One of the email questions I receive on a pretty regular basis is, “After delivery, how long should I keep my cigars in the humidor before smoking them?” For all intents and purposes, the cigars should be “smoke ready” right out of the box. Just about all of the leading manufacturers age their cigars for a minimum of 6-months in Spanish cedar-lined rooms before shipping. Depending on the cigars, it could be as long as three to five years, and in some cases, even longer; then you have the tobaccos, themselves, which may have been aged for any number of years. It’s safe to presume that a sizable segment of cigar smokers smoke that first cigar out of the box within the first few minutes the package arrives, or at least within the first 24 hrs. Why not, right? OK, but based on my experience and what I’ve learned from other cigar smokers, letting your cigars rest for even a few days after placing them in your humidor results in a better smoke. This is generally referred to as “settling.” There are any number of things, that can “upset” your cigars while in transit. By letting them settle in your humidor the tobaccos should return to their pre-shipping state. As for cigars bought in a retail store, each store’s humidor set-up is different, and some are better or worse than others. Therefore, even in the case of a same-day sale, it doesn’t hurt to let your new cigars buddy-up with your other smokes for a day or two. The choice is yours.
So what if you were to let your cigars rest even longer? Say a month, six months, a year, two, even several years. Of course, it depends on the cigar and how much patience you can muster. There’s no specific time period, which is why this topic can make for a sticky debate among cigar smokers. Let me give you a recent example which demonstrates that even a home aging your cigars period as short as a week can make a difference. I recently bought a box of cigars from a very reputable manufacturer. Though I had smoked this brand in the past, I hadn’t smoked this particular line extension which used a different wrapper. I based my purchase on the quality of the brand, the blend, my past experience with the company’s cigars, and the price. I placed half of them in my office humidor and took the remaining cigars home. As tempted as I was to light one up, I waited until the next day. Not only did the cigar not live up to my expectations, I was constantly relighting it. They were probably still too moist. Two days later, I smoked another. Not much difference, but they were tasty. One week later – actually, as I was writing this very article I had one going – the flavor had improved significantly. So, I decided to wait another week before I had the next one. I concluded that after a month they’d be even better, and by the time I get to the last few, they’ll be wonderful.
Home aging your cigars tip: Always have a good supply of cigars to smoke on hand while your new arrivals are aging.
So what about long-term aging, like two years and beyond? An email I received within the last few weeks begged the question. Three years ago the customer purchased a 5-pack of a certain high-profile cigar.
“The one I had then was only so-so,” wrote the customer. “However, after 3 years, the remaining ones were amazing. I guess the whole ‘aging improves cigars’ thing really is true! What do you think the ideal time is for aging? 3 years on those [cigars] was great. [Is] 4 better? 5? More? I’ve heard that cigars can keep improving for decades…is that true?” My answer was basically this: I have some top-flight cigars that have been in my humidor for almost 10 years. Mainly because, like a lot of smokers, I was “waiting for the right time” to smoke them. I should know better. Some of those extra-long-aged cigars have held up, but some haven’t. That said, three years could have been right for those cigars. By the customer’s logic it made sense that the longer he aged those cigars, the better they’d get. Then again, they may have tasted just as good after one or two years. The thing is, like some wines, if you age a cigar too long it will lose its bouquet; that is unless it is under very special conditions that can slow the aging process down long enough to keep them fresh for a decade or more. There’s no reason to age most premium cigars more than two to three years. Even some cigars that are blended using a lot of oily ligero long-filler will mellow-out nicely after just one year.
Some cigar makers like Jorge Padrón and Pete Johnson will tell you there’s no need to age their cigars any longer. Light ‘em up and enjoy them for Pete’s sake (no pun intended). Without a doubt, some cigars require extra aging, and almost all do taste better with more time on them, say six months to a year. Again, it depends on the cigar. Secondly, if you prefer smoking the finer cigars on the market, why wait so long when it’s not all that necessary?
At the risk of sounding like your grandmother, you could be hit by a bus tomorrow…then what? You get the idea. In other words, smoke ‘em if you got ‘em and enjoy ‘em, but age them on a per-cigar basis. You’ll eventually know which cigars improve best or least by experimenting with different time periods. Two to three years max? Perhaps. But four to five years or more? I think that’s pushing it.
It would be easier to weigh than count the number of emails I’ve received over the years with questions about cigar humidors, especially on how to season one. I’ve written about how to season a humidor on more than one occasion; I’ve even done a video on how to season a humidor which you’ll see at the end of this article. But before you watch the video, read what to do first, since there are some things covered in this article that may not be in the video, and vice versa; then it will all come together nicely.
So, you’ve just purchased a new humidor because your cigars are starting to pile up and you want to keep them fresh for as long as necessary. Here’s what to do: Continue reading
Cigars and humidors are like horses and saddles. We associate them as a dependent set, but you don’t need a saddle to ride a horse, and you don’t need a fancy wooden humidor to store cigars. There is one catch, however: You and the horse will survive without a saddle, but your cigars won’t survive without some form of humidification. For the purposes of this post, I’m talking about wooden desktop cigar humidors, not coolerdors, tupperdors, or other makeshift storage units. Continue reading
Here’s a nifty topic that crosses my path every now and then – rotating cigars in your humidor. According to a poll administered by Cigar Advisor Magazine, 54% of cigar smokers surveyed said they rotate their cigars on a regular basis. So what is “rotating cigars,” and what are its benefits?
Not unlike the way tobacco leaves are rotated on pilons in the cigar factory during fermentation, rotating cigars is simply moving the cigars in the lower rows of your humidor to the upper rows. There are areas in your humidor that can restrict moisture from getting to your primos. And because air circulation is important during the aging process, rotating cigars allows them to get a more equal distribution of moist air. This is also why it helps to leave some space between your cigars. Trying to pack them in tightly like they are in their factory cigar boxes can be detrimental to their survival. There’s no specific method to rotating cigars, as long as you’re able to shift the majority of the sticks from point A to point B.
Here’s how I do it: About every 6-8 weeks, I bring the humidor out to a table where I have plenty of room to spread out. Because I’m kind of a neatnik, I lay the cigars out by row on either paper towels or wax paper. The latter is better because wax paper won’t leave any lint on the cigars. Noting which cigars were taken from the top row, I begin placing them back in the humidor. Sometimes I replace them by size, but mixing them up can also help create more air flow around the cigars.
One hitch is, if you happen to have a high-capacity humidor that’s well-stocked, it can take a while before you get through all of them. So, sometimes I enlist the help of my younger son, and he actually enjoys it because he
says they remind him of Lincoln Logs. The other hitch is, if you remove the cellos from your cigars, you have to be careful. I’ve damaged several good sticks during the process over the years, so now I keep the cellos on my most expensive cigars.
Although it’s still a good idea to rotate your cigars on a regular basis, if you can get the air circulating in your humidor 24/7 you may not have to rotate them as often. Some cigar smokers actually add small computer fans to their humidors to help circulate the air. However, Cigar Oasis, a company that makes electronic humidifiers, includes fans in all of their models.
Many aspects of enjoying premium cigars have to do with patience, and though rotating your cigars may be a bit time-consuming, as the saying goes, “The end justifies the means.”
Your cigars are some of your most prized possessions. So if you plan on traveling with them, make sure you have a good cigar travel case. Cigar travel cases basically need to do two things: 1) protect your cigars, and 2) keep them fresh. I know I always want to have a few premium cigars with me when I travel, so if you feel the same this will make sure you’re prepared to herf wherever the road takes you.
The most commonly used travel case is the telescoping pocket “finger” case. Usually made of fine leather, finger cigar cases have slots, or “fingers,” for holding your cigars and are ideal for short trips. Finger cases are designed to expand, or “telescope,” to adjust to your cigars’ length, and they can hold anywhere from 2 to 10 cigars. When buying a leather finger case, make sure it is wide enough to hold cigars in the ring gauge that you smoke most often.
For longer trips, a humidor travel case is preferred. They also come in a wide array of sizes and styles, from pocket-sized to briefcase models, and include a humidifier to ensure your cigars stay fresh during your trip. Depending on the type of travel case you choose, your cigars may rest on a foam bed, or the case may have a Spanish cedar lining. Some excellent examples of humidor travel cases are the Csonka Valet travel humidor, which holds up to 14 cigars and includes a hygrometer, or for the ultimate in protection, the X-treme cigar travel cases are both air and water tight.
Cigar travel cases also make great gifts for your cigar-loving buddies. However, if you plan on buying one for yourself, make sure you get a case that’s best suited for your cigars and your personal travel needs.
OPERATOR: Hello, Hygrometer Hotline. How may I help you?
OPERATOR: Was it an analog hygrometer, sir?
CALLER: Yes. The final reading was 65 percent. I turned the calibration screw until it pointed to 75%. Somehow though, the needle keeps jumping back down below the reading I had after the first test. I’ve done this several times already, and I’m starting to get a little annoyed.
OPERATOR: I can understand that sir.
CALLER: I thought about returning the humidor, but I don’t know if it’s worth it. I was also thinking maybe I should just buy a digital hygrometer since they’re supposed to be more accurate anyway. What do you suggest? My cigars are still waiting to move into their new home.
OPERATOR: First of all, most of the analog hygrometers that come with many humidors are cheapos. You did the right thing by calibrating it, and it sounds like you did it right. I’ve also had some models “jump” in the wrong direction when turning the calibration screw. Sometimes, by the time you get the screwdriver in the back and turn the screw, the RH level has changed anyway. They’re hardly ever 100% accurate. It’s funny how some cigar smokers insist on having the hygrometer read perfectly. All I can add to that is, ain’t gonna happen.
CALLER: What about the digital models?
OPERATOR: They are much more accurate overall, but even they don’t always tell the truth.
CALLER: Is it true that there are digital hygrometers that can be calibrated?
a screw on the back of an analog model to the correct number. All they do is reset themselves to 75%, which is what your analog unit would have read after the salt test, had it been accurate from the start.
CALLER: So what good is that?
OPERATOR: Well, one advantage to having a digital hygrometer is that it will also display the temperature, which also plays a big part in the health of your cigars. There’s a relationship between temperature and humidity you need to be aware of.
CALLER: And that is?
OPERATOR: Ideally, you want the temperature to range between 65 and 70 degrees, while keeping the RH, or relative humidity, at about 67% average. Since cigars are hydroscopic, meaning they absorb and discharge moisture, you want to keep a nice ebb-and-flow going so that the moisture content in the humidor stays as balanced as possible.
CALLER: Then what do you recommend I do?
OPERATOR: I would buy a self-calibrating digital model, but I would add one other item to your order -a Boveda Calibration Kit.
CALLER: What’s that?
OPERATOR: It’s a better way to calibrate hygrometers and a lot cleaner, too. Basically, it’s an airtight pouch with a small Boveda humidity pack that puts out 75.5% relative humidity, and can be used for analog and digital hygrometers. When your order arrives, follow the instructions and note the final reading on your hygrometer. If it’s off by a lot, you can reset the digital model and try again to see if it’s more accurate on the second go-round. At that point, however, whatever the unit reads is what it is. If it reads somewhere around 72%, that’s not bad. Then you know that the unit is off by three. Make a note of it, put your cigars in their new home and forget about it. The next time you take a reading, if the hygrometer reads 66%, then you’ll know it’s really 63% and maybe you need to recharge your humidifier.
CALLER: Sounds simple enough.
OPERATOR: It is. You can make yourself crazy trying to make a hygrometer to meet the ideal settings. It’s not worth it. Besides, once you’ve become more experienced at smoking cigars, you’ll know almost immediately if a cigar is properly humidified or not. A series of gentle pinches along the length of several of your cigars will often tell you more about the conditions in your humidor than the hygrometer. Whether you have an analog or digital hygrometer really doesn’t make a whole lot of difference in the big scheme of things.
OPERATOR: You’re welcome. Have a nice day.
You’ve been smoking cigars on a regular basis for a while now and it’s become a passion. Time to buy a humidor for your cigars. Like most cigar accessories, cigar humidors run from “el cheapo” to “el rico.” Fortunately, you don’t have to spend a fortune to get a good, reliable box. Regardless of your budget, there are certain “appointments” your humidor should come with to ensure that your cigars will stay fresh and age properly over time.
First, you want to make sure that the cigar humidor you buy will accommodate the number of cigars you plan to keep on-hand. Someone once told me, the one thing boat owners have in common is, they’re always looking for a bigger boat. The same can be said for cigar humidors. All too often cigar smokers will buy a humidor only to find out several months later that they need another humidor because their cigar collection is growing faster than they can smoke. If you think you need a 50-cigar humidor, it may be to your advantage to invest in a 75 or 100 ct. humidor. Moreover, you can often find cigar humidors on sale and pick up a 100 cigar box for less than a 75 ct. box. Don’t let your budget limit you to a humidor that will only get you so far, only to find out that if you had gone the distance in the first place, you wouldn’t be spending more money a lot sooner than you expected. Finally, you don’t want to have to squeeze all your cigars into a cramped space. Cigars need air flow to age properly, too.
Veneer vs. Solid wood
Most modestly-priced humidors use wood veneer rather than solid wood. Solid wood is more aesthetic, but you will pay more, and many of the better veneered models are virtually indistinguishable from the solid wood models.
Check the seal
A well-made humidor should have tight seal. Obviously, this is not easy to do if you’re ordering a humidor online. One of the “traditional” methods for checking the seal is to close the lid, take a fresh, crisp bill (any denomination) and try to slide the bill in the space between the lid and the base of the humidor. If you have trouble trying to get the bill between the crack, the seal is excellent.
Another way to check the integrity of the seal is to raise the lid of the humidor about 3 inches and let it drop. You should hear a crisp “whoosh” sound. That’s the sound of the air escaping. If the lid drops like a barbell, chances are there may be some leakage. Realistically speaking, no humidor is going to be air-tight. At the very least, you want a seal that’s tight. Don’t forget that wood expands and contracts, too.
Brass hardware is also important for long life, and with regard to the hinges, quadrant hinges, which have arcs that connect the top and bottom of the hinge. The hinges ride on these arcs which keep the lid stable and prevent the hinges from loosening over time. The other preferable form of hinge is a “piano” or “continuous hinge.” This type of hinge runs along the entire length of the back of the base rather than the more common “butterfly” type hinges that you would find on a cabinet, for example.
Deck the halls with bows of cedar
Most cigar humidors are lined with Spanish cedar. It’s a wonderfully fragrant wood that lends a nice character to cigars, and should not be confused with the cedar used for souvenirs or for lining your closet. Spanish cedar also resists cracking as the wood expands and contracts over time.
Some humidors have a Spanish cedar plank covering the floor of the humidor with Spanish cedar panels that line the walls. Some humidors have panels that are removable and extend above the top of the base. In other words, when the lid closes, it closes over the panels. Other humidor models have panels that rest flush with the top of the base with extended panels in the lid section which close inside the base. One isn’t any better than the other, but you should be able to remove the panels for maintenance purposes.
Finally, the thicker the walls, the better the insulation, and the more stable your cigars will be in the long run.
Most humidors today come with a humidifier and a hygrometer, but don’t assume the humidification system is going to do the job just because it came with the humidor. The better manufactures generally include the right size humidifier, but sometimes they don’t. If you’ve done everything right in terms of setting up your humidor (seasoning it),
and your cigars tend to be dry, chances are the humidifier is not up to snuff.
Green “oasis” foam humidifiers will do the job, but over time can get flaky or clogged from using too much 50/50 solution. The way to go these days is with the crystal-based humidifiers. They’re much more reliable, last longer, are easier to maintain and absorb up to four times more the amount of distilled water (or solution) than the foam models. The Boveda pack system is also a smart and reliable way to go, but you have to replace the packs about every three months. There are some cigar smokers who swear by the Boveda method, while others would rather save the room for more cigars.
Some humidors still come with analog hygrometers, but digital hygrometers are considered more reliable and accurate. Until recently, you couldn’t calibrate a digital hygrometer, but that problem’s been solved with some of the newer digital hygrometers which have a calibration button. The other advantage to having a digital model is it also gives you a temperature reading.
Other things to look for when buying a new cigar humidor are dividers for separating your cigars, and top trays, which allow you to stack cigars above the cigars in the base section. Even though many humidors come with dividers and top trays, some cigar smokers opt out of using them, as they can take up valuable space. That’s a call you have to make.
Now that you know everything you need to know before purchasing a new cigar humidor, the key things to keep in mind are size, seal, wall thickness and overall integrity of the box. Remember, just like shopping for cigars, as long as you know what to look for, you can find a good humidor in most any size that will do the job at an affordable price. If your decision comes down to spending a little more for a better-made box, go for it – your cigars are worth it.