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Storing Cigars

We explore the ways cigar aficionados can maintain the freshness of their cigars
The Editors
From the Print Edition:
Sylvester Stallone, Mar/Apr 98

In the two previous installments of Cigar Aficionado's cigar education series -- excerpted from editor and publisher Marvin R. Shanken's Shanken's Cigar Handbook -- we examined cigar shapes, colors and sizes as well as proper cutting and lighting techniques. In this installment we explore the ways cigar aficionados can maintain the freshness of their cigars.

In many ways, fine cigars are like wine, orchids or humans traveling in space. They are natural, organic and sensitive to their environment. They are the mature products of a carefully controlled combination of temperature and moisture.

The first thing to know is that cigars should stay in a humidor (the first syllable rhymes with "you," as in the word "humid") until they're ready to be smoked. When necessary, you can get away with keeping properly humidified cigars in a sealed plastic bag with a small, damp paper towel for a day or so. But, if you want to become a true aficionado, a humidor is an essential piece of equipment.

A humidor is an elegantly simple device that keeps cigars at their best by maintaining them in conditions similar to those in which their tobacco grew, fermented and was rolled.

Left out in a heated or air-conditioned room, a cigar can dry out and die as quickly as the most delicate flower -- in less than an hour. In a properly maintained humidor, the atmosphere inside of which closely mimics that of a tropical isle, cigars can be kept for years.

Dedicated aficionados often have more than one humidor. Perhaps a large one that stays at home, and a smaller, more portable one that holds a day's or two's supply. Some aficionados even keep different humidors for different brands of cigars. Within a humidor, the scents from various cigars mingle or "marry," and subtle shifts in flavor can result from cigars of one sort being stored adjacent to very different ones.

WHAT IS A HUMIDOR?

A humidor is, quite simply, a storage container designed to allow controlled air flow and equipped with a device that maintains the internal humidity in the range of 70 to 75 percent; its internal temperature should be maintained in a narrow range of about 68 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. (Without something to maintain the internal humidity, it's not a humidor; it's just a box.) Humidors come in all sizes. Travel-sized humidors hold just a few cigars; room-sized humidors hold thousands of boxes of cigars.

Note that a humidor is not a sealed environment. Inside an airtight moisturized container, cigars are likely to become moldy. For that reason, it's better to have air circulating between the cigars in your humidor than it is to squish them in too tightly.

While a humidor needs a device that maintains moisture levels, it does not necessarily need a gauge. Some humidors, however, come with hygrometers, which indicate the interior humidity. While the analog models (the round gauges with a needle inside) often have the appealing style of a dial on a sports car's dashboard, they are frequently inaccurate. Digital hygrometers, on the other hand, are usually reliable to a level of plus or minus 2 percent.


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