Friday, February 7, 2014

The Oscuro Corner - How To Find the Perfect Humidor


If you smoke cigars with any regularity, you need a humidor.  If you eat with any regularity, you need a refrigerator.  If you don't like walking around naked all the time, you should own clothes.

So let's get you a humidor.

Why?

You can't store cigars for any length of time unless they are at about 70 degrees fahrenheit and 70 percent humidity.  They will dry out or mold or crack or have all sorts of bad things happen.  Don't just put one in a plastic bag in your desk drawer and expect it to taste top quality when you find it again.

Similar to wine, cigars improve with age.  Again like wine, it's important they age under the right conditions.  Once you get a humidor, you can prove this to yourself.  Until then, trust me.

When I get a new box or bundle, I'm always excited and I try one the same day.  Tastes good, but when I try another after days or weeks in the box, the flavors have expanded.  It burns better.  It's more smooth and complex.  Months or even years later, the improvement has continued.  Buy good cigars and age them until you have great cigars.

What?

What kind of humidor do you want?  First of all, you need a box made from Spanish cedar with a good seal.  You don't need anything fancier than that really.  A tight humidor will keep your cigars at proper humidity with little maintenance.  You'll only lose moisture when you open it.

Don't mess with any other kind of wood.  Don't get anything weird.  Unless you're into something fancy, a good plain box will do.

I did decide it was important to have one with a built it hygrometer.  That's a device to measure humidity.  I wanted a front-mounted one so I could read it when the box was on my shelf without opening it.  From what I read, analog hygrometers are usually off by a bit and can't be calibrated.  You can easily test yours and remember how much is the variance.  I found a good deal on one with a digital hygrometer and thermometer in it.

How big do you need it?  Depends on how much you want to spend and how much you smoke.  If you and your buddies will be using it and will be going through a box or more a week, you need storage for a couple hundred sticks.

The advertised storage space will be a little optimistic. My 100 cigar humidor will only hold 70-80 big cigars.  Plus, they work better if they're only half full.  You never now when you'll find a killer deal and will buy another box or two, so get one a little bigger than you need.

I smoke a couple a week, at most.  I have room for  maybe four boxes.  When it gets a little low, I keep my eyes open for a great deal and pounce when the right one opens up.

If you have the cash and need the storage, a custom built or furniture style one will be a treat.  These will have an active humidifying system that keeps temperature and humidity at optimum levels, taking most of the worry and maintenance out of the equation.

How?

How will you maintain proper humidity?  You can get an electronic humidifier for around $100 or more.  Your basic humidor will come with a basic humidifier: just a plastic case with absorbent foam in it.  Add distilled water.  The water will evaporate, creating a humid environment for your cigars.  For not too many dollars you can get gel crystals that release and absorb moisture to maintain around 70%.

I still use the basic unit that came with my box.  My humidity is usually in the mid-sixties, but I've had cigars in their for months that still taste good and burn right.  If you want to spend money on the fancier methods, you can, but I have found so far that cigars won't explode at 65%.  Don't worry too much.

Where?

Put "cigars" or "humidors" in your search engine and a number of sites will pop up.  Important to note that good places to buy humidors are not always good places to buy cigars.

After much contemplation, I got mine at Premium Humidors.  Not an impressive selection of cigars or accessories here, but a good spread of boxes at good prices.  I even found an online coupon for 10% and free shipping.  Always search for coupons before buying anything.

Cigars International, Thompson Cigars, JR Cigars, Mike's Cigars and Famous Smoke all carry good cigars, humidors and accessories.

Try to bundle together deals to get the best price on your humidor.  Certain cigar purchases will get you free shipping on your whole order.  I hate to pay for shipping.  Sometimes hitting a certain price will get you some freebies.  Of course, check for coupon codes.

You can often find small humidors given away with boxes of cigars.  Typically they are of the 20 capacity size and probably too small for your needs.

And consider irregular humidors.  They might have a little scratch or imperfection, but you'll save 10% or more.  It's only cosmetic and it will work perfectly fine.  I bought an irregular one and it took me a couple weeks to find the scratch in the glass top.  It gets the job done.  I spent the extra money on cigars to put in it.

But at the end of it all, you'll have this humidor a long time.  So get the one you love and don't sweat  a few bucks.  My one mistake in buying mine was worrying about the deal.

The box was about $65.  If I spent $100, the site would give me a lighter, a cutter and two free cigars plus free shipping.  Already I had a code to get me 10% plus free shipping.  So I picked some cheap no-name cigars (Premium Humidors does not carry many good ones) until I reached $100 and got my freebies.

The lighter was a crappy Djeep.  The cutter was cheap but works just fine.  The free cigars were the worst ones in the batch.  I should have bought only the humidor there and my cigars from another site.

But I'm smarter now so I can teach you.

How Long?

You will need to spend at least a couple days seasoning your humidor before you use it.  Being patient is no fun, but if you don't, your brand new absorbent wood will pull all the moisture out of your smokes and turn them to newspaper.  Take your time and follow this process.  Or buy a seasoning kit that will drastically shorten the time.  I don't personally know how well they work.  I did it the old fashioned way.

I hope I got you thinking.  It's an important choice.  Everyone needs a good humidor.  It will be a friend for life for you and your cigars.

Questions or stories?  I'm always here to help.

Cigar Aficionado has a great beginner's section with lots of information.

And by the way, here's my Frontier digital humidor: