Elegant Humidors

New and Innovative Handcrafted Humidors for the Holidays
| From George Burns, Winter 94/95

Humidor designers Michel Perrenoud and Daniel Marshall are two pioneers transforming seemingly ordinary objects into extraordinary items. They have created a stir among cigar lovers by crafting some of the most unusual and interesting humidors on the market from two completely different approaches.

Perrenoud (pronounced: Pair-no), who designs all of the pieces in the Michel Perrenoud collection in Switzerland, has unveiled several new humidors. In September, as one of only two humidor designers (the other was David Linley, see Cigar Aficionado Fall 1994) invited to the "Les Objets d'Art Autour du Tabac," an exhibition in Paris devoted to showcasing tobacco products and accessories, Perrenoud showed the Macassar Pyramid humidor, part of the Pyramid line he originally launched in the fall of 1993.

The Pyramid humidor is crafted much like the architectural wonders in Egypt, albeit much smaller. With a total height of approximately 44 inches and a base of approximately 16 inches, this lacquered-mahogany marvel holds more than 100 cigars. The lid holds two humidity regulators and a drawer underneath accommodates a cigar cutter, lighter and matches.

Unlike traditional humidors, which are rectangular in shape, the pyramid is a geometry major's dream. According to Perrenoud, the Pyramid is not only a perfect geometric shape but an exceptional storage room if one refers to its function as an eternal resting place. Hence, as the pharaohs' bodies were preserved for centuries in their tombs, Perrenoud believes that your cigars will live long in their resting place: the Pyramid humidor.

Not content with the Pyramid, Perrenoud has introduced three new pieces. The Bald Eagle humidor is the first of a collection of humidors that will feature birds and other animals. This premier humidor is made of solid mahogany with handcrafted marquetry, featuring a lifelike image of a bald eagle and is an edition limited to 200 units only.

Moving to humidor design on a grander scale, Perrenoud has created a recliner with matching cart that puts cigars right at your fingertips and is innovative in its storage capabilities.

The recliners, called smoking chairs, are fashioned so that a cigar lover doesn't have to get out of his seat to get a cigar from his humidor. For example, on the left armrest of the chair is a built-in humidor compartment, which can adjust to accommodate a variety of cigar sizes. The humidification device is at the bottom of the compartment.

The right armrest neatly stores a cigar cutter or scissor, matches and an ashtray. The frame is solid mahogany cushioned with top-grain Italian leather. Perrenoud consulted an orthopedist to help craft the chair to support the back while reclining or sitting up straight. Adjust the small mahogany handle and you can go from a reclining position to an upright position in one smooth motion; in practice that is easier said than done, but it is not too difficult to get the hang of it.

The solid mahogany "rolling" cart, called the smoking bar, completes the set. Just under the cover are two trays for storing cigars, resting atop a humidity regulator. There are two racks at the open bottom of the unit designed to hold a collection of Cognacs, brandies and other spirits. Place it between two smoking chairs or roll it easily from room to room. Unlike other humidors, these three pieces have a form as well as a function.

All of the Perrenoud pieces described above are available in limited quantities for the 1994 holiday season. The 100-cigar "Deluxe" Pyramid Humidor retails for $11,800, the Bald Eagle Humidor retails for $5,200, the smoking bar retails for $8,200 and the smoking chair retails for $11,200.

The Daniel Marshall Signature Collection recently introduced two new humidors. The first item, the limited-edition Treasure Chest, was inspired by the treasure chests of pirate lore. Instead of holding buried treasure, the chest holds your favorite cigars. Made of burl and polished with a "thousand-coat finish" on the outside, the inside is natural, untreated, unlacquered Spanish cedar. This is unique because most humidors are finished on the inside. Each piece takes almost four months to produce from inception to completion, reflecting Marshall's attention to detail.

The humidors come in three sizes: 50-cigar capacity ($1,395) with one divider; 100-cigar capacity ($1,795) with two dividers; and 150-cigar capacity ($2,795) with lift-out tray and four dividers in the tray and lower compartment.

In the test, the Treasure Chest humidor opened easily, but inserting the key into the lock was a little difficult. However, it has angled interior corners, which makes for a sturdier humidor.

Another minor flaw we noticed was with the handles: they were a little small relative to the size and weight of this otherwise impressive chest.

On the positive end, the lacquer was smooth and elaborate and the finish was ornate. The Credo Precision 70 humidification system was first-rate and came equipped with a sliding cover for an integrated appearance. The 24 kt.-gold-covered hinges and locks were set well into the wood. Consumers receive a Davidoff cigar cutter and a hand-engraved, brass plate for monogramming with each purchase. Each humidor is hand signed by Marshall, with a dedication to the purchaser with his or her name.

Another new humidor by Marshall is the Ambiente. Rectangular in shape and set in matte black or dark Bordeaux lacquer, this 125-cigar-capacity humidor is a good value for the beginning cigar aficionado because of its size and price. Like a similar humidor by Savinelli, the Marshall version is lacquered on the outside and has a smooth, untreated Spanish cedar wood finish on the inside, with felt on the bottom of the box to prevent marring any surfaces.

The Ambiente, dubbed the "no frills" humidor because of its simple design and name (which means "environment" in Italian and French), is unlike most of Marshall's detailed and intricate humidors. It goes with almost any decor because of its simplicity and design.

Already a hot seller, the humidor retails for $395 with two dividers and the Credo Precision 70 System or $475 with lift-out tray, four dividers and the Credo Precision 70 System.

When we tested the Ambiente humidor, it produced some interesting results. Unlike the Treasure Chest, which had a sliding wood panel over its humidification system to protect it and the cigars, the Ambiente had a magnetized humidification system. And although the humidor is large (holding more than 125 Corona-sized cigars), the humidifier is the same size as the one in the smaller Treasure Chest humidor and works adequately.

In addition, when we opened the humidor, the weight of the lid caused the hinges to squeak in protest. However, the interior wood was of good quality and the matte finish was smooth. It is a good value.

The Ambiente humidor has brass quadrant hinges and comes equipped with an optional lift-out tray as well as a wood lip that extends down from the lid that, according to Marshall, acts as a seal to lock in the humidity.

The key feature to any humidor is whether or not the regulator provides adequate humidity to protect the cigars that it holds. Without the proper humidification system, the cigars will dry up and you won't get as much aroma and flavor from the smoke.

The weeklong test of the Marshall humidors produced some interesting results. The 50-capacity Treasure Chest humidor maintained the proper humidity throughout the week. After an initial low reading, its 100-capacity sibling was close to perfect. The Ambiente, however, needed more moisture in the Credo system to get it to a desired level.

What our tests proved was that consumers must use an accurate temperature/humidity gauge to indicate whether you should reload the humidity regulator sooner or later. In theory, the Credo System should be reloaded with moisture every 30 days, but as the Ambiente showed, larger-capacity humidors need more moisture, probably every 20 days. However, there is no accounting for personal taste; some people like drier cigars, some like more moist cigars.

Needless to say, Perrenoud, Marshall and other humidor designers are moving into the next millennium. With these elaborate creations, humidors are not just boxes anymore--they are works of art.

Humidor Sources

Daniel Marshall, (800) 923-2889

Michel Perrenoud, (201) 778-1194