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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
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.

John Christopher
RM150/$995
(800) 704-4367

Capacity: 150
Interior: Spanish cedar
Humidification: Two Credo Precision 70 Gold units
Details: Tray, four dividers, water bottle, lock and key, choice of hygrometer or cigar scissors
Score: B

A well-made, conservative humidor. The twin Credos provide ample humidity for this large piece, and they are framed by wooden holders, a classy and intelligent touch. The tray could use some improvement; it's a bit loose and the leather pulls look out of place. But it does the job. Go with the hygrometer instead of the scissors. The pair that came with our model was cheap and dull. The cigars inside this humidor were kept in fine condition throughout the test; after week one the humidity levels remained within one point of 70 percent. A good home for your cigars.

Triade
Amboyna/$1,190
33-78-73-10-79

Capacity: 100
Interior: Mahogany
Humidification: Credo Precision 70
Details: Lock and key, two dividers, hygrometer
Score: B

The Triade has exquisite, colorful marquetry, a compelling combination of conservative and modern styles. The interior is well finished, if a little plain, and it's far too small to hold 100 cigars. Maybe 50. The joints are smooth, but the lid doesn't meet the box as well as it should. The magnet holding the Credo came loose several times; the manufacturer needs to secure the system properly before shipping. Despite the various problems, the Triade's humidity levels were flawless, the best of the test group. A less than perfect piece that works well. At this price, the flaws should be corrected.

Prometheus
(made by Triade)
H-Verts/100 Amboyna Burl/$1,240
(800) 229-5233

Capacity: 100
Interior: Mahogany
Humidification: Credo Precision 70
Details: lock and two keys, two dividers, hygrometer
Score: B

The same humidor as the Triade. The only difference is the price, and the Prometheus' Credo did not come loose during our test.

C.A.O.
Executive/$849.95
(800) BEST-CAO

Capacity: 200
Interior: Spanish cedar (tray system)
Humidification: Two C.A.O. regulators
Details: Hygrometer, lattice three-tray system
Score: B-

This traditional-style humidor could use a heavier lid. It doesn't feel solid. Several times when we opened it, the tray system came along for the ride. That needs to be corrected. The exterior isn't as attractive as we'd like; the inside is a little better. The twin humidification systems--which the manufacturer says will work with either tap water or distilled water--provide plenty of humidity for this box. Our cigars were a bit soft at first, but that was corrected. The Spanish cedar tray system is the best part of the piece. You can keep three levels of cigars, and the bottom level is hidden. Keep your best cigars there, away from moochers.

Heritage Humidors
HH120 African Padauk/$895
(313) 669-8868

Capacity: 120 cigars
Interior: Spanish cedar
Humidification: Cigar Keeper
Details: One adjustable divider, tray, analog hygrometer
Score: B-

This is a heavy-duty humidor with a traditional look. A raised rectangle on the lid lends it a jewelry-box character, and routed finger holds on the sides are the only other flourish. Inside it has solid, durable-looking joints and sturdy hinges. The analog hygrometer, which is fairly accurate, sits in a wooden mount that matches the exterior wood (African Padauk). Two significant flaws prevented the HH120 from scoring higher. In addition to the box running a bit humid throughout the test, the lid doesn't lie flat unless you lock the humidor, and even then it's not perfect.

House of Lords
Monarch/$750
(800) 632-2228

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

This was the only humidor in our test with a leather exterior. It's a conservative brown box that kept cigars in decent condition, but the construction is lacking. Toward the end of the test, the cedar insert was starting to split at the joints. One divider fit well, the other was loose. The key clashes with the humidor and doesn't fit snugly into the lock.

Humidif
601 Black Walnut/$290
(800) 783-3481

Capacity: 35-50
Interior: White cedar
Humidification: Humidif Accurate System
Details: One adjustable divider, analog hygrometer
Score: B-

This small, run-of-the-mill humidor is short on aesthetics but long on value. The walnut veneer is marred by patches of cloudiness and the divider is a rough, unadorned strip of cedar. But it's well made with solid hardware, and it kept cigars in good shape. At $290, it's a decent buy.

Island Humidors
Standard C Series South American Rosewood/$460
(718) 966-5616

Capacity: 75-100
Interior: Solid Spanish cedar
Humidification: Hydromist Humidity Control System
Details: Two adjustable dividers, no hygrometer
Score: B-

This straightforward box kept cigars beautifully humidified, but a lingering glue smell affected their flavor. The smell dissipated over time, but it's something to look out for--use this humidor for at least one month before adding any precious smokes. The humidor is nicely constructed, with well-fitted joints and a near-perfect seam between the lid and the box. The hinges, however, seem susceptible to the strain of repeated opening and closing. Also, the entire bottom should be lined with a stabilizing material such as felt; this box is secured by just a single patch of felt at each corner.

John W. Goff Designs
Regency Collection Grand Windsor/$1,400
(800) 923-1950

Capacity: 100
Interior: Spanish cedar
Humidification: Credo Epsilon
Details: Tray, two dividers, no hygrometer
Score: B-

The dark, swirling wood veneer of this piece is not quite up to the standards of the best boxes, but it's attractive. The interior is not nearly as inviting. With no hygrometer and a bare Credo, the inside lid is rather plain, and the black trim around the lip seems out of place and poorly done. Still, there are several unique elements here, which are appreciated. The hinge system is unusual and extremely smooth, an effective alternative to the standard system on most humidors. The I-shaped dividers are ornate and fit snugly into the tray. Some of the cigars on the bottom of the box were a bit dry, perhaps because the thick lift-out tray is not slotted.

By Design
Centurian/$850
(800) 278-6112

Capacity: 100
Interior: Red Spanish cedar
Humidification: Credo Precision 70
Details: Hygrometer/thermometer, three dividers
Score: C+

This looks a bit more like a silver caddy than a humidor. The By Design Centurian is a simply made, straightforward box. The workmanship could be better. One lid joint was already separating by the end of our test, and the interior is too aromatic and can overpower cigars. The lid doesn't fit as well as it should, and the inside is spartan and plain. But this manufacturer is one of the very few that included detailed seasoning instructions, and the humidor did a fine job of maintaining the proper humidity. A big box that's short on style and looks, but it works well.

Catina
Classico "Steinway"/$900
(910) 274-8810

Capacity: 100
Interior: Spanish cedar
Humidification: Western Humidor Humifier 2000
Details: two dividers, adjustable hygrometer
Score: C+

The top veneer on this box is attractive but imperfect. The lid is attached with a crude hinge system. When open, the humidor teeters on the verge of tipping over. While the joints fit snugly and the Spanish cedar inserts meet at smooth, well-finished angles, the rest of the interior is plain and unattractive. A bare humidification element is mounted above an ugly hygrometer. The logo in the corner seems like an afterthought. The humidification system pumps out too much moisture, and our cigars were very soft. Adding more cigars helped somewhat. This is a flawed humidor that needs constant attention to ensure that the humidity level doesn't get too high.

Heirloom
(a division of On Display)
XLHC/$750
(804) 231-1942

Capacity: 100
Interior: Spanish cedar
Humidification: Credo Precision 70
Details: Hygrometer, lift-out tray, lock and key
Score: C+

A spartan humidor, both inside and out. The exterior finish is rather plain, though fairly attractive. It's a fairly well-made box. The lid fits properly, and the joints where the sides meet are smooth. It can hold a good amount of cigars, and the tray and lock are nice additions, even if the lock itself is rather gauche. Its real flaw is the inadequate humidity. A bigger system would help, as our cigars were fairly dry throughout the test.

Caribe
Classico 50/$229
(800) 367-0782

Capacity: 50
Interior: Spanish cedar
Humidification: Credo Rondo
Details: Analog hygrometer
Score: C

This simple humidor performed quite well, but the magnet holding the Credo kept falling off the inside of the lid. The cherry finish is attractive if nondescript. The lid fit is uneven, and the Classico 50's square shape prevents storage of cigars longer than eight inches. But it's solidly built. If you're looking for a basic, effective humidor, this inexpensive box is a potential value.

Controlled Environments Cigar Humidors
All Terrain Humidor/$129
(800) 876-8789

Capacity: 125
Interior: Spanish cedar
Humidification: CedarBag humidifier with polymers
Details: Two dividers, no hygrometer
Score: C

The All Terrain Humidor (ATH) is the oddball of the bunch. It's an old ammunition box that's fitted with a cedar insert and two dividers that, when in use, force you to store cigars vertically. The ATH's capacity increases and cigars are better protected when the ill-conceived dividers are removed. The humidity source is a sack that's filled with "special moisture retention polymers," according to the instructions. Whatever it is, it overhumidifies the box, which is truly airtight. The ATH must be opened frequently to avoid mustiness and, eventually, mold growth. Still, the ATH has its place. It is large, making it perfect for a group fishing trip or an extended vacation, but it is inadequate for long-term storage.

Heirloom Perfect
The Coffer Walnut Burl/$1,895
(813) 462-8078

Capacity: 125
Interior: Spanish cedar
Humidification: Credo Epsilon
Details: One adjustable divider, tray with adjustable divider, Western digital hygrometer
Score: C

The designer of this humidor had some interesting ideas, but the execution is flawed. The hinge mechanism is cleverly hidden, but it creaks when opening and is improperly calibrated. Another creative touch is the coffin-like lid, which is fitted on the inside with wooden holders for the Credo and the hygrometer. Again, the execution is imperfect. While the lip of the holder keeps the Credo in place, it obstructs part of the humidity source. The large box kept cigars in fine condition, but, given its flaws and its price tag, that seems small consolation.

Humidors by Design
Sapele 2110-019/$750
(208) 939-4988

Capacity: 125
Interior: Honduras mahogany
Humidification: Credo Epsilon
Details: Tray, four dividers, lock and two keys, brass handles
Score: C
(Note: this company is not related to By Design.)

This is an unsophisticated-looking piece, with prominent dovetails on the sides and a very old-fashioned look. It is extremely heavy and hard to lift. While it feels as if it will last, it could use some sprucing up. The inside lid is barren, with only a bare Credo. The tray, which is made of unfinished mahogany, was not designed properly, and swelled during the test. We struggled to remove it on several occasions. Lifting it out is a good workout, as is carrying the box around. The humidity levels were around 70 percent throughout the test, but the cigars on the bottom of the tray were a bit dry, indicating that the air is not circulating as well as it should.

Kohaut
175/$410
(702) 588-8456

Capacity: 75
Interior: Spanish cedar
Humidification: The Ultimate Cigar Protector
Details: One removable divider, tray with stationary divider, analog hygrometer
Score: C

This is a dark walnut box with dovetail joints at the corners. The lid has odd striations of conflicting wood grains. Inside, the corners of the cedar insert are poorly jointed, and the tray seems cheaply made. The humidifier slides firmly onto a strip of plastic attached to the inside of the lid, but the cigars were kept in barely smokable condition.

Mom's Cigars
Mark 100/$295
(800) 831-8893

Capacity: 100
Interior: Spanish cedar
Humidification: Credo Precision 70
Details: Two adjustable dividers, no hygrometer
Score: C

Made of mahogany, this rustic humidor may have scored higher had its Credo stayed affixed to the inside of the lid. Instead, it repeatedly fell onto the cigars. Fortunately, this problem can be corrected by drilling a small mount to the inside of the lid. As for the box itself, the construction is adequate; the hardware is tacky. You get what you pay for.

Norman Kosarin Designs For Your Smoking Pleasure
Wooden 50 Cigar Humidor/$890
(212) 319-0069

Capacity: 50
Interior: Spanish cedar
Humidification: Credo Rondo
Details: Unmounted hygrometer, one divider, lock and key
Score: C

This is a cute little box, with a well-made exterior veneer in an attractive, traditional style. It's very lightweight, but all the joints fit well. Despite its diminutive size, the Credo Rondo simply doesn't provide enough humidity for the piece. Our cigars were dry throughout the test, even with two refills of distilled water. A bigger system is required. There are other annoying shortcomings: The hygrometer isn't mounted, and there are no instructions on how to attach it. The lid requires some force to properly close and you must apply serious pressure to lock it. Rather expensive for what you get.

Prestige Wood Specialties
Prestige X/$335
(800) 524-5024

Capacity: 70
Interior: Spanish cedar
Humidification: Credo Precision 70
Details: Two adjustable dividers, analog hygrometer
Score: C

This is another humidor that does an adequate job humidifying cigars, but it is disappointing in several other respects. The walnut box looks almost homemade--the maker paid very little attention to detail. The cedar insert is badly splintered and the lid doesn't open wide enough. A couple nice touches keep it from scoring lower: the attractive dividers fit snugly and the hinges are set into the seam between the lid and the body.

Savinelli
Mahogany Tobacco Leaf/$700
(919) 481-0511

Capacity: 75
Interior: Rosewood
Humidification: Two Credo Rondo units
Details: hygrometer, two dividers
Score: C

This is a visually stunning piece, but it has a major design flaw. From the beginning of the test to the end, the Savinelli humidor had a lingering aroma of glue or varnish. This eventually ruined our test cigars. When we smoked one after it was in the humidor for a month, the cigar left a chemical taste on the palate. The cigars were lost. This is a shame, because this piece is otherwise well made, with careful detailing inside and out, and the humidity levels from the twin Credo Rondos were exceptional. The cigars felt perfect, but they were unsmokeable due to the odor. Before you buy a Mahogany Tobacco Leaf, we highly recommend that you carefully smell the interior.

Siboney
Smoked Walnut Burl/$720
(305) 262-3775

Capacity: 100
Interior: Spanish cedar
Humidification: Credo Epsilon
Details: Two dividers, analog hygrometer
Score: C

This beautiful humidor has an opulent, smoky veneer that's mostly black but is peppered with grayish-brown wood-knot patterns. Unfortunately, its beauty is marred by an imperfect fit between the lid and the box. Toward the end of our test, the veneer was coming apart at the front left corner. The inside is no improvement. The dividers are loose, the veneer bleeds glue and, worst of all, the cigars were mushy for the first three weeks before the humidity finally stabilized.

Western Humidor
Series 1000-T/$580
(800) 776-0096

Capacity: 100 cigars
Interior: Spanish cedar
Humidification: Western Humidor Humifier 2000
Details: Two adjustable dividers, tray with two adjustable dividers, Western digital hygrometer
Score: C

This box gives you a lot of humidor for the price. It's significantly larger than most 100-cigar models; Western's literature says it's "designed for cigar smokers with a preference for large cigars." Unfortunately, the humidification is inadequate. We had to add water three times during the six-week test. The box is competently built, but the detailing is shoddy. The digital hygrometer is fastened loosely with Velcro, and there are patches of ink-like stains all over the crudely fitted tray.

Desk Pro Inc.
Woodmere/$420
(800) 920-3375

Capacity: 125
Interior: Aromatic Cedar
Humidification: Accurate 70 (two)
Details: Two adjustable dividers, analog hygrometer
Score: C-

This is a tacky looking, poorly made humidor. The lid was already checking (coming apart at the joints) by the end of our test. The exterior finish is crude and cloudy. There is, however, a well-designed console on the inside of the lid that houses the hygrometer and both humidifiers, which kept the cigars in reasonably good condition.

John Snedeker Woodworking
Monterrey H300 Macassar Ebony/$830
(803) 722-6411

Capacity: 75-100
Interior: Spanish cedar
Humidification: Western Humidor Humifier 2000
Details: Two adjustable dividers, lock and key, analog hygrometer
Score: C-

This is a nice mahogany box, but an ineffective humidor. The humidity level ran well above the desirable 70 to 72 percent, causing mold to develop on some cigars. The other cigars were too soggy to smoke. Adding more cigars didn't solve the problem. The lock and brass handles are chintzy, but the black-and-brown marbled exterior is attractive and the workmanship is quite good. But none of that matters if the cigars are unsmokable.

Caribbean Cigar
Cuban Craftsman Cove Inlay/$199
(305) 267-3911

Capacity: 100
Interior: Spanish cedar
Humidification: Credo Epsilon
Details: No hygrometer, no dividers
Score: D+

There isn't much to this piece, which is as light as an empty cigar box. Made of solid Spanish cedar, the lid closes only under heavy pressure. The joints fit fairly well, but they are rough, and the box does not look or feel as if it can withstand long-term use. It was impossible to keep the Credo stuck to the lid, and we had to refill it twice with water, but at the end of the test the cigars were in decent shape. This is a budget, high-maintenance humidor that is functional.

Abbey Cigar Products
AEH50 Oak/$100
(800) 663-8768

Capacity: 50
Interior: Red cedar
Humidification: HumiStor
Details: No hygrometer
Score: D

This is a bare-bones box. It has very little detailing and comes with neither a hygrometer nor any dividers. It kept the cigars in smokable condition, but just barely; the humidity ran a little low throughout the test. The interior wood is a strong, aromatic cedar (not Spanish cedar) that could affect the flavor of cigars over time.

Cigar Essentials
Alente 100/$575
(519) 473-7905

Capacity: 100
Interior: Brazilian mahogany
Humidification: Humi Pak
Details: Two dividers
Score: D

The Alente is plain and roughly finished with a painted wood exterior. The interior is rather austere. Those are the positives. This box has major flaws. It took two hands to open--one to hold down the box, one to pry open the reluctant lid, making us wonder if the manufacturer was trying to keep us from smoking. One hinge actually broke at the conclusion of our test. Even when it was in place, the lid wouldn't fully close; after the hinge broke the gap grew even larger. The Alente's humidity was consistently high throughout the test and the cigars were soggy and soft. We added more cigars, but that didn't fully correct the problem. This is no place for your good smokes.

Decatur Industries
#1000/$450
(800) 556-7111

Capacity: 100
Interior: Spanish cedar
Humidification: Decatur Industries
Details: Hygrometer, thermometer, routed tray, one divider
Score: D

This humidor has unforgivable flaws. The biggest is its inadequate and cheap humidification system. Made of unattractive plastic with a faux wood grain, it couldn't even begin to provide enough humidity for this size box. The cigars in the top tray were slightly dry, those at the bottom were drier still. We never could get the humidity above 65 percent, and it went down below 60 percent at times. The lid hinge is substandard, the handles are cheap, the finish is poor and the cedar inserts have rough corners. The routed tray minimizes the storage space for cigars, although it is unique and fairly attractive. An adequate humidification system would make this an average, workable piece.

Extraordinary Humidor
B100/$1,500-$1,600
(714) 366-0290

Capacity: 100
Interior: Spanish cedar
Humidification: Credo Precision 70
Details: Hygrometer, tray, two dividers, lock and key
Score: D

Most humidors are made from thin veneers of exotic wood. Not this one. It's constructed of solid woods, making it very heavy. While that sounds like a good idea, it doesn't work here, and it's a shame. The lid on this piece--a three-quarter-inch-thick slab of Afzelia burl from Laos--is breathtaking, beautiful to the eye and magical to the touch. But at the conclusion of our test, this humidor was falling apart. The front joints were splitting, leaving ugly gaps. The interior is crudely finished, hardly the equal of the exterior. The dividers are simply ill-fitting pieces of Spanish cedar. More important, there is a problem of function. The box is not breathing properly. Humidity levels ran in the upper 70s and low 80s throughout the test. We doubled the number of cigars in the humidor to try to absorb the excess humidity, but even they were exceptionally moist at the end of the test. Some had even split from the moisture. This is an extraordinary piece of furniture, but a failure as a humidor.

Wellington Humidor (Almar International)
Beaverbrook Rosewood/$190
(800) 646-8834

Capacity: 75
Interior: Spanish cedar
Humidification: Almar #88 Humidity Regulator
Details: Hygrometer, one divider
Score: D

While this humidor kept our cigars in decent shape after one refill, the appearance of this piece is unprofessional at best. The painted wood finish is rough. The wooden hinges feel as if you could snap them with your fingers. The hygrometer and humidification element hang precariously from a rippled sheet of cedar that is peeling off the inside lid. The felt strips that keep the divider in place fell off during the test. Many of the joints have gaps, and you risk getting a splinter if you rub your hands along parts of the box. Inexpensive, and it shows.

G.A. Andron
La Flor de la Isabela/$110
(800) 221-1634

Capacity: 50
Interior: Mahogany
Humidification: Tray with a square piece of white foam
Details: Two stationary dividers, tray, hygrometer
Score: D-

This blond mahogany humidor looks as bad as it performs. Even at $110, it's not worth it. The humidity source, a white sponge in a lucite tray, is completely ineffective; the cigars dried out, despite adding water every week. The lid opens too far, almost pulling the humidor back with it, and it doesn't stay shut, either. We'll say it again: you get what you pay for.

David Savona is the senior editor of Cigar Insider, Marvin Shanken's monthly cigar newsletter. Brendan Vaughan is the assistant editor of Cigar Insider and the manager of on-line services for Cigar Aficionado. Seasoning a Humidor

It takes time, patience and a little know-how to get a new humidor ready to hold cigars. You're trying to recreate the tropical environments where most cigars are made, and you can't rush the process. Putting cigars into a dry humidor can ruin good smokes.

Most humidors have an interior made of untreated Spanish cedar, the preferred wood for humidifying and aging premium cigars. The wood needs to be humidified, or seasoned, before the box is ready to hold cigars. (Some humidors, such as those made by Michel Perrenoud, have varnished or finished wood interiors that don't need to be seasoned.)

Take a new sponge--make sure it is unscented and free of soap--and wet it with a liberal dose of distilled water. Wipe down all the exposed wood, including any trays and dividers, and the interior lid. Avoid using a paper towel or a fraying cloth; these will literally leave a paper trail on the wood. After you've wiped down the wood, squirt the sponge with more distilled water, then place it inside the humidor on a plastic bag--to avoid direct contact with the wood--and close the lid.

Next, prepare your humidification device according to the manufacturer's instructions. Unless the manufacturer specifically states that you can use tap water, use only distilled water. Tap water contains minerals that will destroy most humidification systems by leaving deposits that will clog the humidor element. Once the humidification element is filled, be sure to wipe it down to remove all the excess water. Rest it on a hand towel for approximately 30 minutes.

Close the humidor with its humidifying element and the damp sponge, and leave it overnight. The next day, refresh the humidification device (it may not need it) and check the sponge. If it is fairly dry, add more distilled water. If it is very damp, leave it alone.

Let the humidor sit another night, and then remove the sponge and plastic bag. The walls of the humidor have now absorbed all the water they need, and now you can safely store your cigars. --DS

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