How to Re-Hydrate Stale Cigars

One of the most often asked questions I get is, “Is there anything you can do if your cigars dry out?” Actually, there is, but it also depends on how far gone they are when you discover the problem.

Cracked cigar wrapperIf the cigars are very hard, like kindling wood, then it may be time to move those cigars to the woodshed. However, if there’s even a little bit of moisture left in them, they may be salvageable.
The best way to test this is to gently pinch the cigar at the foot. If it crumbles, you’ve got trouble. Other signs of trouble could be unraveling and cracked wrappers. So how does this happen?

If you don’t have good, consistent humidification in your humidor your cigars will begin to lose their oils, and it’s the oils that give tobaccos their flavor properties. Here’s the rub: By re-humidifying your cigars they will eventually regain their suppleness, but because the oils evaporated during the period in which the cigars were drying-out, its unlikely the flavors will return. IOW, you can usually save stale cigars, but don’t expect them to be as savory as when you first opened the box. Note that this applies to cigars that have been going stale over a period of months, not a few days. Cigars which may have dried-out during your vacation or business trip will probably retain most, if not all of their flavor after re-hydration.

The best advice is to try to prevent this from happening in the first place. I have a lot of faith in the integrity of my humidors, but I check them pretty regularly. If, for some reason I’ve gone more than a week without checking the temperature and RH (relative humidity),
I get a little paranoid, but so far, so good.

Finally, make sure you have the right size humidifier for your humidor and a reliable hygrometer. My theory is, it’s better to have a humidifier that’s a little more than you need. It’s easier to control the humidity that way, too. Make sure you also rotate your cigars from the bottom to top every couple of months to ensure all your cigars are getting the proper air flow and moisture. In a future article, I’ll explain the proper way to re-humidify your cigars, so stay tuned…

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  1. Larry says:

    I began to enjoy cigars when I quit cigarettes, and looked for a smoke with the right combination of flavor, size, aroma, and PRICE. My brother-in-law considers himself a true connoisseur, but he’s a bit full of himself. I tried a few of his over-priced, flavorless, bitter smokes and decided I could do better on my own. At a local shop, I looked for something I liked at a price I could live with. I found JM’s Cigars. I like the Maduro style, in two sizes, Churchill and another, smaller one. The Churchill is my Saturday afternoon smoke, with a cocktail and reading material. The smaller one is for Wednesday at lunch time. One thing I do, though, is flavor them up myself with my own recipe and technique. Make a sachet (flavor packet) similar to a tea bag. I use plain ground coffee, a teaspoonful in a bit of paper towel, secured with a twisty. In a small bowl, combine a teaspoon of bourbon, a bit of extract of vanilla, and a few drops of orange extract. Put the sachet in the bowl to absorb all the liquid, then place the sachet and four cigars, two large and two small, in a sealable plastic bag, let sit for about 24 hours, shake it up a bit, let sit for another 24hrs, then remove the sachet. Let sit for another 24hrs. Give them a good sniff. You’ll notice flavor notes, much like wine. I judge moisture content by gently biting them. A little experimentation works here. Light up and enjoy. The flavor and the smoke itself is smooth, mild and delicious. Works for me.

  2. Gary Korb says:

    Sounds interesting Larry. This could be a “tip” for our weekly newsletter. I’m also curious if you’ve tried any cigars like Solo Cafe, Java, Tatiana Mocha, or Tabak Especial. I think you might enjoy them, and you wouldn’t have to do all that work. On the other hand, if what you describe above is an enjoyable part of the experience for you, so much the better.

  3. Matthew says:

    How do you keep your humidity at 65%-70%? I have a large humidor and when I recharge the humidifiers, the humidity shoots up over to @75%

  4. Gary Korb says:

    Hi Matthew,
    You have to monitor it every few days. Assuming that you’re already doing that, it sounds like your humidifier is too big for your humidor, or your hygrometer is not calibrated. If your cigars feel especially spongy the hygrometer is probably OK. Now, assuming the hygrometer is good, just remove the humidifier. Put it in a baggie and wait until the humidity goes down to around 65%. Once it dips down to 63% place the humidifier back in. If it continues to shoot up to 75% again, remove it again and let it dry out a little. Next time you have to add solution or distilled water (ONLY), start with a tablespoon and work from there until you reach the RH you want. I like 65%.

  5. Gabriel Thorn says:

    We’re currently deployed to Afghanistan and have been able to get a few boxes of Cohiba Behike 52s. The tragedy is that they’re a bit dry, and the pig tails are broken off of them. They’re definitely the real deal; imported from Dubai in the sweet little case with the velvet bag around it. I’m just hoping that there’s some way to return them to some semblance of their former glory. We have a small wooden humidor box with the gel, but I was wondering if you would have any advice on what we can do or order in the somewhat austere environment.

  6. Gary Korb says:

    Hi Gabriel,

    Hi Gabriel. Thank you for your service.
    Sorry to hear that those awesome cigars are drying out on you. Hope I’m not too late, but here’s what I suggest. Take the Behikes and put them in a zip lock bag (in their packaging) with a small piece clean sponge dampened with recharging solution or pure distilled water. Keep the bag open for a little for air flow, and if it fits, put it in the humidor for better insulation. If they are the only cigars you have, instead, put the gel jar in the bag and let them rehydrate for about a week, Check them weekly until they begin to feel supple again. it could take up to a month depending on how dry they are. Good luck, and write me back if you have any other concerns. G~

  7. Gabriel Thorn says:

    Thanks Gary. I just put them in the zip lock bag with the moist paper towel in our little humidor. I’ll check on them later this week. Hopefully they come back to life and I can smoke them with my Team soon. We have some Acid cigars in the humidor right now so the gel is still working for the whole box, but it should still help to restore these cigars.

  8. Gary Korb says:

    Hope you used distilled water. Also, keep the cigars away from the towel at first, if you can. Then begin moving them closer each week. You don’t want to shock them.

  9. Gabriel Thorn says:

    Thanks Gary. I just put them in the zip lock bag with the moist paper towel in our little humidor. I’ll check on them later this week. Hopefully they come back to life and I can smoke them with my Team soon. We have some Acid cigars in the humidor right now so the gel is still working for the whole box, but it should still help to restore these cigars.

  10. Mike says:

    Hi. I have a 100ct humidor. My hygrometer is reading 75% and on the bottom it is reading 68% and my cigars are drying and losing their smell, and sound a little crunchy. I’m very concerned. On the bottom I’m using 3 75% Bovedas and on the top I’m using a humi care gel bar what should I do thanks.

  11. Gary Korb says:

    Hi Mike,
    Those Bovedas are pretty high in RH, but let’s put that aside for now. The reason you are getting 75% at the top could be because moist air rises. Tho I’m not sure why the cigars on bottom are reading that much lower, but 68% is perfectly acceptable, and usually where I try to keep my smokes. I’m wondering if the gel jar is even necessary. Have you tried rotating the drier cigars on the bottom up to the top? In the meantime, it’s not unusual for humidors to have different levels of RH in different spots. I usually remove the top trays, because they have interfered with my cigars getting humidity on the bottom. Maybe it’s that simple. Try it and good luck.