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Cigars (and the word cigar itself) date back to the Mayan civilization, and were smoked in different forms by the indigenous peoples of Central America and the Caribbean islands. But being a modern-day cigar connoisseur offers all sorts of varieties and options to explore, from all over the world. No matter what cigars you acquire, they’re going to require a humidor – a small, airtight case that emulates the climate conditions where tobacco naturally grows, in order to keep them crisp and fresh.
What to Look For in a Humidor
Just like cigar types, there are many types of humidors to choose from, with different features for each one. These are just a few important attributes to check out before you buy and light ’em up.
Humidity Control: The right balance of humidity is crucially important to the upkeep and preservation of your cigar collection. Without it, the quality of your cigars can quickly deteriorate, leaving the leaves overly crinkly or way too wet. This can also affect the evenness of how they burn, and take away a significant amount of flavor.
Relative humidity (RH) is the measurement of moisture in the air wherever you keep your sticks. A good starting point, and the target zone, is around 65% to 72%. Anywhere outside of that, and you’re risking all sorts of issues. But even within that small range, just one percentage point can make a world of difference depending on how you like them. A higher RH will leave more moisture if you prefer them a bit wetter, while a lower RH can help dry them out.
A good rule to start out on in the cigar world is the “70/70 rule” – 70% RH at 70°F. But it’s worth exploring and experimenting a little to notice the nuances of what playing with RH percentages and temperatures can do, and eventually, finding your own personal preference.
Hygrometer: Not a hydrometer, but a hygrometer. Pretty much every humidor will come with a hygrometer – a built-in device that measures the humidity and water vapor in the air inside your humidor. Traditionally these have been analog ones, but a modern digital hygrometer can give you a much more precise reading. There’s also now the option of a Bluetooth-based hygrometer, which provides all the benefits of digital, but can be accessed and controlled through an app on your phone no matter where you are. A good hygrometer will give you an accurate reading without needing to open up the humidor, since with each open, a little more humidity escapes into the air.
While a hygrometer tells you about the air inside the humidor, an even more precise measurement is the moisture content of the leaf itself. A humidometer is a tiny, pronged device that you probe into your cigar to get a moisture reading on the leaves inside. Use it even during the time you’re smoking it, when it’s lit up and releasing more humidity (it should be around 77%). You can also take a reading as soon as you buy your cigar, giving you an idea of how long it’ll need to sit in the humidor for to reach your desired levels.
Aesthetic: A smooth wooden finish and a glass lid is definitely the most eye-catching and classy way to display your collection to guests, but that requires way more maintenance, since wood absorbs and emits humidity. Acrylic jars are another option that forms a better preserving seal than wood, and can keep a humidity-control packet fresh for longer – sometimes even up to a year.
Placement: It’s not all about what you place your cigars in, but where you place the humidor too. Since cigars can be damaged from ultraviolet light, it’s especially important to keep the glass and transparent ones away from windows or anywhere sunlight can hit it. Same goes for temperature. When summertime hits and the heat starts rising, it’s best to stash your sticks in the coolest part of your house, like a basement. Even a couple ticks up of percentage points can have a significant effect of how your cigars feel, taste, and age.
Moisture Packets: Finally, maintaining consistency inside your humidor requires, not surprisingly, a source of humidity. A handy budget way to do this is with a small shot glass full of water next to your cigars. However this can easily spill and get your collection soaking wet. A safer, and often included, option is a small humidifier strip that requires you to deliver drops of distilled water into it regularly. An even better (and much dryer) choice are humidification packets that let you choose which percentage of humidity you want to bring the inside up or down to, and keep it there. It’s more expensive and wasteful than using water, but it’s error-proof and easier too.
1. XIFEI Acrylic Humidor Jar
This sleek and simple acrylic jar holds about 20 cigars, and seals tight to lock in the perfect levels.
The well-placed analog hygrometer is built into the top of the jar, making it easy to read. Plus its durability is solid – way tougher than glass against accidental drops.
The small humidifier is included, as is an eyedropper for carefully placing distilled water into it, and getting the humidity percentage exactly where you want. There’s also a sheet of cedar paper to keep your sticks fresh and smelling great.
2. Case Elegance Glass Top Handcrafted Cedar Humidor
Case Elegance’s cigar box is beautifully crafted in Spanish cedar with a dark walnut finish, and holds between 25 and 50 cigars depending on their size. There’s also a handy, velvet-lined, pull-out compartment which can hold a lighter and cutters comfortably.
The tempered glass display top lets you show off your cigar collection without opening it up and disturbing the settings, while a tight magnetic seal ensures that the humidity stays between 65% and 70%, distributing it evenly from edge to edge.
Plus, when you register your box after buying, the company says it’ll plant a tree in a sustainable forest to offset the wood used to manufacture it.
3. AMANCY Cedar-Lined Portable Cigar Humidor Case
Featuring a slim and minimal design, Amancy’s upright humidor is designed to be portable and keep your cigars fresh wherever you bring them.
A soft leather lining and delicious smelling cedar wood inside protect your sticks from outside elements, and the built-in analog hygrometer lets you check the humidity without opening it up.
This is ideal for taking on road trips, storing in golf bags, bringing on boat excursions or even to cocktail parties. Comes with a dropper and a sponge for regulating the moisture inside too.
4. Mantello Royale Glass-Top Cigar Humidor
Mantello’s eye-catching box features a rosewood finish all around, a soft scratch-resistant bottom, and a hefty, weighted feel.
Shiny, gold-plated piano hinges allow you to smoothly open and close the lid, and a glass top lets you admire your collection without breaking the humidity inside.
The seal is secure, and a cedar divider inside makes it easy to separate out your sticks, or keep your humidity packets from touching them.