[AUTHOR’S NOTE: Recently unearthed some older stuff I had written about cigars.]
So you’ve gone out and bought your cigars. Now, what do you do once you get them home?
The best way to keep them fresh is a humidor. While a majority of the good humidors are very expensive, there are a number of good starter humidors on the market between $50 and $100. I paid $50 dollars plus the shipping costs and got one that was on sale from $150. If your first thought was “Why would I spend a hundred dollars on a wood box?,” remember that this is going to hold all of your cigars. And, let’s say you have twenty cigars in your humidor that were each five dollars a stick. You now have $100 worth of cigars. As a consumer, do you want to risk all of your cigars by putting them in a cheaply made box? When it comes to a humidor be sure to look for a good bargain, but don’t skip on the quality. There are a number of websites, like Cuban Crafterswhere I bought mine from, that have a wide selection of humidors, ranging from starter boxes to well established, glass windowed show boxes. Early in your cigar smoking career nothing overly fancy is needed because you probably have no place to display such a nice humidor.
Instructions will come with the humidor you purchased on how to season the wood and make sure you have the best chance at maintaining the 70/70 balance of a
temperature around 70 degrees Fahrenheit and a humidity level around 70%. Of course, if you don’t want to use these instructions there are a number of websites that explain how to do it like this one, this one, or this one. Most humidors come with an analog hygrometer that measures humidity inside the box. These are generally unreliable and also don’t give a temperature reading. The best bet is to purchase a fairly inexpensive digital hygrometer that gives exact numbers for both temperature and humidity. 70/70 is used because the leaves used to roll the cigars are grown in countries that have closely similar climates, like the Dominican Republic and Cuba.
Here’s the current reading from my hygrometer:
It’s also important that you keep your newly seasoned, cigar holding humidor out of direct sunlight. The more sunlight that hits it, the hotter the inside will get. After the temperatures get up towards the 80s it leads to the possibility of tobacco beetles. While most cigar manufacturers freeze their cigars before they ship them around the world to kill any beetle larvae, if some make it through they will eat through your whole collection and ruin your sticks.
In order to keep it humid, the makers will include some floral foam in a plastic holder that can be attached to the lid. Depending on how wet the wood is inside the humidor, and how many cigars you have in the box will determine how many times you have to refill the foam. A fluctuating humidity level is common among new humidors and after you add new cigars because of the new inductees assimilating to the environment. During the winter months when the heater is running, or in drier climates where it’s always hot, the humidity can also fluctuate. To offset this, most companies sell absorbent cigar ‘beads’ that keep the humidity constant between 65% to 70%. Cigars under 60% and over 75% will burn poorly due to the wrapper being too dry or wet, respectively. Keeping it consistent maintains the quality of the burn and stops you from having to relight cigars that have an uneven burn.
They do sell glass jar humidors, which only hold from 5 to 10 cigars, but don’t have the storage space of the actual wooden box, cedar lined humidors. One of my good friends, Paul Forner, uses multiple glass jar humidors for his cigars. When I asked him why he never upgraded to a box humidor he told me: “Those cost money and I got a lot of the jar ones for free. So I’m gonna use those until I get a nicer house to display a cabinet humidor.” Veteran cigar smokers even go as far as converting wine freezers into humidors to stock pile boxes of cigars because of the ability to keep a consistent temperature.
The bottom line is: If you’re considering getting into smoking cigars, having a good humidor makes a world of difference.