Collecting fine cigars is like collecting wine. Cigars are organic and quite sensitive to their environment. They are the product of a carefully controlled combination of temperature and moisture.
The first thing you should know about cigars is that they should be stored in a humidor. A humidor is an elegant and simple device that stores cigars under the same environmental conditions in which the tobacco was
grown, fermented, and rolled.
Leaving cigars out in an air-conditioned or heated room causes them to dry out and die. Poor storage conditions can destroy a cigar in under an hour. Because of the moist conditions inside a humidor, you can keep cigars for many years.
Most aficionados have more than one humidor. They have a larger cabinet that stays at home and a portable one that holds a small supply. Inside a humidor, the scents from various cigars can mingle or marry and cause subtle shifts in flavor.
A humidor is a storage container that controls airflow and moisture. A good humidor maintains an internal humidity of 70-75% and an internal temperature of 68-70 degrees F. Without something to maintain humidity and temperature levels, it is not a humidor; it is just a box.
Humidors come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Some hold hundreds of cigars and some are travel-sized and hold only a few. A humidor is not a sealed environment. Inside an airtight container, cigars might become moldy. There has to be optimal airflow. For this reason, it is best to leave some space between cigars and not store them too tightly together.
Why Manage Humidity and Temperature?
A cigar humidor needs a way to maintain humidity levels. Some
come with humidifiers and some do not. You don’t necessarily need a humidifier. Using distilled water, you can place a wet sponge in a little bowl inside the
humidor to help maintain moisture levels, set a shot glass of water in the corner of the humidor, dampen the walls, or use Propylene Glycol. Propylene Glycol is a chemical substance that attracts and holds water. A stable, harmonious solution, it is often used in humidors to increase humidity. Once the desired humidity level is reached, get a hygrometer to monitor it.
If you don’t have one then simply check your collection regularly. One way to know if humidity levels are good is to examine the cigar. If it is exuding oil, then the humidity levels are where they should be. If not, then the levels are probably too low, causing your cigars to dry out.
You also need a thermometer to monitor temperature levels. Anything above 72 degrees for any 24-hour period can cause a tobacco beetle infestation. These beetles burrow through humidors quite easily and can spoil your cigar collection. How do you know there is an infestation? Small pin size holes are a sure sign that you have a problem.
If tobacco beetles infest your humidor, throw away all the
damaged cigars (extremely torn up, large holes) and freeze the others. Freeze cigars for 72 hours then transfer them to the refrigerator for 24 hours. This process kills beetles and their larvae. Wipe down the inside of your humidor carefully to get rid of any remaining eggs and beetles. Use a damp cloth and distilled water only before returning the cigars to the humidor.
To prevent this from happening again, keep an eye on the hygrometer we suggested you use and keep the humidor out of direct sunlight as this increases the interior temperature. Temperature extremes can cause the beetles to infest your cigar collection again.
A high relative humidity level can also cause the tobacco beetle to thrive. Like mold, they breed in very damp conditions, which is why it is necessary to check your cigar collection daily. Humidity levels should never exceed 70%. A balanced environment ensures a thriving, healthy collection.
Other Helpful Tips
Be sure your humidor has Spanish cedar drawers and lining. This helps maintain moisture levels and prevents beetle infestation.
Get a good travel case to store cigars in while on the road. Make sure its waterproof and crush proof. Leather cases are not ideal. Choose a small box style humidor.
Make sure you have a sharp cutter. A dull cutter can cause the unraveling of the wrapper. A guillotine or v-cutter is great and you need to have complete control over the cutting motion.
Lighting a cigar is important. Never hold a flame to the
foot of the cigar too long. This causes bitterness. Toast the foot of the cigar before drawing air through. This ensures even lighting. Also use a torch flame or cedar matches if the elements allow.
Don’t snub the end of your cigar in an ashtray like the way you do a cigarette. This releases a pungent tobacco smell that can bother some people. Instead, place the cigar in the ashtray and let it slowly die out.