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Humidors: How They Stack Up

David Savona, Brendan Vaughan
From the Print Edition:
Wayne Gretzky, Mar/Apr 97

You can't buy a real pool table for $200, but people try to do it every day. You've probably played on one. Rather than a bed of expensive slate, the table was made with a sheet of plywood. After a year or so, a little moisture got into the wood, and the once-flat table began to bow like the bottom of the QE II. Break up the rack and the balls run to the rails like stockbrokers after the closing bell.

There's a lot of similarity in the humidor market. Drop a couple of bucks on a K-Mart-level model and you'll be disappointed. Invest in a quality product and you'll have a treasured place to keep your cigars for years to come, and perhaps even pass on to one of your children.

Buying humidors used to be rather simple. There were just a handful of manufacturers with familiar names. The companies had been around for years, and you pretty much knew what to expect from each in terms of cost and quality. Your toughest decision probably was choosing the finish.

Throw that scenario out the window. The cigar boom created the humidor boom. Suddenly every cabinetmaker, craftsman or garage saw jockey seems to be making one. When Cigar Aficionado first rated humidors in the Winter 1992/93 issue, there were 11 models, from eight manufacturers. Last August, at the trade show for the Retail Tobacco Dealers of America, humidor displays outnumbered cigar displays, 105 to 96. Today, humidors wink out from newspaper ads and catalogs, and they decorate department store windows. Some of the new selections have promise. Many don't.

To sort out the confusion and make some sense of the crowded market, Cigar Aficionado tested 42 desktop humidors ranging in price from $100 to $2,400. We contacted import-ers and manufacturers and asked them to send us a 100-cigar capacity model for our test. Each company included the humidification system that comes with its piece, along with whatever extras and instructions are standard equipment. When we received the humidors, we slowly adjusted their humidity levels to get them ready to hold cigars (see "Seasoning a Humidor," page 367). We then loaded them with 10 cigars each. We kept every piece in the same room, under the same conditions, for six weeks. We monitored their performance using the same digital hygrometer, recorded the humidity levels and examined the condition of the cigars every week.

When a humidor was too dry, we added distilled water to the humidification system. When a humidor was too moist, we added 10 cigars to try to absorb the excess humidity. Any deviation was noted. At the conclusion of the test, a panel of editors examined each of the humidors and rated them in terms of construction, design, beauty and performance. Value was taken into consideration when rating each piece.

Elie Bleu
Macassar Ebony 100/$1,350

Capacity: 100
Interior: Spanish cedar
Humidification: Elie Bleu
Details: Lock and key, hygrometer, two dividers
Score: A+

Superbly crafted, with exquisite marquetry and exotic wood inlays, the Elie Bleu is nearly perfect. It's hard to find a flaw here, other than its size. This will not hold 100 cigars. But whatever you put in here will simply come alive. Our cigars were silky and perfect throughout the test, begging to be smoked. The Elie Blue humidifier, which has adjust-able vents, is a flawless, low-maintenance system. The construction of this humidor is without peer. It's a chore to find the seam where the lid meets the box. Every detail is top-notch, from the elegant and distinctive hygrometer to the thick key with its tassels and wax seal. Not cheap, but the best never is.

Bocephus Design
Personal Humidor/$990
(888) 838-1820

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