2017 CA Report: Desktop Humidor Shootout
Desktop Humidor Shootout: 5 of the Best Styles Reviewed
PLUS: Humidor Hacks & Cigar Storage Tips
By John Pullo
Considering a new desktop humidor for your cigar stash? Treat your cigars right and think it through: “It’s not just a house, it’s a home.”
Actually, when it comes to storing cigars it’s more of an ecosystem: you have a balance among a source of moisture (like a cigar humidifier), the residents who thrive from it (the cigars), and an environment in which it’s all regulated and contained to keep that balance. Throw one of these things off kilter, and the cigars living inside don’t fare as well. That’s where a good desktop humidor comes into play.
No matter how nice it looks, a humidor is only as good as its seal. You’re not looking to get an airtight, hermetic seal between the lid and the body of the humidor…closing off a moist environment completely could promote mold growth (and that, of course, is bad). Wood is a porous material that expands and contracts, so some air will come and go – that’s why you’ll still need to recharge your humidifier, or even re-season your humidor from time to time. The evidence of a good seal is a whoosh-type sound when you open and close the humidor lid. The Spanish cedar used to line the inside of the box has swelled with moisture, and the pieces fit together neatly and tightly to keep humidity from leaking out of your humidor. So if you’re buying a desktop humidor, remember – a good seal is key.
A word about humidor capacity…how many cigars actually fit inside is always a sticky question, as the numbers that get discussed are more suggestion than reality – especially if you like the suggestion of corona-sized cigars, which seem to be the measure used when a humidor maker says “fits 50 cigars.” Obviously, if you like big n’ chunky 60-ring smokes, you’ll fit fewer of them inside your new desktop humidor; you’ll fit more lanceros in that box than you will robustos, too. So consider that “holds up to” number a relative measure.
You’re not one to show off your cigar collection, you just appreciate the ease and convenience of being able to keep an eye on your stash at any given time. Who are we to judge? If you’re looking to compare glass top humidors, I'll show you a few that are worth a look - but first, I wanted to pass along this tip on glass top humi maintenance that's good to keep in your back pocket...
You might think that nicer humidors make for bigger hassles. Well, glass top humidor care isn’t sciency, and there is a low-tech (and low-budget) solution to making sure your cigars stay fresh in one of these showcase boxes: clear silicone sealant. Like caulk, but no-odor and has an easy water cleanup. Here’s why it works…glass top humidors actually have two gaps that need to be tight. So while you keep a watchful eye on the main seal between the lid and the body, take notice of the seal between the glass in the lid and the lid itself – it’s often the culprit for humidity leaks. If you’re losing humidity, test the glass lid’s seal with clear tape; if the RH holds once the tape is applied, run a bead of silicone where the wood and glass meet on the outside of the humidor and shore it up for good – just like you’re glazing a window.
Art Deco Beveled Glass Top Humidor
You want the luxury of a glass top humi, but you don’t want to keep a whole heap of cigars on hand? No problem – this Deco-inspired humidor has a very refined, hi-gloss Mahogany look, and holds in and around 30 cigars.
Gangway Porthole Humidor
While the glass top on this desktop humidor doesn’t give you a full view of your cigars, it is all wood construction – not a veneer. Personally, I love exotic woods like bubinga – very exotic, which fits the nautical theme here; many luxury yachts use high-end woods like Sapele, Anigre, ebony, teak and bubinga for the beautiful finish. Your view inside may be limited, but you can take RH readings from the outward-facing hygrometer; holds 50 cigars.
Bally Glass Top Humidor
Of all the glass top picks, this one lands as an absolute steal…this mahogany veneered version of the Bally holds 100 or so cigars under lock and key, which you can organize thanks to a top tray. You can monitor RH via the BIG dial hygrometer on the outside of the humi.
Newport White Oak Glass Top Humidor
Technically, the Newport is a medium sized humidor, holding about 50 cigars depending on the size you prefer. As with all of these top quality desktop humidors, the interior is lined with Spanish cedar; the glass top is beveled, and a clasp is added security to help you keep the seal tight. But two nice little extras: the finish is a modest white oak (as opposed to the dark and heavy finishes on most humidors, and your humi monitoring is made easy with an outward-facing hygrometer.
While it’s not the easiest to find a place for in your living room, one of the big benefits of a countertop humidor is that the air is relatively unobstructed inside – meaning the humidified air can move around inside pretty well. And as long as your cigars aren’t packed in there like sardines inside a tin can, few of your cigars will miss out on moisture – meaning an evenly humidified stash. If you’re thinking of moving to a countertop humidor, read this tip - and consider the following options...
Some bars, clubs and restaurants like to offer their customers a small selection of premiums to enjoy after dinner; some gas stations have also upped their cigar game, with a prominent and eye-catching display of cigars in a countertop humi like one of these. If you’re putting your collection on display for all the world to see as well, don’t make the common countertop humidor mistake many of these other folks make: leaving the humidor in the sun. Having glass on all sides allows for the conduction of a massive amount of heat, throwing the internal conditions of your humidor completely out of whack. We’re all for showing off your collection – but be sure your stash is stashed in a shaded (i.e., cooler) space, or out of as much direct sunlight for as long as possible.
Bar Top Glass Display Humidor
A favorite of beer pubs that allow smoking, and a standard piece on the countertop of a zillion golf course clubhouses across the country. While they load theirs up with Ashton Classic Churchills and Macanudo Portofinos (ahh, the country club staples), you’re free to load yours up as you see fit. A cherry wood veneer trimmed with brass hardware, this humidor is technically a glass top – so lift the lid and you’re ready to attack your stash. Holds 100ish.
Countertop Display 75 Humidor
No drawers, no digging! Lay out your entire haul of cigars on a couple of shelves, and keep the door shut tight on them with the built-in lock. This countertop humidor is rated to hold about 75 cigars, maybe more depending on how you stack them. Having glass panels on all 4 sides, like this does, would make it easy to eyeball a hygrometer in there on one of the shelves - but this one has space for the gauge to nestle right into the door.
Countertop Display 150 Humidor
A little bit of a curve ball, here: rather than opening the front of the humidor cabinet style, you access up to 150 cigars through the side. Made of a mahogany veneer, there is glass on all 4 sides meaning you can always eye-spy the entire collection; monitor the relative humidity with a built-in hygro in front. I’ve seen humidors like these at restaurants that like to make available 2 or 3 different “house” cigar brands to match with an after dinner cocktail, so why not do the same for your home bar?
New to cigars? Or maybe you only keep a few favorite smokes on hand for when the time is right to enjoy a cigar – a small desktop humidor should fit the bill. Remember, it’s harder to keep a few cigars at optimal condition in a humidor made to hold many more, so think about going small. Soak in this cigar humidification tip, then review these three small desktop humidor picks...
It’s easy to overhumidify a small desktop humidor; and in turn, your cigars explode when you smoke them because they’re too moist on the inside. So now you need to drop the RH inside the box, and this easy fixit will do it…many boxes of cigars come with a small block of wood inside, and it’s often used as a spacer to keep the sticks from moving around. They’re cut from cedar (like your humidor), meaning that wood block will impart some extra seasoning and freshness to the cigars. Use that wood to your advantage: drop 2 or 3 blocks into your humidor for a few days, and let them soak up some of that moisture. Then, take them out – and see if that doesn’t drop your RH a few more points in the right direction.
The ultimate starter humidor. The Capri keeps under 30 smokes (let’s say 20 toros or so) in good form; I took the number down, as it’s important to remember that you’ll have to make some space for the humidifier inside. Yeah, it’s a no frills wood veneer desktop humidor – but more importantly, it’s time to get your cigars out of the ziplock bag. No hygro is included, so you’ll need one – might as well pick up a crystal humidifier while you’re at it, too.
Adorini Torino Humidor
You smoke only occasionally; and when you do, it’s a very special occasion. And you like to keep really good cigars on hand. Treat them to a luxury home: this Adorini goes for a monolith look, in one black solid wood piece - the hygrometer is on the inside of this 25-count desktop humidor. Very sharp, very modern. Very pricey – but again, you get what you pay for.
Toulouse Birdseye Humidor
As I mentioned before, I love exotic woodgrains like burls and figured woods - but birdseye maple I love more than anything else. This one has some very nice deco-looking inlays, and you can hold about a box’ worth of cigars inside. There’s more than meets the eye here, as well: in addition to being Spanish cedar lined, the hygrometer is in there, too.
Your fascination with the premium cigar hobby is growing; so is your stash, judging by the number of cigars that have piqued your interest lately. If you need more space, consider stepping up to a medium sized desktop humidor, like one of the five humis below. But first, a knowledge drop...
Because they can accommodate a reasonably sized stash of smokes, medium-sized humidors are pretty forgiving when it comes to keeping the relative humidity stable inside. But as your humidifier needs a recharge, spring for distilled water, and only distilled water. Tap water is rich in minerals, additives and “acceptable levels” of contaminants – all of which can shorten the lifespan, charging ability and effectiveness of your humidifier. And because Spanish cedar is a very porous wood, the walls of your humidor can absorb these contaminants, too – and possibly contribute to a mold problem.
Milano Oak Humidor
What we have here is a straight up, good looking box that’s no frills, but for the locking lid and hygrometer inside. There’s generous cigar storage space in there, holding +/-100 cigars; the top trays make arranging cigars a pretty flexible experience. I went with oak this time around, as sometimes you need some options besides cherry and mahogany. So even though it’s understated, you can still stand out.
Amalfi Antique Humidor
Time to get a little deep on architecture and style. I’d recommend this Amalfi desktop humidor if your interior is any sense of classical, traditional or even colonial revival. A couple of trays offer organization for 75 cigars (plus or minus), with room for the hygrometer inside. The outside is stained a rich, deep walnut, but you can make out the grain of the maple veneer and the burl pattern on top. It’s a gorgeous piece that has your name on it – which you can do, on the engravable plate.
Maiden Voyage Humidor
The nautical look returns – and as we start treading toward the higher end of the cost spectrum, we find this solid wood piece from Quality Importers. Compass markings adorn the top of what looks to be an oak finish, trimmed in nailheads for a quality look and feel. Open the top to find a hygrometer, plus ample storage space for between 50 and 100 cigars.
Diamond Crown Delaware Humidor
Love this piece. Diamond Crown humidors are top notch boxes; if you’re familiar with the cigars of the same name, then you know this already. Painstakingly crafted of solid wood, the Delaware sports a cherry finish and holds about 50 cigars. Pricey? You bet – but you get what you pay for…and in this case, it’s a top-of–the-line desktop humidor.
Sao Paolo Humidor
Where some of the small desktop humis may have made for good “starter” boxes, the Sao Paolo is a good first humidor if you’ve been blessed with a sizeable cigar stash (50 or so) right out of the gate. You went cigar shopping with a wild eye, now you need something to contain your buying spree. This will do it – a mahogany veneer features an inlay-style design on top, and plenty of room to keep cigars for you, and some for your friends.
Bigger and better “cigar moments” call for having more and varied cigar options on hand. If you want to keep all those cigars fresh, it’s time to upgrade to a large desktop humidor, which should hold at least 50 of your finest cigars. Want some ideas? Have a look at these five, after this tip...
How many cigars do you have in your humidor? Probably not as many as you’d like. But it matters: large humidors like these have room for 100 cigars or more, and that kind of capacity matters when it comes to keeping those cigars fresh – the cigars hold moisture and help prop up RH at a consistent level, and that all helps to prolong your humidifiers’ effectiveness. But what to do if you only have a dozen cigars in your huge humidor? Trick your humidifier into thinking your humidor is smaller than it actually is, with bubble wrap. Filling the dead space helps to cut down on how much air space your humidifier has to handle, and how hard it has to work – all to the benefit of your cigars. The larger bubble stuff works best, by the way; watch how it's done here.
Old World Humidor
Looking for something in a desktop humidor that’s a little more stately than a wood finish? The Old World kicks it 19th century with a distressed-looking map under a walnut finish – and a hiding place for about 100 cigars. Nice thick Spanish cedar lines the inside, with good storage options afforded to you by the top tray – that’s typically where I keep my smaller smokes, like the 3” and 4” shorties. Lock and key included, as is the hygrometer on the inside.
Craftsman’s Bench Taj Mahal Humidor
Very understated, the box doesn’t exactly convey the opulence of the Taj you know from geography books. But what they do share is solid construction, meaning this desktop humidor will probably last you centuries, if you take care of it. Craftsman’s Bench delivers yet again on the quality front, lining the 100+ capacity box with aromatic Spanish cedar and a hygrometer inside. The outside is an exotic Brazilwood veneer trimmed neatly with black edges. And again, a tray offers some storage flexibility. What’s obvious: some heft.
The bottom 2 drawers offer some unhumidified pull-out storage space for accessories, giving you a nice all-in-one location for your smoking stuff to live. Burlwood veneer is matched with brass trimming on faux drawer fronts (you lift the lid to access your cigars), but it’s a vision of true beauty on the inside: room for as many as 300 cigars. The hygrometer is mounted on the inside, and your cigars are safe under lock and key.
Rated to hold 100, but as I mentioned before – it depends on how you stack your cigars inside the humidor and what size cigars you’re storing on the top tray, as well as underneath. The big pluses for the Solana are the outward-facing hygrometer, built right into the front of what is a very sturdy box. A felt-lined drawer offers storage for your necessary cigar accessories, and the exterior is treated to a mix of rosewood and bird’s eye veneers trimmed with brass handles. Not that you’ll be lugging it around much.
Foot Locker Humidor
A longtime favorite and a solid performer for those hiding away a big, big stash of smokes. It’s a beast: a couple hundred cigars can call the Foot Locker home, so it’s doubtful you’ll be longing for extra storage space. Matter of fact, you can keep whole boxes of cigars inside; or if you prefer them loose, a variety of trays are included to help you stay organized. Just remember that with any large capacity humidor, the key to keeping your entire stash fresh is to rotate the cigars inside from time to time.
These are just a few desktop humidor selections, in a few categories. Which one is right for you? Start with assessing your smoking tendencies: how often you smoke, how many cigars you like to keep on hand, what size or sizes you prefer – then, find the humidor that suits your personality, or your décor – and be proud knowing you’re giving your cigars a good home to call their own.