5 Things You Need to Know About Humidors
by Jonathan Detore
Every time we see a pirate movie we see one thing all over the place: treasure chests. Each is half buried in sand and cracked open just a tad to get a glimpse of all the gold, pearl necklaces, and other jewels that were pillaged from some conquered enemy. Oh what I would give to find one; but as it turns out, I already have one of them. Heck, we all do. It’s called the humidor, and it stores some of our most valued treasures.
Cigars are a pretty hefty investment no matter how you cut it. From $20 bundles to $300 boxes, if you have a 100 count humidor, you’re looking at a minimum of a few hundred bucks easily when you’re fully stocked. I don’t know about you – but to me, that’s a good amount of dough. But alas, I love my cigars, and to properly save my investment from drying up and going bad, I have a pretty decent humidor that keeps all my tiny bars of brown gold safe. And if you care about cigars, you need to get yourself educated about humidors.
The Beginning of Humidors
Humidors have been around for hundreds of years now, but really hadn’t caught on until the early 1800s when they were made with solid wood that was nailed together and featured a hinge. These, obviously, were called Nailed Wood Humidors (NW for short), and were some of the most basic humidors available. However, this variety is still prevalent today with some of the higher end offerings making NW humidors. As people with wealth gained affection towards stogies, humidors became more decorative and included extra features such as clasps, locks, and more intricately designed hinges.
Most of these however had one common flaw: they were not made with Spanish Cedar. We’ll get into why that’s important later, but let’s just say these boxes were more apt to hold knickknacks and crayons rather than the high end premiums of today. There were even tin novelty humidors that were highly intricate, yet had no other purpose other than allowing the owner to brag to his friends by saying “Hey, check out my ballin’ humidor. It’s pretty dope.” Yet the fact remains that humidors have had a long history of keeping cigars safe from simply laying them on a table to pick up whenever someone wanted a smoke. The need to keep cigars protected was prevalent and gave birth to a humidor boom of sorts which we can credit for the modern day humidors of today.
Spanish Cedar is King
As I referenced above, Spanish Cedar is crucial to making a proper humidor. It is this wood that 99.9% of all humidors are made of for many reasons. The first is its pleasant aroma. This scent is a common flavor and aroma note in the cigars we smoke, and manufacturers use this wood to age and even package cigars with before shipping them off. Anyone who’s ever bought an Arturo Fuente will tell you they had to take off a cedar sleeve before lighting up. This is simply to help infuse the cigar with Cedar to make your smoke smoother and more flavorful. Woods such as American Cedar or Birch would have a tendency to overpower your cigar’s natural flavors by infusing them with the aroma from other highly fragrant woods.
Spanish Cedar is also great at retaining humidity and expelling humidity as needed. We’ve all seen pictures of decks and porches made by rookie DIYers with non-pressure treated woods that have warped due to high levels of humidity. This is because once harder and less porous woods take in water and the temperature starts changing, the waters can’t properly escape or move around the pine, mahogany, or other woods used, causing them to bend like contortionists. Spanish Cedar hardly ever succumbs to such extreme bending and warping due to its natural characteristic of absorbing and releasing humidity as needed through its porous channels. It just so happens, by properly seasoning your humidor, we are able to regulate humidity to, give or take, anywhere between 65% – 75%, which is perfect for keeping cigars fresh and ready to smoke.
Finally, Spanish Cedar helps repel cigar beetles. These little bastards are all over tobacco fields and eat up the plant like it’s the first meal they’ve seen after fasting 40 days for Ramadan. Typically these beetles will lay their eggs on tobacco plants which will hatch only when the relative humidity levels reach around 75% and when temperatures get to around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Once again, Spanish Cedar comes in to save the day. By being so porous, this seemingly magical wood does not absorb heat like any other which keeps your cigars relatively cool. By keeping your cigars cool, it will also keep any rogue eggs that may be rolled into your cigar from hatching to prevent these little blitzkrieging sons of bitches from hatching.
Yes, boys and girls, the quality of your humidor does in fact matter. The best bang for your buck would most likely be one of those solid wood Nailed Wood humidors I referenced above, but to cut costs, a lot of manufacturers will use other woods for the shell of your humidor and insert Spanish Cedar sleeves to line your box. This has been common practice for a while, and for the most part, it works wonders. But depending on what materials are used, the foreign wood can run into a few problems such as warping. As I have said, Spanish Cedar rarely buckles due to high humidity, but if you do enjoy a higher humidity level, the moisture can be released into the adjoining wood which can warp and destroy your humidor. If a thicker wood is used (think oak), it can trap heat and raise the overall temperature of your humidor which can lead to cigar beetle eggs hatching. We’ve even seen particle wood being used which can break apart easily after repeated use, forcing you to buy another humidor which could end up being more costly in the long run than simply buying a more expensive/higher quality humidor. So really, is it worth picking up a humidor made properly for over $100? Chances are yes.
Not All Humidors Are Made of Wood
Humidor makers have greatly honed their skill at properly making humidors for every walk of life, and one of those lifestyles is the smoker on the go. To meet this group of people’s needs, there are a wide variety of high quality travel humidors available that are not made of wood. Instead, these ingenious cigar savers are made of highly durable plastics lined with porous foam to help trap humidity and keep your cigars safe. Many even include small humidifiers utilizing cigar beads to ensure your cigars stay in an environment around 70% humidity for extended periods of time, and offer an air seal knob in order to trap as much humidity as possible and keep it from leaking out.
Don’t Tap Your Humidor
Using tap water is the worst possible thing to add to your humidor outside of dumping Mountain Dew in it. Tap water has a plethora of germs, bacteria, and other contaminants which we all drink when we pour ourselves a glass of water. Of course, all these things aren’t bad for us, but they’re a death sentence for your humidor. Again, because your humidor is so porous due to the Spanish Cedar, these contaminants and single cell whosawhatsis snuggle into these pores. Once inside, they feed off the humidity and start to multiply and grow. Anyone with a damp basement will tell you this is the start of an epic mold problem, and mold in your humidor will most certainly mean mold on your cigar collection. Of course there are ways to get rid of the mold, but chances are the mold is so deeply engrained in the wood, it’s pretty much a lost cause. So word to the wise: use distilled water or a high grade propylene glycol solution to prevent mold growth. For extra deterrence, don’t use foam humidifiers and instead opt for crystal humidifiers. Foam can trap the water and any rogue contaminants while crystals expel them, causing them to die a miserable microscopic death.
So there you have it! 5 things you need to know about humidors. Now that you’re an expert on humidors, you can give lectures to all your newbie cigar smoking friends. If it were me, I would charge $5 a lecture so you can earn extra cashola to get more cigars or even higher end cigars. But that’s just me. Comment below on any other interesting facts or tips for us all to enjoy, and make sure you spread the good word on the treasure chest we call cigars.