We explore the ways cigar aficionados can maintain the freshness of their cigars
From the Print Edition:
Sylvester Stallone, Mar/Apr 98
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No matter what a thermometer or hygrometer says, the true measure of your humidor's performance will be the condition of the cigars inside. If the cigars are exuding a little oil, the conditions are perfect. If they seem too dry, you add more water. If they turn moldy, you have to throw out the cigars (probably with a tear or two in your eye), no matter what the hygrometer says. There's even a species of beetle, called a tobacco beetle, which can quickly bore holes through the contents of humidors. This will sometimes occur when the humidor maintains a temperature above 75 degrees for more than 24 hours. If your humidor becomes afflicted with these insects, freeze the contaminated cigars for 48 hours, then transfer them to the refrigerator for an additional 24 hours before returning them to your humidor. The beetles and their larvae will not survive. Be sure to wipe down your humidor with a damp cloth (using only distilled water) before returning the cigars.
MAINTAINING A HUMIDOR
Humidors are much simpler to maintain than other balanced environments, such as tropical fish tanks. All you have to do is keep the lid or door shut and periodically add distilled water to the humidifying device. (If you use regular tap water, the minerals in it are likely to collect on the humidifier and diminish its ability to emit and absorb moisture.)
A little common sense helps, too. Exposing a humidor to temperature extremes such as in direct sunlight or on top of an air conditioner or radiator is bad for the humidor -- and your cigars.
SELECTING YOUR HUMIDOR
Investing in a humidor is a big decision. Good humidors aren't cheap, but there's no point in having a bad humidor. A humidor that does not maintain a constant desired level of humidity, no matter how pretty it is, is a waste of money and cigars. Consider how wine lovers store their wine. They're protecting an investment. Your cigars are equally valuable, and deserve a similar level of care.
The first step is to decide what size humidor you want. A good guide is to buy a humidor that's a little bigger than what you think you need. At the same time, you might want to investigate whether your local cigar retailer or cigar club has rental facilities that will let you store the bulk of your stock, so that you'll only need room for a few days' reserve at home or at work.
Just as if you were buying a new car, you'll want to look carefully at the construction and performance features of a humidor, as well as at its finish. If the seams aren't perfect, or if the corners aren't square, skip that humidor.
Pay particular attention to the rim and the lid, and how they fit together. The lid should shut tightly. For the record, a humidor lid should not "seal" completely; it should allow a minute amount of air to circulate in and out of the box. But any visible warping will mean that too much air gets in and too much moisture gets out, even if there's a "lip" that fits inside the lid.
A heavy lid is generally an advantage. Many humidors, even those with locks, rely on the weight of the lid to keep them tightly shut. This, however, creates a challenge. A humidor should be designed to be in balance, whether open or shut. If the lid opens too far, its weight can cause the humidor to flip up or fall over. If the lid doesn't open far enough to stay balanced in a upright position, it might come crashing back down on your fingers.