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Cigar Cases

Michael Frank
From the Print Edition:
cigar case, Summer 93

The pace of twentieth century life isn't your fault. But cigars were invented in a much simpler time and never meant for the baggage compartment of the Concorde, the trunk of a limo, or the bumpy back seat of a taxicab. And since so many of us are often on the go, preventing our cigars from resembling the dry, crunchy leaves raked up in October is more difficult than ever.

The best travel humidors and cigar cases are designed to keep cigars in perfect, smokable condition, and they are just as refined and simple as what they protect, constructed of little more than metal, wood, leather and thread. Do not ignore this parallel truth--your cigars and what you put them in should both be well-conceived products of a basic but nearly flawless design.

Cases, whether telescoping, multifingered, open (without separate cigar dividers), tubular or some combination of the above, should always do at least two things exceptionally well: protect and hold your cigars. The equation is simple--you want whatever cigars you smoke most often to fit easily into your cigar case. Not surprisingly, if you tend to smoke a longer cigar, a telescoping case will be necessary. And if you smoke various ring gauges during the course of the same day, avoid fingered cases, which are constructed to hold specific ring gauges and will not bend or stretch to hold larger sizes. If you smoke the same ring gauge consistently, a fingered case will be a good bet because it wilt keep your cigars from rolling around or rubbing against the interior of the case. This is the chief advantage to fingered cases, especially when you get down to the last cigar: They act like cigar tubes, holding each cigar separately and safely, while open cases have no safeguards to prevent your cigars from rolling around once you've removed one or two.

When shopping for a case, ask yourself where you'll he keeping it. If you'll be stowing a two-, three- or four-fingered case in your glove compartment for your drive to and from the office or for weekend jaunts in the country, any good quality case will do, as thick leather, of almost any hide, is tough and can absorb the minor jostling created by potholes and traffic jams.

If upon your arrival at work you're going to remove the case from the car and stow it in your coat pocket, be sure that it will fit; most four-fingered models are very wide, and unless your chest size and tailor are cooperative, you might look like you're packing a weapon.

Aside from a standard check for stitch quality and uniform construction--with no rough edges showing--picking out a leather case that will protect your cigars is a very easy task. A good case should slide open with minimal effort (test this by putting some of your own cigars into the case), and be lined, to protect your cigars from leathery aromas and prevent the wrapper leaf from catching on any rough inner hide. Inspecting a cigar case is much like buying new shoes: Quality (which includes durability), fit, ease of use and style are the most important factors, in that order.

If your travel entails bumping (literally) into strangers, take more care in selecting a case--or consider a wooden or silver tube. Tubes are both bulky and heavy, but they can certainly take more abuse than leather, and they will keep a cigar fresh for up to 72 hours. If you mind the extra weight but still need heavy-duty protection, opt for a telescoping Dunhill case which is constructed of very thick leather. A pigskin case by Agme Swiss is also made of very thick hide, and it won't dry out and crack with age.

Another option is to purchase a one-of-a-kind D. Marshall cigar case. The D. Marshall model is not meant for your breast pocket, though it will fit nicely into a briefcase. Made of teak, with a magnetically closing lid that snaps to with precision, this case is extraordinarily well-crafted protection for your cigars. One caveat: The D. Marshall case will only accommodate cigars of a lonsdale ring gauge or narrower.

Once you've selected a case or tube suitable for your needs, use it wisely. Slide fresh cigars into your case in the morning, and be sure to remove any unsmoked cigars at night, returning them to storage in your humidor. Most cases will not keep cigars fresh for more than a day. And whatever you do, never store a partially smoked cigar in a case--the aroma will linger, affecting every cigar placed in the case long after this careless mistake.

Unlike cases, travel humidors are too big for local commuting. The smallest models hold five Churchill-size cigars (one more cigar than the largest standard case), but these are still much too big to fit in a jacket pocket. The advantage to this bulk is that a travel humidor will keep cigars fresh much longer than all pocket-sized cases. However, even though a travel humidor is designed for an extended trip and a case is not, your expectations for both products should be similar. Again, remember what you smoke, its size and shape, and be certain that the box will accommodate that particular cigar. Then inspect the details. Look for features like solid rear hinges, preferably of the "piano" variety, which stretch the length of the box. Also, be certain that the humidification unit inside the box will stay put while you sprint to catch a plane or toss your luggage into the back of a taxicab.

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