alone buried deep in sleep resting in my humidor for some time, because I know that the cigar will change again and become a vibrant superb tasting, complex smoke again if leaf alone over time. I try to smoke the majority of the cigars I smoke with at least 3 years of age from the box code so that the tobacco has had ample time to blend together and when I smoke a cigar that has longer aging, such as 5-8 years on them, they have usually been stellar tasting cigars. Smoking young cigars is in my opinion, almost a waste of time and money, but each different cigar smoker needs to make their own judgment and decision about when and how to enjoy their cigars.

Tampa

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Great posts, both from Van and (previously) Tampa.

I'm not sure that the basic idea of a 'sick period' can be attributed to any one person. Surely the front of a Rafael Gonzalez box is a testament to this:

"In order that the connoisseur may fully appreciate the perfect fragrance they should be smoked either within one month of the date of shipment from havana or should be carefully matured for about one year"

If that's not a 1930s (?) description fo the sick period then I don't know what is.

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