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post #1 of 13 Old 12-05-2008, 03:35 AM Thread Starter
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On the origin of cigar plume (bloom)

Warning: ramblings of a scientist are below, read at your own risk, LOL. I was warned not to post a thread like this, but I'll take my chances and see if we can get some discussion going here. :-)

Ok, so I’ve been wondering about plume/bloom on cigars for quite some time and thought I’d go see what I could find about where it comes from, basically I wanted to know what causes it to form. It seems to be universally accepted that plume comes from the tobacco oils that rise to the surface of the cigar’s wrapper leaf; I doubt that anyone will argue that point.

My question then is this: when have you ever seen an oil crystallize, especially one at room temperature? I haven’t. This leads me to ask: what is in the tobacco oil that could crystallize? Well, I found an analysis of tobacco oils where the group identified the individual chemicals in tobacco oil using two-dimensional gas chromatography with flame ionization detectors and a time-of-flight mass spectrometer. Fancy chit right there! Here’s the information on the journal article where I found this information:

“Quantitative determination of compounds in tobacco essential oils by comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography coupled to time-of-flight mass spectrometry.”
Journal of Chromatography A, Issue 1086, Pages 107–114 (2005).

The results are pretty interesting (to me at least, LOL, but I’m a scientist). Here are the top 10 most abundant chemicals and what percent of the total they make up (there were dozens of other chemicals that made up the remainder of the sample):

(The chemicals were identified in the journal article I mentioned above, then I just went to various online sources to learn more about each chemical, so the info below is not off the top of my head, some is directly copied and pasted omitting quotes for an easier read, although I throw in some of my ramblings here and there.)

14.53% Propylene glycol
Propylene glycol, known also by the systematic name propane-1,2-diol, is an organic compound (a diol alcohol), usually a faintly sweet, odorless, and colorless clear viscous liquid that is hygroscopic and miscible with water, acetone, and chloroform. If this is formed as a fatty acid ester, this can yield a white solid form of propylene glycol. Propylene glycol esters of fatty acids are mixtures of propylene glycol mono- and diesters of saturated and unsaturated fatty acids derived from edible oils and fats.

1.72% Ethyl acetate
Ethyl acetate is a colorless liquid that is a volatile and somewhat polar solvent commonly found in nail polish remover. This likely will not crystallize as it would more likely evaporate once it hits the surface and comes in contact with air. However, as a polar solvent, it is possible that it could dissolve sugars within the tobacco and act as a carrier to bring the sugars to the surface. Once at the surface, the ethyl acetate would evaporate and leave behind the sugar, which would be in crystalline form.

1.62% Propanoic acid (ethyl ester)
Propanoic acid is a colorless liquid that can be solid if it's the anion of a salt. Propanoic acid as a solid salt is commonly either: sodium propionate, calcium propionate, or potassium propionate. The calcium and potassium propionates form white crystals, and the sodium propionate forms transparent crystals. So depending on the soil that the tobacco is grown in, different amounts of sodium, calcium, and potassium could lead to different forms of the propionate crystals.

1.32% Benzyl benzoate
Benzyl benzoate is the ester of benzyl alcohol and benzoic acid. This colorless liquid is formally the condensation product of benzoic acid and benzyl alcohol.

1.07% Ethyl maltol (4H-Pyran-4-one, 2-ethyl-3-hydroxy-)
Ethyl maltol is an analog of maltol, where the methyl group on maltol is substituted with an ethyl group. It is a stable white crystalline powder at room temperature and easily dissolves in many polar liquids. This chemical has a sweet odor that can be described as caramelized sugar and cooked fruit. It is an important flavourant for the food, beverage, and fragrance industry. Ethyl maltol is non-toxic, highly pleasant to human sense of smell, and easily detected by the human, with as little as 10 parts per million perceivable in air.

0.97% Isoamyl acetate (1-Butanol, 3-methyl-, acetate)
Isoamyl acetate is a clear colorless liquid that is only slightly soluble in water, but very soluble in most organic solvents. Isoamyl acetate has a strong odor (similar to juicy fruit), which is also described as similar to both banana and pear. Banana oil is a term that is applied either to pure isoamyl acetate or to flavorings that are mixtures of isoamyl acetate, amyl acetate, nitrocellulose and other flavors.

0.72% 5-ethyl-2-methylpyridine
5-ethyl-2-methylpyridine is a colorless, clear liquid with a very strong odor of nuts, raw potatoes, and earth.

0.54% Acetophenone
Acetophenone is an organic compound and is the simplest aromatic ketone. This colorless, viscous liquid is a precursor to useful resins and fragrances. Acetophenone is used to create fragrances that resemble almond, cherry, honeysuckle, jasmine, and strawberry, and it occurs naturally in many foods. It is used in chewing gum. At one time it was used as a hypnotic under the name of "hypnone." In a 1994 report released by five top cigarette companies in the U.S., acetophenone was listed as one of the 599 additives to cigarettes.

0.43% Amyl acetate (Acetic acid, pentyl ester)
Amyl acetate is an organic compound and an ester with a scent similar to bananas and apples, which is not detectable by all people.

0.37% Dihydroxyacetone (2-Propanone, 1,3-dihydroxy-)
Dihydroxyacetone is a simple carbohydrate that is primarily used as an ingredient in sunless tanning products. It is often derived from plant sources such as sugar beets and sugar cane, by the fermentation of glycerin. Dihydroxyacetone is a triose carbohydrate. It is a hygroscopic white crystalline powder and it has a sweet cooling taste and a characteristic odor. It is the simplest of all ketoses and, having no chiral center, is the only one that has no optical activity.

-----------------------------------------

So, the chemicals in highest abundance that are either solids or can form solids are: propylene glycol, propanoic acid (as propionate crystals), ethyl maltol, and dihydroxyacetone. Also, ethyl acetate could be acting as a carrier to bring sugars to the surface of the cigar.

Yeah, I recently had some free time and got bored. My mind is a dangerous place when it's not working... so I did this to keep it active. :-)

-JT
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post #2 of 13 Old 12-05-2008, 11:10 AM
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Actually I've been quite content with my own theory of spontaneous generation due to forces well beyond my ability to understand......... but thanks. :biglaugh: :biglaugh: :biglaugh:

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post #3 of 13 Old 12-05-2008, 11:15 AM
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14.53% Propylene glycol

That's the stuff we "charge" our humi's with, right?
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post #4 of 13 Old 12-05-2008, 11:40 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by StantheTaxMan
14.53% Propylene glycol

That's the stuff we "charge" our humi's with, right?
Yup, also used in a lot of food products to help maintain moisture....

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post #5 of 13 Old 12-05-2008, 11:54 AM
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Re: On the origin of cigar plume (bloom)

Quote:
Originally Posted by JTokash
My question then is this: when have you ever seen an oil crystallize, especially one at room temperature?
CRISCO

Crystallized Cottonseed Oil

YOU MEAN THEY'RE SMOOGING "CRISCO" ON OUR CIGARS??? :mad2:

(Interesting article.)

"There are some who can live without wild things and some who cannot. Like winds and sunsets, wild things were taken for granted until progress began to do away with them. Now we face the question of whether a still higher 'standard of living' is worth its cost in things natural, wild and free."

Aldo Leopold - A Sand County Almanac - 1949
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post #6 of 13 Old 12-05-2008, 01:18 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by riverdog
Quote:
Originally Posted by StantheTaxMan
14.53% Propylene glycol

That's the stuff we "charge" our humi's with, right?
Yup, also used in a lot of food products to help maintain moisture....

Ditto that. I don't know what proceedure the group used to extract the tobacco oil, my guess is steam distillation with methylene chloride extraction. In any event, I'm wondering if the PG is showing up because it was used to maintain the humidity or the tobacco and it was absorbed into the tobacco.



As for crisco... I don't cook with that stuff, so that's why I didn't think of that. But that's processed, so my point was a crystallized oil that occurs naturally.

-JT
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post #7 of 13 Old 12-05-2008, 01:46 PM
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I've seen white crystals on my cigars. Period.

You are saying that the main component of Bloom is PG. Well that makes tons of sense. PG is found in almost all credos/gels/beads. Since they expel the moisture, the moisture most likely contains some PG in it. Cigars absorb the moisture, which has PG in it, and BOOM you have PG in your cigars.

So I have some questions:

Why does the PG rise to the surface and crystallize?

What else makes up the Bloom? I only see 26% accounted for. These are supposedly the top 10, so there must be an abundance of other chemicals. You’re talking 100s.

Would you like a smoke and a pancake? You know, flapjack and a cigarette? No, alright. Cigar and a waffle? No? Pipe and a crepe? Bong and a blintz? Well, there is no pleaseing you!
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post #8 of 13 Old 12-05-2008, 02:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by randomhero1090
Why does the PG rise to the surface and crystallize?

What else makes up the Bloom? I only see 26% accounted for. These are supposedly the top 10, so there must be an abundance of other chemicals. You’re talking 100s.
Probably a little like asking for a detailed and complete list of hot dog ingredients. Unless you are really prepared to deal with and accept the answer.............. anything with an appropriate pH and crystal/lattice structure to allow the crystallization process to start. Anything from relatively benign organic crystals to heavy metals. I'm buying into the "benign organic crystals".

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post #9 of 13 Old 12-05-2008, 02:13 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by randomhero1090
I've seen white crystals on my cigars. Period.

You are saying that the main component of Bloom is PG. Well that makes tons of sense. PG is found in almost all credos/gels/beads. Since they expel the moisture, the moisture most likely contains some PG in it. Cigars absorb the moisture, which has PG in it, and BOOM you have PG in your cigars.

So I have some questions:

Why does the PG rise to the surface and crystallize?

What else makes up the Bloom? I only see 26% accounted for. These are supposedly the top 10, so there must be an abundance of other chemicals. You’re talking 100s.


I'm not saying the main component of plume is PG, what I'm saying is that the main component of tobacco oil is PG. Just because PG is the greatest amount doesn't mean that's the source of plume.

Besides, cigars can plume when stored in humidors that use beads or in B&M humidors where they typically use large steam humidifiers as opposed to silly little PG/water credos... so how do you get PG from tobacco oil if no PG is around in the first place? It's just in there.

See, the problem is that the paper I found this article in doesn't specify what type or form of tobacco they got the oil from - for example, whether it was a cigar (fresh or well-aged) or if it was simply loose bailed tobacco, or chopped tobacco for use in cigarettes. It simply said "tobacco oil." So my assumption is that they didn't take a cigar out of someone's humidor and chop it to bits, steam distill it, and extract the tobacco oil. I'd assume it's a lot esier to take a leaf out of an aging barn or a fermenting bail... sources that have had no external chemicals present that could skew the results.

PG could rise to the surface because it is classified as a "surfactant" (surface tension modifier) and that's how it works in a humidifier credo. One of its properties is that it's hygroscopic, meaning that it likes water. In the humidor, the water vapor trapped in the air could be acting to "extract" the PG from within a cigar to bring it to the outside where it is more moist.

As for there only being 26% (I didn' add them up, I'm just using your number) listed above, the paper listed over 60 chemicals and said that they actually found something like 172 in another study.

-JT
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post #10 of 13 Old 12-06-2008, 03:41 PM
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Interesting stuff. Maybe those compounds are the source of plume. The source of the PG, it's listed right in the quote: "If this is formed as a fatty acid ester, this can yield a white solid form of propylene glycol. Propylene glycol esters of fatty acids are mixtures of propylene glycol mono- and diesters of saturated and unsaturated fatty acids derived from edible oils and fats." The author is saying that it's a natually occuring compound. The words "derived from edible oils and fat" provide the hint. Guess we shouldn't be surprised given the that tobacco is a tropical plant and the properties of PG as a natural RH buffer and as a antibiotic (mold, fungus, bacteria and insects).

One thing I do note is that most of the cigars shown to me purporting to have plume really have the rather harmless and common white mold on them. A fellow cigar enthusiast has done an excellent job of showing this on his website along with some cogent discussion: http://vitolas.net/displayimage.php?...ch&cat=0&pos=1. Also sometimes folks will mistake some of the metallic ink flaking off of labels as plume.

All in all, I can't really recall seeing any smoke less than about 5 years old having plume. Many don't seem to develop it at all, just those with very oily wrappers. But then I don't really pay a whole lot of attention to it.

I can say that plume apparently has no taste. A close friend had a cab of some classic 10 yr old smokes that were quite speckled with plume and wiped it off a few. We couldn't taste the diff. Our guess is that plume is thus little more than an indicator of age.

Nest stuff tho. Keep it coming.
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