Raise your hand if, when you were new to cigars, you thought that cigars in tubes were an indicator that they were something…opulent. Only the well-heeled among us would smoke such a luxurious cigar; a plaything of the prosperous and profitable, the cigar tube only had its smoking place in the mahogany-lined walls of high society.
Later on, I would come to find out, it was just so the cigar’s wrapper didn’t get jerked up while banging around in your pocket.
Live and learn.
Actually, cigar tubes are a little more complicated than that…and so is storing them, keeping them, and what to do with them when they’re empty. But let’s start in the beginning: it was the late 1800s, just about the Golden Age of cigars, when some cigar makers had the bright idea of showing off their biggest and best smokes in glass tubes before packaging them in the usual box or tin. The bonus was that, in a day and age way before Boveda packs and gel jars, those cork-sealed glass cigar tubes gave an added amount of protection and fresh-keeping to those high-end Havanas. Keeping those cigars fresher longer must have made those 19th Century BOTLs equate glass tubes with higher quality – and the idea of them being better (expensive) stuck. After all, cigar makers are still doing it today, aren’t they?
Screw top aluminum tubes would come next, leveraging the idea of quality (along with long-term freshness) to help boost the sales of individual cigars at retail display. Which is ironic, considering screw-top wines were seen as pretty much the opposite in terms of quality; in the beginning, anyway. Aluminum had the benefit of being less breakable and lighter than glass, so the tube – and the cigars – were cheaper, like your grandpappy’s Garcia y Vega cigars. While it was a downer that you couldn’t see the cigar inside, the tradeoff was a tube that wouldn’t shatter.
Many cigars come in tubes to this day: AVO XO and AVO Classic robusto sizes are both available in screw cap tubes. So are selections like the Punch Gusto, Partagas Sabroso, Romeo y Julieta 1875 Rothschild En Tubo, and a ton of others. Even Perdomo put a 6×50 10th Champagne Magnum in a tube. And what’s more, modern technology has upped the cigar game by making sleek tubes that 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 smokes en tubo and includes Prensado, their #1 cigar of the year. But why?
Because we cigar people are a traditional kind of people.
Also, it’s presentation and portability. And the graphics on those high-end tubos sure do look nice:
One of the questions we get asked a lot is whether cigars in metal tubes need to be kept in a humidor. Not to get long-winded about it, but…yes. That seal at the end isn’t 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, you may want to consider leaving them in the tube with the cap off. 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. If you’re going to take it with you, just pop the cap back on and you’re ready to roll. And that’s where portability comes in: cigars in tubes will stay fresher a little longer outside the humidor, and can stand up to knocking around in your pocket, bag or glove box while you’re on the road. That’s also why those thin sheets of cedar are lining the tubes of the Macanudo Portofinos you just threw in your golf bag: not only does it retain a cedary freshness, it keeps your cigar from rubbing against the aluminum. Which would probably make it taste terrible.
While cigar makers are keeping it old school with the cigar tube, there is life left in that tube even after the smoke is long gone. That’s because everybody’s got a life hack. The internets is full of ‘em, from glass bowl iPhone amplifiers to myriad uses for old toilet paper tubes. So in what unconventional ways can we use an all-too conventional cigar accessory? Yes, you can use it as a cheap cigar carrier for when you’re on the run, if you stuff the end with a little cotton to keep the cigar from sliding the length of the tube. And just as some guitarists “warm” their instruments by letting it slowly acclimate to the room inside the case for a half hour, your cigar would appreciate the same – especially when going from the cold outside into a warmer room. 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…
You could also get creative…and make an airplane.
If you have an intense need to keep a secret cache of valuables or a small bank roll, and have a hollow-core closet door…stash tube!
Anyone else want to drop a comment on a good cigar tube hack?