How to Store Cigars
- Sunday, 18 August 2013
Rupert Mackintosh offers a few thoughts on how to store your cigars.
I have tried to pitch this article at both audiences – those who are new to storing cigars (as a beginners guide) and to those who are already doing it. Storing cigars has many different views, everyone does it slightly differently, so be prepared for a little variation.
(Above: Try and keep your humidor at 70% relative humidity)
I spent a lot of my youth socialising in specific cigar shops (of which would frequently have over £30,000 worth of stock on their shelves at any one time) and got to chat to the regular customers, many who were double my age and knew their cigars. This was great, as it let me mix and match different techniques and really get a feel for the approach that worked for me.
So if you are an experienced smoker, or even a beginner and hear advice which is contrary to this, think about trying both approaches and see what works for you. Just be careful not to try anything drastic, as dramatic changes always herald dramatic results…
Factor number one is humidity. I’ll keep this simple, not because it is complicated, but because it is actually fairly easy to get right, or wrong. Good cigars come from places like Cuba, where the environment is closer to a rainforest like jungle than rural Hampshire. It’s damp, it rains, but it’s also very hot and – wait for it – humid. That is where the tobacco grows, so they can leave cigars lying around in Cuba, whereupon in Chelsea they tend to dry out because it’s not as humid. So we need to recreate that humidity. That is the primary purpose of a humidor, to create a little airtight safe that has the climate of Cuba.
There are various ways you can do this, but I have always stuck to the simple method of using destilled water in a little sponge device you can buy online, and a digital hydrometer to tell me what the relative humidity is. I tend to aim for about 70% relative humidity, but whatever you do, make sure it is calibrated. It may say 70% on the dial, but it could have a base value of +10 when it should be at zero. So even if your meter says 70%, if the cigars are like sponges and dripping, stop and question what is going on.
In your humidor, invariably, some smokes will be at the top, others at the bottom. Thus, some will be closer to the humidity source than others, and if there is glass in the unit, some may get a little natural light. My advice, is always to rotate them. This means they will all get a fair share of whatever is going on, and it allows air to circulate a little also. Balance is really important.
Should you be unfortunate enough, you may find yourself with a worm problem. This is akin to finding a nasty tropical spider in a box of bananas. Worms can crawl in to a cigar at the Cuba end, and dig a nice little tunnel through a cigar, eating as it goes. They leave a very distinctive, perfect circular hole on the way in; and the way out; and the way in; and the way out… You may well find the whole box has been eaten. Always check when buying, and don’t be afraid to reject them or send them back. If, like me, you have a devious streak, you can smoke the cigar anyway (take that worm!!). But whatever you do, don’t hand these cigars around when sat at the top table! On a serious note, should you find ANY cigar in your humidor with a hole (even if it has only been sat there for an hour), check every single cigar every day for the next week or so. You need to act quickly to solve this problem, and if you do not, you could lose your entire stock.
A lot of people seem to think storing cigars in the fridge or freezer is a great idea. Good luck to those that make this work, but to be honest, I’ve never seen it done successfully. It seems to be an urban ledged to me. Apologies in advance to any County Deer Stalkers that have done it, but most people who get back from somewhere with a box of cigars, stuff them in the freezer and then try and give them away to their mate who likes a smoke, invariably hand over ruined sticks. The look of unwavering certainty in their eyes is probably because they have never smoked them before and do not know that a cigar that goes crunch like cornflakes when touched is not going to be a happy experience. Sorry guys; the fridge just doesn’t do it for me.
I will look to do another blog on this in the future, but let’s just say that cigars are indeed like fine wines – they get better with age. If you can afford it, and want to take smoking seriously, either buy aged cigars (near impossible unless you pay through the nose and often at auction) or have a little section in your humidor that you use to “put down” a few sticks for years to come. It will pay dividends and make that future birthday or anniversary dinner end with a bang if the cigar has taken on a whole new dimension in years to come.