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Humidors: How They Stack Up

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

(continued from page 7)

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
33-1-48-99-64-64

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

Capacity: 75
Interior: Spanish cedar
Humidification: Credo Precision 70
Details: Two dividers, no hygrometer
Score: A

This humidor screams for your attention. Active veneers give it the illusion of motion and depth, along with a brilliant shine. The construction is top-notch inside and out, and our cigars were kept in fine condition throughout the test. Anticipating that the magnet holding the Credo would fall from the inside of the lid, the manufacturer created a clever cedar and metal box to hold the Credo in place, and dress it up as well. The metal grid, however, is a bit too industrial, and clashes with the humidor design. The box could benefit from a lock and a hygrometer, but it wins points for being one of the few that included proper seasoning instructions. A striking piece with superior performance.

Dunhill
Thuya 100/$1,095
(212) 888-4000

Capacity: 100
Interior: Spanish cedar
Humidification: Dunhill
Details: Lock and two keys, two dividers, no hygrometer
Score: A

This Dunhill Thuya is exciting and well made, crafted from exotic veneers and inlays with a dark spotted pattern reminiscent of leopard skin. The inside is also attractive, with a heavy cedar aroma. We'd like the lid to seal better when it closes, and this is a rather small box for 100 cigars. The novel humidification system is just a shade gimmicky, and it can be awkward for some to use. Filling it takes some dexterity. You have to balance the device like a scale in one hand, and squeeze distilled water into tiny holes using the other. The humidor performed very well, with one refill during the test. Our cigars were in excellent shape. This is a piece that is built to last.

Davidoff
No. 2 Natural Mahogany/$2,400
(203) 323-5811

Capacity: 100
Interior: Gaboon (an African wood)
Humidification: Davidoff (two units)
Details: Three adjustable dividers, tray with three adjustable dividers, no hygrometer, lock and key, water bottle
Score: A-

This is a gorgeous, impeccably engineered box. The construction and detailing are first-rate, from the snug fit of the dividers and the seam of the lid down to the stylish lock and handles. Davidoff's patented humidification system is excellent, but because the interior wood doesn't absorb moisture as quickly as Spanish cedar, it's a good idea to keep at least 20 cigars in the humidor. A sliding marker on the humidifier lets you know when you last added water. Another classy touch is a magnet for cutter storage on the inside of the lid. This box is expensive but worth it.

Michel Perrenoud
100 Cigar Humidor in Elm Burl/$2,300
(201) 778-1194

Capacity: 100
Interior: Finished sealed mahogany
Humidification: Michel Perrenoud
Details: Tray, six dividers, lock and key
Score: A-

This a gorgeous and distinctive box. Low and wide, with an exterior of dark, swirling burl, it immediately captures your eye. This is one of the few that live up to their promises of capacity. You can truly hold 100 cigars inside, or even 32 Montecristo As. The tray and the six dividers make it easy to accommodate any cigar smoker, even with the most eclectic of tastes. The Perrenoud humidification system is perhaps the lowest maintenance system available. It kept our cigars in perfect condition throughout the test. It will hold water for months, but take care when refilling. Unlike Credos, these have vents only on one side. Overfill it and you're likely to get a lap full of water. The finished wood interior is a detractor to some purists, who insist on Spanish cedar for aging, but this is an exceptional piece.

Daniel Marshall
Ambiente/$445
(800) 923-2889

Capacity: 125
Interior: Spanish cedar
Humidification: Daniel Marshall
Details: Hygrometer, brass plaque, two dividers, magnetic calendar, water bottle, five Daniel Marshall cigars
Score: B+ Best Buy

At home in any room, with any decor, the straightforward Ambiente is a workhorse with style. It's also the best bargain in the market. The finish is not up to the level of the luxury models, but the box is sleek and charming in its simplicity, and its performance was superb, keeping our cigars silky and perfect. Despite the low price, the Ambiente has several nice extras that many of the more expensive pieces lack, including a magnetic calendar to remind you when to refill and recharge the humidification device, as well as an elegant hygrometer. The manufacturer even throws in five of his private-label cigars. It has some rough spots, but the performance and price of the Ambiente easily outweigh any minor flaws. It's hard to beat this value.

Michael Dixon
C Model Bubinga/ $1,000
(301) 432-6131

Capacity: 75-100
Interior: Spanish cedar
Humidification: Humigar Moistener
Details: Hygrometer, two dividers, water bottle
Score: B+

An attractive humidor with interesting, compelling inlays. The finish could be more refined and some of the veneers are rather roughly fitted. It has a plain interior, with an unattractive hygrometer. The humidity was erratic at the beginning of our test, but after one refill it evened out. At the end of the test, the cigars were in very good shape. Covering the entire bottom with felt, rather than the four small pads that are used, would be an improvement. The Michael Dixon has neither the luster nor the panache of the top humidors in this test, but it's appealing and functional.

S.T. Dupont
Macassar Ebony/$635
(800) 341-7003

Capacity: 25
Interior: Unfinished mahogany
Humidification: Credo Rondo
Details: Hygrometer, one divider
Score: B+ (preliminary)

Stylish and classy, this is a beautifully manufactured piece. Every corner fits perfectly and the lid is married to the rest of the box. It's very attractive, with a beveled edge of blond wood that contrasts nicely with the dark woods that dominate the piece. We'd like to see more humidification: the Credo Rondo might provide enough for this small box, but it will require refilling at least twice a month. Due to production shortages, we received the S.T. Dupont after the test had begun and could not fully judge its humidification capabilities. We also received a smaller model than we requested. Our rating is preliminary.

Club Imports
American Troubador HAT-42 Pomele Burl/$590
(800) 292-CLUB

Capacity: 125
Interior: Spanish cedar
Humidification: Credo Epsilon
Details: Two adjustable dividers, analog hygrometer, lock and key
Score: B

This rectangular box won't win any awards for beauty or creativity, but it's sensibly designed and highly effective. The adjustable dividers are stable yet easy to move. The corners are nicely joined and the lid hinges are well calibrated; this minimizes the stress placed on the box when the lid is open. As for humidification, the Credo Epsilon is ideal for a box this size. The cigars were silky and beautiful. The American Troubador is a good buy for the money.

Diamond Crown
Biltmore/$625
(800) 477-1884

Capacity: 100
Interior: Spanish cedar
Humidification: Credo Precision 70
Details: Two adjustable dividers, tray with two adjustable dividers, analog hygrometer, lock and key
Score: B

A beveled top and routed face give this roomy humidor its distinctive appearance. The Biltmore has a tray with elegant dividers and a pleasant, but not overpowering, cedar aroma. It also has some flaws, including the inadequate magnet that's supposed to secure the Credo to the inside of the lid. We repeatedly found the Credo upside down in the tray. Though we had to add water twice, the cigars were kept in smokable condition. Despite the problem with the Credo magnet, which is correctable, and a finish that's rough in some spots (the top of one divider was unsanded), this humidor is a good value at $625.


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