Cigars 101

5 Things You Need to Know About… Cigar Tubes

What are Cigar Tubes Used for?

Updated April 2020

Raise your hand if (like me), when you were new to cigars, you thought that if a cigar came in a tube, it must be a really tippy-top shelf smoke.

“Only the well-heeled would smoke such a luxurious cigar,” I thought. A plaything of the prosperous and profitable, the cigar tube’s place was – clearly – in the mahogany-lined walls of high society.

Later on, come to find out the tube is mostly there just so the cigar wrapper doesn’t get jerked up while banging around in your pocket.

“Presentation is everything,” they say…Still factory sealed!

Live and learn.

Cigar tubes are actually a little more complicated than that. So is storing them, keeping them, and what to do with them when they’re empty. And since then, I’ve learned a few interesting tidbits about those tubes and the cigars that come in them – today, I’ll share the ones I’ve found most interesting.

First, a few basics...

What Cigar Tubes are Made of

Cigar tubes can be made from many things, but the most common are glass, wood, plastic and metal. Of those four, the metal cigar tubes (usually made from aluminum) are the most popular choice among cigar makers. And they come in both screw-top and stopper-top varieties.

What are Tubos Really Used for?

The tubo is two equal parts: protection and presentation. Tubed cigars are ideal for traveling cigar smokers on the go. Because the metal ones will absorb a dent or two, the tubes should be more than enough to stand up to knocking around in your pocket, bag or glove box while you’re on the road.

As for presentation, cigar tubes make for great marketing. Painted, printed, whatever – the graphics on those high-end tubos sure do catch the eye:

Modern design has upped the cigar game, too. Some brands now slip their cigars into sleek tubes that look (and function) more like a fine fountain pen, as is the case with the Montecristo White Court, the La Flor Dominicana Oro Tubo #6 and this Alec Bradley cigar collection, which offers 5 Toros en tubo and includes Prensado, their #1 cigar of the year.

Here are five more things you need to know…

5 things about cigar tubes what are cigar tubes used for when first cigar tubes were used

Let’s start in the beginning…it was the late 1800s, just about the Golden Age of cigars, when some cigar makers put their finest smokes in visually appealing glass tubes before packaging them in the box or tin. Turns out, these tubos were more than eye candy: the cork-sealed glass cigar tubes gave an added amount of protection and fresh-keeping to those high-end Havanas. And keeping those cigars fresher, longer, likely made our 19th Century BOTLs connect glass tubes with higher quality. The idea of those cigars being “better” (and thus more expensive) stuck. After all, cigar makers are still doing it today, aren’t they?

Screw–top aluminum tubes would come next, thanks to H. Upmann cigars – Jared did a pretty deep dive on that bit of tubo cigar history here. Leveraging the idea of quality (along with long-term freshness), the goal was to boost the sales of individual cigars at retail display. Aluminum had the benefit of being less breakable and lighter than glass; so while you couldn’t see the cigar inside the metal tube, the tradeoff was a tube that wouldn’t shatter – and a cigar that was a little cheaper than its glass-encased competitors.

5 things about cigar tubes what are cigar tubes used for most popular size cigars

Actually, any cigar can go into a tube…it’s just that the people who make the cigars tend to choose certain sizes. There are unique size tubos for Cuban cigars, and they do have small size cigars in tubos in Cuba.

But for US consumption, it’s mainly the standard Robusto and Toro – and in some cases, Churchill. (There will be occasional exceptions.)

More than anything, it has to do with the popularity of these sizes. Plus, most cigar makers will put only their best-selling vitolas in tubos. AVO XO and AVO Classic Robusto sizes are both available in screw cap tubes. So are fan favorites like Punch Gusto, Partagas Black Label Maximo, Romeo y Julieta 1875 Clemenceau, and a ton of others. Perdomo put the 6” × 50 Champagne Magnum in a tube – that pretty much says it all.

5 things about cigar tubes what are cigar tubes used for square cigar tubes

When it comes to box-pressed cigars, it is – literally – the square peg in a round hole. Only smaller box-pressed cigars would fit in a round tubo. Until recently, anyway.

Square tubes have always been a rare sight in the humidor – but Padron took them mainstream, putting select sizes of their 1964 Anniversary cigars in square tubes: the Presidente (6×50) and Soberano (5×52) in both Natural and Maduro wrappers. As Jorge Padron told Cigar Journal magazine in 2017, “It’s something that we haven’t had in our portfolio and since the cigars are box pressed, we thought it would be nice to have square shaped tubes.”

And while Padron gets the credit for making the square cigar tube mainstream, cigar writer and reviewer Barry Stein reminded me that CAO Cigars actually did it first. Their cigar was a limited edition smoke that came in a square tube back in 2002. Davidoff and AVO Cigars now have square tubo selections as well.

5 things about cigar tubes what are cigar tubes used for do cigars in tubes need to go in a humidor

One of the questions we get asked a lot is, “Do cigars in metal tubes need to be kept in a humidor?”

Short answer: Yes.

Long-winded answer: while a tube will help keep a cigar fresh, you really can’t trust the seal at the end of the tube to be 100% airtight. And there’s nothing in the tube that’s actively humidifying the cigar – so into the humidor they go. Once they’re in there, however, consider leaving the cigar in the tube with the cap off. Tubes don’t breathe like cello does…so if there’s any excess moisture in the cigar, you run the risk of developing mold. Now, with the cap off, properly humidified air can still get to the cigar – but the wrapper leaf won’t get damaged next time you go rooting around in there, looking for a smoke. Going to take the cigar on the go with you? Just pop the cap back on and you’re ready to roll.

10 Under 10: Top tubo cigars under 10 dollars cigars in tubes - how to store tubo cigars in your humidor

If you’re worried about losing the cap to the tube, Davidoff has thought of this too. That’s why the top and bottom of their cigar tube twists in opposite directions, revealing vent slots – they prevent excess moisture buildup when you put the cigar in your humidor.

Meanwhile, cigars in tubes will stay fresher a little longer outside the humidor. That’s (partly) why there’s a thin sheet of cedar lining the inside of the Macanudo Portofino tubes you throw in your golf bag: it helps your cigar retain some moisture, and that cedary freshness. The cedar also keeps your cigar from rubbing against the aluminum inside. Which would probably make it taste terrible.

5 things about cigar tubes what are cigar tubes used for recycle reuse empty cigar tubes

Tinkerers, rejoice: there is plenty of life left in that tube after the smoke is long gone. Everybody’s got a life hack – the internet is full of ‘em. So in what unconventional ways can we reuse a conventional cigar accessory?

First and foremost, it’s a cheap cigar carrier for when you’re on the run. For extra protection while traveling, stuff the end with a little bit of cotton to keep the cigar from sliding the length of the tube.

A tube is also a great “warmer.” Guitarists and other musicians do this, “warming” their instrument inside its case, letting it slowly acclimate to the room’s temperature. That’s a good practice for cigars, too – and may help prevent burn issues or wrappers cracking from sudden expansion or contraction. When you take a cigar from your humidor to a hotter or colder location, try giving the cigar some time to adjust to your new environment. Leave it in the tube for a little extra time. It’s worth it.

Here’s another one…I keep a tube filled with Advil in my work bag.

Don’t want to spring for an over-the-counter humidifying element for your humidor? Make one:

cigar tube humidifier
It ain’t the prettiest thing, but a gold star for you if you can recycle your cigar tube into something that promotes the health and well-being of your other cigars. Click the picture for the how-to.

You could also get creative like this guy, and make an airplane:

airplane cigar tube
This started as a project to make a Christmas ornament…click the pic for the Instructable.

Do you have an intense need to keep a secret cache of valuables or a small bank roll? And do you have a hollow-core closet door? Then a stash tube is the way to go:

cigar tube stash tube
Go full secret agent and hide your valuables. Click the pic for the how-to.

Any other tube uses you’d like to add? Comment below!