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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Locks aren't a bad idea. Consider the value -- both emotional and financial -- of the collection that you are going to keep in the humidor. Then consider the damage that could be done by curious prying fingers, by pilfering or even by vandalism (we could tell you stories...). You are likely to want a lock. Just be sure to have a duplicate key tucked away in a safe place. Nothing is more heartbreaking than to have to tamper with the perfectly fitted and carefully finished edges of a finely crafted box.
The first thing to notice on the inside of a humidor is the humidification device. Most humidification devices are simple -- little more than a sponge material or a bottle that slowly emits moisture. (Simple as they are, these devices are still light-years ahead of one old-fashioned humidification device: apple cores.) The biggest variable in proper humidification, after good construction, is not the type of humidification system you have, but whether or not you remember to add the needed water or chemicals at regular intervals.
Look for a humidor lined with a fairly nonaromatic cedar, such as Spanish cedar. Cedar absorbs and re-emits moisture in a way that helps the tobaccos that are blended into a fine cigar to age and mature. (If you are ambitious and handy enough and decide to build your own humidor, be aware that you can't use just any cedar. The highly aromatic cedar used to line closets and wool chests would do disastrous things to the flavor of your cigars.)
Humidor trays make it easy for you to organize, and occasionally rotate, your collection. The inside of a humidor has variations in humidity, despite the various slots that promote internal air circulation and reduce the likelihood that the base woods and the veneer will warp or separate. Within this microclimate, you should introduce your driest cigars as far away as possible from the humidification device so that they re-attain proper hydration as slowly and evenly as possible.
Handles can he helpful on larger humidors, particularly if you will be moving the humidor around a room while offering cigars. If you are planning to put the humidor on a table or sideboard, a felt bottom will help protect the humidor and the furniture.
Some humidors have magnets set into the underside of the lid, so you can store a cigar cutter there. This is good if it keeps you from misplacing an expensive cutter, and bad if it leads you to opening the humidor more often or leaving it open for longer periods of time. Before you get excited about a lid magnet, be sure to find out what the cutter that it's supposed to hold will cost you. If you have scissors or a more expensive guillotine cutter, consider anchoring it to your humidor with an elegant chain, which will guarantee that the cutter will be available whenever you want it.
Finding a humidor with good construction and features isn't as hard as it sounds. Better humidor manufacturers are fanatical about quality control. Moreover, reputable tobacconists will reject humidors with even tiny functional defects.
Once you have decided on all of the basics and accessories, you might as well let yourself be dazzled by the designs and finishes. Admire the gleaming rare wood surfaces, catch the highlights dancing in a deep rich lacquer finish, or study the intricate marquetry picture. Marvel at some of the more curved and sculptural shapes. You are buying a work of art. Be sure you love it: it's likely to be an important part of your home or office for many years to come.
SEASONING A HUMIDOR
It takes time, patience and a little know-how to get a new humidor ready to hold cigars. You're trying to recreate the tropical environments where most cigars are made, and you can't rush the process. Putting cigars into a dry humidor can ruin good smokes.