The term “vintage” gets used quite a bit; not just in the cigar industry, but across the global market. From cigars and wine to watches and t-shirts, the word ‘vintage’ is used quite liberally but its definition changes based on different classes of goods. So what does ‘vintage’ really mean in the cigar industry? Since the process of creating cigars and wine parallel each other, I’ll use wine as a comparison.
In the wine industry, the term ‘vintage’ indicates the year a particular wine was made or in other words, the year the grapes were harvested. With wine, it is nearly impossible to create the same flavor or style and keep that flavor consistent with each new crop or bottle from year to year. Therefore, a wine’s vintage is very important because it’s an indicator of how the wine has changed; a vintage 2007 will taste different from a vintage 2008 and neither can be replicated. However, in the cigar world, vintage takes on the opposite meaning.
In cigars, ‘vintage’ refers more to the tobacco’s age, rather than the actual year the tobaccos were harvested. In cigars, it is important to maintain the same flavor profile and strength from stick to stick, from box to box, from year to year. This can be replicated by slightly tweaking the cigar’s blend from year to year, while still maintaining its core flavor profile. In order to do so though, some of the tobaccos from the blend’s original crop must be replaced with new tobaccos, especially if the original tobaccos were limited. Although the newer cigars no longer contain the same exact tobaccos from the original crop, they still present the same flavor profile, thus maintaining its vintage. For example, Rocky Patel Vintage 1992 should taste the same today as it did years ago when it was first released, but that doesn’t guarantee Rocky Patel is still using the same tobaccos from his original crop. In this case, ‘vintage’ refers to the flavor profile, which was created using different varieties of aged tobaccos to maintain consistency. How is this possible? The aging and fermentation processes.
Aging and fermentation play a big part in keeping a cigar’s vintage. These two processes allow blenders to use different crops of tobaccos, from different years, while still maintaining a cigar’s original flavor and strength. The longer tobacco ages, the less tannic it becomes, the smoother it tastes, and it also presents a more well-balanced character. The longer tobacco is fermented, the darker the leaves become and they can take on slightly sweet or hearty, earthy characters – all of which add complexity. By using these two processes regularly, manufacturers are able to keep a cigar’s vintage the same from year to year.