Humidors: Savinelli and Davidoff

Savinelli and Davidoff Produce Top-Quality Humidors at Opposite Ends of the Price Spectrum
| By Shandana A. Durrani | From Jack Nicholson, Summer 95

The editors of Cigar Aficionado have seen dramatic changes in humidor technology as consumers' expectations have gone beyond the need for a simple wooden box to sophisticated and properly humidified environments for their cigars. Humidor manufacturers have responded to the new demands by improving the quality of their designs.

Cigar Aficionado's first humidor article (see Winter 1992/93) examined and tested 11 humidors from eight major brands. All performed relatively well. Two of the brands spotlighted, Davidoff of Geneva and Savinelli Pipes Inc., have evolved dramatically since that article appeared. The companies' product lines have expanded to include more intricately inlaid designs and larger humidors. Unfortunately, the wait for a high-quality humidor is lengthy because the manufacturers cannot keep up with the demand.

Production problems aside, both Davidoff and Savinelli humidors have much to recommend them. If you prefer handcrafted, top-of-the-line models with intricate marquetry, and you have a lot of cash to spare, Davidoff is the choice. But if you prefer a more modest, but no less beautiful, humidor that is made with care and the recession-tempered customer in mind, the choice would have to be Savinelli. Regardless of which brand you choose, your decision will undoubtedly please you and your cigars.

History and cigar lovers have been kind to Davidoff. The international conglomerate founded by the late Zino Davidoff has stores all over the world that sell a wide array of products, including premium cigars, cigarillos, cologne and humidors. Davidoff has been crafting its custom-made humidors for decades, with sales rising dramatically in recent years as the popularity of cigar smoking has grown. Its lines are handcrafted in Switzerland using innovative techniques.

Davidoff's marquetry line of high-quality cigar chests is one of its top sellers (suggested retail from $2,470). Made of exotic wood with your choice of finishes and handmade at an atelier (workshop) in St. Croix, Switzerland, these humidors go through an extensive crafting process, from initial drawings to the finished product.

For each box's design, a team of craftsmen cuts 10 thin (each 1/16th of an inch) pieces of marquetry at a time with a foot saw, according to Dario Rinaldi, sales coordinator for Davidoff of Geneva (Connecticut) Inc. Only one of the 10 pieces of the "puzzle" is needed to create an individual humidor. The remaining nine are used separately to create more humidors. The pieces are mounted on pasted newspaper for support and are assembled on the original drawing on the humidor itself. The marquetry is then varnished and sanded over a period of several weeks.

Customers can choose from a simple flower design to a detailed Swiss village motif or, if they so desire, consumers can have Davidoff's team of designers create a custom-made humidor from a picture that they provide. "We will take any design from our customers," says Georganne Calyanis, director of public relations, "as long as they give us the dimensions or even if they give us an idea of what they want."

Each humidor comes with Davidoff's patented internal regulator, which, unfortunately, is not sold separately. However, each regulator comes with a lifetime warranty in case of manufacturer defects. Users are instructed to add distilled water every 60 days to keep cigars at peak condition, in addition to checking the humidor frequently.

Davidoff's approach to humidor design is to create classic pieces of exceptional quality that will last a lifetime, according to Calyanis. Yet the company also produces new and interesting humidors to anticipate customers' demands. Davidoff's latest chest was introduced at the Retail Tobacco Dealers of America show in 1993. The U.S. Flag humidor, engraved with the 13-star U.S. colonial flag, features antique hinges and locks. Of the original 13 units, more than eight have been sold. At the RTDA show this August, Davidoff hopes to unveil a new addition to its line.

Savinelli was founded in 1876, primarily as a maker of pipes. Through four generations of craftsmen, the company has expanded to produce not only pipes, but leather goods, humidors and, most recently, its signature line of premium cigars (the Savinelli E.L.R. Churchill rated a 91 in the Spring 1995 issue of Cigar Aficionado).

Savinelli's approach to humidor design is to present the consumer with the best possible product for the money, according to Savinelli CEO Rubin Ysidron. Although its humidors retail in the hundreds rather than the thousands of dollars, says Ysidron, they look like they are worth much more. To meet the increasing need for larger-sized humidors, Savinelli has added the Ebony Grain 1092 BG (suggested retail $850) to its line.

Designed by a team of furniture makers in Milan, in conjunction with the Savinelli firm in the United States, this large, 200-cigar humidor is made of a wood similar to zebrawood. Its interior is made of a rosewood called Palisandra. It is similar to cedar, according to Ysidron, but it functions better in a humidor. "Some cedars give off too much aroma and actually influence the taste of the cigar," he says. "What we're using does not do that."

The exterior of the Ebony Grain humidor is clean and smooth to the touch. It has a very high polish, similar to a fine piano. The unfinished interior has a removable tray with two dividers; underneath that tray is an additional pair of dividers. With these features, Savinelli has created a humidor with separate compartments for six different sizes of cigars.

In addition to these dividers, the Ebony Grain comes with the Credo Rondo humidification system. Two Rondos regulate the moisture level in the box, monitored by a built-in hygrometer. Savinelli recommends recharging its humidification device with distilled water about every 30 days to ensure proper humidity for the cigars, or more often if the cigars begin to dry out.

There are prototype Savinelli humidors we will never see in cigar shops because, according to Ysidron, the company concluded that they wouldn't fit into the marketplace. However, Savinelli is working with another Italian fine-furniture company on more colorful, antique-inlaid humidors. They are still in early development, but Savinelli hopes to introduce the new line soon.