Don’t Smoke Penicillin

I love to see posts and pictures in cigar groups online asking that infamous question: “Is this plume or mold?” Oh, the debate that ensues is always epic. You have people questioning one another’s cigar knowledge, calling people names, talking about mommas! And aficionados get real touchy when you talk about their beloved…knowledge of cigars.

mold_petri_good_houseSo we wanted to throw in our two cents on the subject, as I personally received some cigars the other day that had me asking the same questions; is this stuff safe, will I die if I’m wrong, should I quarantine the box they came in? I know I don’t want to smoke penicillin (which is a natural byproduct of a blue mold called Penicillium Notatum…not be confused with the blue mold called Peronopora Hyoscyami, the fungus that plagued tobacco fields in Central America, Cuba Connecticut and the Dominican Republic) so it’s critical that we get it right! While all molds are not bad, some are very toxic and even fatal.

Mold is a furry growth of small fungus, typically occurring in moist and warm conditions, especially on food or other organic things. When it appears, it’s a sign that your cigars have not been kept at an ideal temperature or humidity level (too warm and too damp). Mold is generally unevenly spread over the wrapper and appears on cigars like it does on any other organic matter that starts to breaks down; splotchy, bumpy, and in different colors like green, yellow, white, blue. Because the mold is actually growing into the wrapper, filler and binder, it generally will not wipe off easily and sticks to the cellophane packaging.

Mold or Plume? Comment below!

Mold or Plume? Comment below!

On the flip side, Plume is a good thing and is a sign that your stick is at its best. It results from the crystallization of the oils that are in all cigars, especially those like maduros that contain more oils in their wrappers. Plume is the result of great aging in premium conditions and never appears on the foot of a cigar. If you see any white spots on the foot, you have mold. Plume easily wipes off because plume is only on the surface, unlike mold.

I have seen plume that makes a cigar look as though diamond dust has been sprinkled on it. I have also seen plume that appears to be a slight white covering on the cigar. And while no one should ever argue over a stogie that sparkles, it’s usually the cigars with a white, silk-like appearance that start all of the social media arguments.

You found mold. Now what?

Mold on cigars

First-Aid Kit!

First-Aid Kit!

If you should discover that there is mold a cigar in your humidor, you must act quickly to contain the infestation (if possible). Inspct all of the remaining cigars carefully, looking for any signs of mold. For those sticks that do have mold, they can be treated if they are not too badly damaged. Cigars with mold found on the foot are beyond saving as the mold has already spread throughout the stick.

Wipe the mold off of the stick, being careful not to spread it. Next, take a Q-tip soaked in drinking alcohol (liquor!) that is at least 151-proof and dab the spots where mold was discovered. Use liquor instead of medical alcohol because you can’t (or shouldn’t) consume rubbing alcohol. After you treat the cigar, DO NOT place it back in the humidor. It needs to go in a humidified “quarantine”. Continue to watch the stick and if mold happens to grow back then throw it away.

Mold in humidor
If there is mold in the humidor you will have to cure it. Take all of the sticks out and follow the above steps for inspecting and treating your individual sticks. Next, brush out your empty humidor and wipe the inside down with rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol. Let it dry for 24 hours. Re-season your humidor to get it to the optimum levels and place the clean, non-infected cigars (not the treated cigars) back in the humidor.

Prevent mold growth
Simple. Mold needs warm and moist places to grow, so keep your humidor at a level of 68% -70% humidity and at a temperature of 70°F – 73°F. Also be sure to rotate your cigars throughout your humidor. “Rolling stones gather no moss” and rotating your collection eliminates the non-moving target.

If you feel that you need a little penicillin to cure some burdensome ailment, it’s best to get it the traditional way, from a physician, not by smoking cigars infested with mold. It can all be controlled. So be proactive and deliberate with your humidor maintenance so you’ll never be in the middle of that age-old debate, “Good plume or bad mold”.


– from Demeka Fritts

4 thoughts on “Don’t Smoke Penicillin

  1. Pingback: Is It Mold or Plume? – Cutters Cigar & Spirits

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