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Art in a Box

Traditional Humidors Get a Shot of Creativity and Color from French and English Design Teams
Michael Frank
From the Print Edition:
Bill Cosby, Autumn 94

(continued from page 1)

Instead of the standard analog hygrometer (notorious for erroneous readings), each Dunhill humidification device has a handle at one end. When you grasp the handle and let the device fall away underneath your hand, it's very much like holding a scale. Inside the device is a spring calibrated to reflect the weight of the moisture content as humidity level. When the spring is let out, numbers on a bar (from 10 to 100) that connects the handle to the device pass through a window on the unit. When the scale stops moving, the number in the window will be an accurate humidity reading. According to Dunhill, it will only be necessary to add distilled water every 30 days, but if you're in doubt, now you have an easy way to take an accurate reading. Just grab the handle and look inside the window. If the number 70 appears, your cigars are safe. If the number is lower, simple add distilled water until the reading equals 70.

There is one caveat. According to the instructions that come with the humidity control system, both the composition of the moisture pad and the reliability of the scale may become faulty after 18 months. A replacement can be purchased at Dunhill for $50; which seems a bit pricey for something you'll have to replace so frequently. However, this is the only failing in an otherwise stellar group of completely overhauled Dunhill humidors.

Compared with Dunhill, Elie Bleu was already producing very stylish boxes two years ago. Since then, however, they have increased their profile, adding great panache and color to an already stunning variety of gemlike humidors.

And while it is not the most colorful model made by Elie Bleu, the 150 cigar cabinet humidor in burl is gorgeous and one of the smartest designs we've ever seen. Open the doors on the front of the humidor and you'll find out why. Below the six drawers (each drawer is slotted to allow for moisture and air flow) is a half-inch-thick humidification device which covers the entire bottom surface of the box. This allows for the perfect staggering of your cigars. If you have to revive dry cigars, put them in the top drawer for a few weeks. Then, after they've had a small dose of moisture, you can move them down, closer to the humidification system. By the time they've reached the bottom drawer, they'll be perfectly revived, without having been through "moisture shock"--too much moisture delivered too fast, and the kind of thing which usually destroys great cigars.

There are other benefits to this box, and a few minor drawbacks. The drawers are removable, allowing for easy maintenance of your cigars, and, if you've got guests, you can remove a drawer and "serve" cigars from it. However, the humidification device requires servicing every three weeks, which is a bit more frequent than most units, and, despite the capaciousness of the cabinet and$1,595 price tag, inadequate rubber feet are glued to the bottom of the unit.

Elie Bleu has also introduced some eye-popping colors to its lineup of standard-shaped humidors, including bold designs and vivid marquetry. There are 80-cigar units with beveled glass tops which come in red, green and midnight blue, and 75-cigar "Medals" boxes (on the lid, gold-foil covered medals artfully surround an inlaid wood cigar and arching above the stogie are the words: for fine Havana cigars) which are made in every color from natural mahogany to Ferrari yellow. There's even a stunning sapphire blue box offset with bold, red marquetry. Also new from Elie Bleu is the 100 cigar Slimline model in burl. This unique shape is surely different from others on the market, but still understated.

Every Elie Bleu unit is appointed with reinforced hinges, locks and an excellent humidification device. The system works smoothly, and water need only be added monthly. On that score, Elie Bleu shouldn't change a thing.

Fortunately, some traditions change. Since our first humidor test, when some humidification devices were rudimentary and boxes crudely finished, the entire humidor market has turned around. Manufacturers are now listening to consumers, and working hard to meet an ever-expanding market. In upcoming issues, Cigar Aficionado will critique new humidor lines, as well as the latest in other cigar accessories. Keep reading.

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