Welcome to The Drawing Room guide to storing your cigars. Today we're looking at correctly storing your luxury cigars so they can last for years and hopefully even improve in taste a bit too.
What is a Humidor?
A humidor is essentially a container that you can put your cigars in. This can range from the very basic Kilner jar to a bespoke thermoelectric wine fridge conversion into what some call a 'wineador', and then everything else in between. One thing seems almost certain, however, in that your humidor will be too small in about a year!
Your humidor does not need to be air tight. It needs to have some air circulation to prevent mould build up, but this can come from opening it up now and again to smoke one of your cigars. My first cigar humidor was a Kilner jar that was perfect for 8-10 cigars at a time and lasted me my first six months of smoking. You can get great little desktop humidors on Amazon for the beginner collector and smoking enthusiast too. And of course you can splash out on something fancy like a thermoelectric humidor or converted wine cooler.
If you're buying a wooden humidor, consider odourless Spanish cedar - a firm favourite for cigar aficionados due to it's tendency to retain and circulate moisture.
At the end of the day, some argue that if you've got £1000s of cigars, you should spend a lot on their storage. Others will say your money is best spent on more cigars. As a merchant, I'm of the opinion that you can never spend too much on proper storage, but your average Joe smoker needn't break the bank.
Preparing Your Humidor
If you're going down the jar/tupperware route, you don't need much preparation at all. Simply ensure the container is scent free so that it doesn't contaminate the flavour of your cigars and you're good to go! If there is a residual scent, air it outside or even add some cat litter to the container to absorb those pesky plastic odours.
If you're going down the wooden humidor route, there used to be a lot of work. Originally, one would have to wipe down the insides of the wood with distilled water and wait a bit, repeating where necessary. Nowadays we can simply add a seasoning Boveda pack (84%) for a week or two and that'll do the trick.
The reason we need to season our humidor is to ensure the humidor itself doesn't draw the moisture out of your cigars. A dry humidor would eventually dry out your collection, even with Bovedas!
Maintaining Humidity In Your Humidor
This topic will divide a lot of people, but maintaining humidity is crucial for storing your cigars properly. Cigars are made and stored mostly in humid countries around South America. Therefore it's vital we replicate that at home when we're storing cigars.
There's a lot of debate on what the ideal conditions for cigar storage are. It used to be the 70:70 rule - 70% RH, 70 degrees fahrenheit. This is a great start but is far from gospel.
What matters most is a keen eye and regularly checking up on your collection. If the cigars feel dry, you'll want to up the RH. If they're furry and mouldy, you've gone too far the other way. It's a fine balancing act that also happens to vary with temperature also, so if you can somehow keep that relatively constant too, you're good.
Thankfully, Boveda shook up the cigar world by producing almost perfect humidity control with their humidity bags. These not only give out moisture, but also absorb it if it's slightly too high. This now mostly replaces the traditional method of distilled water and a sponge to hydrate our cigars.
Personally, I use 69% Bovedas in my personal humidor. Here in the cool, miserable United Kingdom climate, they seem to keep my cigars in perfect condition.
It's also worth mentioning that most analogue hygrometers (the thing to measure humidity levels) are less than reliable. Always invest in a couple of digital hygrometers to give you that peace of mind. Boveda packs don't last forever, so it's worth keeping an eye on them to know when to replace them (usually ever 3-6 months for my desktop). You can even purchase the Boveda butler, a bluetooth phone-linked hygrometer!
Storing cigars need not be tedious. In fact, the reason why we store them is because cigars taste better with age! While opinions vary, a fine cigar tastes best after 4-5 years or storage after. While I'm sure the cigar doesn't get worse after this point, the returns are often diminished.
If the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have taught us anything, don't overthink the aging process. Smoke your best cigar, drink your finest spirits and enjoy life.