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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.

All of the humidors tested for this report were very well made. Variations occurred most often in capacity (from five to 40 cigars) and humidification. The capacity of a humidor is not directly related to its outward dimensions. For example: The Dunhill in this test is slimmer and slightly wider than the Davidoff, yet it holds ten cigars and the Davidoff only carries five. If you plan on being out of town for more than a few days but only have a limited amount of luggage space, the Dunhill might be a better model. In general, then, be aware both of how many cigars you want to take with you and how many pairs of socks you won't be packing if you buy a bigger humidor.

As usual, Davidoff models feature excellent, carefree humidifiers, as do the Michel Perrenoud boxes (which use similar technology as Davidoff). Others simply need more attention--and this might mean spending time filling bottles when you'd rather be lying on the beach.

Caring for a travel humidor requires more attention than necessitated by a standard desk model. When you travel, the humidifier should be maintained as often as required to keep your cigars moist. Don't let them dry out before adding more water to the humidifier. And when you're flying, put the unit in your carry-on bag to prevent damage caused by baggage handlers and the relentlessly cold temperatures your luggage endures in the unheated belly of the plane--cold kills cigars. Finally, don't forget to put the box into its cotton or velvet bag (most come with one) for safer stowage. The bag will protect the wood and leather and will prevent the box from opening accidentally.

If all goes well, both you and your cigars wit[ arrive in fine condition, ready to smoke away the troubles of an all-too-fast modern age.

Travel Humidors

The six humidors tested below are not necessarily all of the products offered by their manufacturers. Rather, these boxes were chosen by their makers as appropriate representatives for our test.

The test was meant to simulate the length of an average vacation, lasting about eight days. Humidors were "broken-in" (we wiped down the interiors with a damp cloth and loaded regulators with distilled water 24 hours before adding cigars to let the wood absorb moisture from the regulators, not the cigars), and then standard Churchill cigars (7 inch by 47 ring gauge) were added. Capacity measurements mentioned below are based on the same Churchill size for each humidor.

Davidoff

This humidor, which also comes in calfskin ($990), is beautifully made, with elegant wood both inside and out. But it only holds five cigars. Davidoff will not increase the capacity of this box by using a smaller regulator, but a bit more room for cigars would make this a flawless box instead of just a good one. That said, Davidoff makes travel humidors that hold 25 cigars-which is as big as they come. The Thuya Brilliant finish is $1,070, and the Gaboon is an excellent value at $520. Both come with a unique inner tray which minimizes damage to cigars while in transit.

Davidoff Red Mahogany: $410
Davidoff of Geneva (800) 328-4365

D. Marshall for Dunhill

This box is expertly made, and its slim design is particularly attractive since it can still accommodate seven cigars. But perhaps because it is so thin (with less air flow and room for condensation than its cousin--see below), or maybe because there is only one water-bottle-as-regulator, the cigars kept here were dry at the end of the test.

D. Marshall for Dunhill: $250
Dunhill of London (800) 776-4053

D. Marshall

This box is an updated model of the one above, with two bottles and a partition between cigars and regulators. The two bottles worked far better than one, and cigars kept here were silky and ready to be smoked. The capacity of the D. Marshall is 16 cigars (though larger models are available). The finish, like all D. Marshall items, is artfully done, with a perfect fit between lid and box.

D. Marshall: $275
D. Marshall (714) 973-8660

Ducas for Nat Sherman

The Ducas humidors, especially in the Crocodile finish, are fine products. Slimly designed, the Croc will still hold 15 cigars. If you tend to be tough on your "toys," a leather travel humidor might be your best bet, as it shows less wear and tear than wood. The drawback with this box is that its regulator failed to keep cigars fresh over an eight-day period. This humidor was hinged improperly, closing on us when we tried to load or remove cigars.

Buffalo Green: $600
Crocodile: $1,375
Nat Sherman (800) 221-1690

Michel Perrenoud

The Perrenoud boxes are once-in-a-lifetime purchases. Unless you plan on a long trip, however, the burl humidor might be too big, capable of holding 40 cigars. The smaller unit, which holds 20 cigars, is a less stunning but more practical travel humidor, with a thick leather exterior to protect both the box and your cigars. Both humidors performed very well in our test, with large regulators to keep your cigars fresh for up to one month between refills.

 

Natural Leather, Diamond in Elm Burl: $600
Elm Burl finish: $625
Michel Perrenoud International Inc. (201) 778-1194

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