Recently a customer came in, excited about the birth of his son and began asking questions about aging cigars that he would eventually share with his son. After talking with him I discovered that he was seeking advice on which cigars would age well. I shared with him that I’ve learned that this isn’t a simple question to answer. Not only do different tobaccos age differently but that proper long-term storing conditions have an impact as well.
I then began asking questions about his humidor and found out that he didn’t have one; he was relying on the locker he rents from us to maintain a small stash of cigars he purchases and smokes on occasion. It occurred to me that here is a man who wants to share his passion of cigars with his son, and he currently doesn’t have the right tools to do so. So, I felt the best way to answer his question is to take him on a journey, a journey of purchasing his first humidor, his first lesson in seasoning a humidor, and then onto learning about storing and aging cigars.
There are many different types and styles of humidors ranging from zip-top bags, glass jars, ice chests, and plastic food containers to pieces of furniture built specifically for storing cigars like desktop humidors, tabletop humidors, and armoire sized humidors. When I decided to buy my first humidor, I found that there were so many choices that it overwhelmed me. I put off buying one for months.
Before listing some of the things [topics] to consider in choosing a humidor I believe it best to begin discussing some of the fundamentals. These fundamentals include knowledge of humidity and temperature, a humidor’s construction, the humidor’s interior, hygrometers, and humidification techniques.
The basics of a humidor whether it is a desktop, an armoire, or zip-top bag is that it should provide some type of environment which holds humidity. There are a lot of resources on the internet which will tell you that your humidor should maintain a relative humidity (RH) level between 65° to 75° RH inside your humidor. I found that if my cigars were too moist, they were spongy to touch, and I spent a good deal of time relighting. I also found that if my cigars were too dry then they burned too fast and were tasteless (stale). From experimenting with different RH levels, I discovered that the best RH for me was 72° as this RH yields a smooth flavorful smoke which never needs to be relit.
While humidity is important temperature is also a factor. Temperature isn’t something that can necessarily be attributed to your humidor. It is more a condition of the environment where you keep your humidor. I have found just as many resources on the internet discussing the right temperature range as I have about humidity levels. Most of what I have found leads me to believe that anything between 65°F to 73°F is the optimal temperature range. I have found that anything less than 65°F causes my cigars to dry out faster and anything higher than 73°F can cause the hatching of the dreaded tobacco beetle. I’ll discuss the tobacco beetle in a later posting. For now, it’s important to know that you do not want an environment where your cigars can dry out or the tobacco beetle has an opportunity to hatch and eat your cigars.
To help maintain a constant temperature we suggest finding a spot in your home that is not near a window, an exterior door, an A/C or heating supply vent or return duct, and someplace near the center of your home. We have heard from customers who store their desktop humidors inside dresser drawers, closets, and in basements. Simply find a place in your home that maintains a constant temperature and that this temperature doesn’t exceed 73°F. I store my cigars in my downstairs den which is three-quarters below grade [ground] so the room remains relatively cool throughout the year, even in the daunting heat of Houston Texas.
The advice of many people is that the combination of a 70° RH and 70°F is the optimal condition for storing and aging cigars. I believe that this is a goal for those just starting out and that with experience someone will find the right humidity and temperature level that’s right for them. The goal of creating this humidified and temperature-controlled environment is basically an attempt to duplicate the conditions of the Tropics where most of the world’s tobacco is grown today. And once you find that right combination of humidity and temperature for you all that’s left to do is sit back and let time do what it can do, age your cigars.