Cigar Storage & Keeping
‘What is the best way to store my cigars?’ This is the question, more than any other, cigar merchants and writers ask all around the world.
My first response is always to ask ‘Do you need to store your cigars at home?’ This may sound like a silly question but your cigar merchant will always keep cigars better than you can; he has the technology, the temperament and the time required to serve your cigars in top condition. For many years I never bought my own humidor; I visited a different cigar shop each day and enjoyed sampling perfectly stored, perfectly aged cigars all the time. This practice also allowed me to try many different sizes, strengths and brands of cigar with no worries of how best to look after them. Although I thoroughly recommend this as a way to pass one’s day, I am aware that many readers will have other things to do with their day – some of you may even have to go to work!
When designing your cigar storage strategy you will need to consider whether you are storing cigars for long-term maturation or short-term consumption. Both of these options will involve investing in a humidification device of some kind. These humidifiers can take many forms, from simple sponges soaked in distilled water right up to and including very sophisticated electronic machines that cost hundreds of pounds. All of these various systems will need to be monitored, refilled and calibrated at regular intervals – this is not an undertaking for those short of time and self discipline!
The most common humidifiers are contained within desk-top humidors and take the form of an absorbent sponge set within a plastic or metal shell with a ventilation grid to allow the moist sponge to humidify the cigars. When selecting one of these humidors there are only three things that matter:
1. The humidor should be the correct size and shape to store all your favourite cigars (a 50 size humidor will be able to house 50 coronas, but not 50 double coronas).
2. The humidifier inside should be of sufficient size and quality to ensure that your cigars stay at the correct level of humidity for up to one month without refilling.
3. The decoration of the humidor is to your own taste (remember – a highly inlaid humidor will look great standing on a piece of antique furniture, but will not work any better than a cheap Perspex model).
,BR> The lining of the best humidors is a cured Spanish cedar wood due to its ability to absorb and store moisture. Over the years this feature has become rarer, often because it is expensive and needs to be cured in an open-air barn for up to ten years. Manufacturers are now resorting to the use of mahogany and other woods in order to line their humidors; this is because new cedar tends to weep with a sticky sap if not aged for long enough. Although having an absorbent lining in one’s humidor is preferable, many models including the Perspex variety have no lining. As a result the moist air evaporates faster and the owner has to fill the humidifier more regularly.
Some humidors are also fitted with a built-in hygrometer to measure the amount of humidity in the humidor. These can be of an excellent quality, but can also be utterly useless – you tend to get what you pay for, so a very cheap humidor is unlikely to have a state-of-the-art hygrometer!
Now you have chosen your humidor you will need to set it up correctly. I find the following procedure works best:
1. Remove the humidifier from the humidor and soak it in a saucer of humidification solution (this tends to be a bit better than distilled water because it contains an anti-mould additive) for 2-3 hours.
2. Replace the humidifier into the humidor and close the lid, then leave for 24 hours. 3. Remove and refill the humidifier (remembering to only ever use humidification solution or distilled water), then replace and leave for 72 hours.
4. After 72 hours repeat the above instruction once more, leaving it for 72 hours.
5. Your humidor is now ready to use – now (and only now) you can carefully place your cigars inside.
6. If you are an occasional smoker remember to open the lid of your humidor for about 5-10 minutes each week to allow clean air to circulate.
Once your humidor is working properly it is very much a case of keeping the level of humidity constant by occasionally topping up the humidifier with either a humidification solution or distilled water. American commentators constantly recommend the 70/70 temperature (ºF) to humidity (%) ratio. I do not like this ratio for two reasons; firstly it is too high for long term maturation of cigars (I would prefer a 65/65 ratio) and secondly a 70/70 ratio is the perfect conditions for hatching the dreaded Lasioderma serricorne ‘tobacco beetle’. My humidors are maintained at a steady 68ºF and 68% humidity, but I tend to rely on my senses of touch and smell to decide what the best conditions are for my cigars. I now very rarely check the hygrometers, I know the smell, texture and softness that I like in a cigar and trust my senses to keep my cigars in the best condition for me.
The boxes of cigars I keep for long-term ageing are kept at a lower humidity of about 64% – 65% and a temperature of about 62ºF. I have found that this not only inhibits the possible threat of the tobacco beetle, but also seems to maintain intensity of flavour over long periods of time. Only when I open one of these older boxes do I slowly bring them up to the aforementioned 68/68 ratio. In conclusion, I hope you find this information useful and general enough for you to factor into your own storage strategies. The most important thing when storing cigars is to trust your own palate. People often worry that their hygrometer is only showing 65% humidity, not 70% even though the cigars taste great – why worry? Just enjoy your cigars the way you like them and worry about something else like the mortgage or the gas bill!