How to Store and Keep Cigars – Techniques, Do’s and Don’ts:
Eventually every cigar smoker starts to build their personal collection and each smoker has their own personal way to store and keep cigars. There are many devices to store and keep your cigars that include traditional wood humidors, jars, bags, cabinets, converted closets and even plastic containers like cigar cases or Tupperware. I have seen some version or another and I have tried every one of these and then some. Once again, the way you store and keep your cigars is personal preference and I urge you to explore your favorite.
There are however some known truths, techniques, do’s and don’ts that apply to storing and keeping your cigars. Let us first start with what to keep them in. I am a traditional wood humidor person and like how the Spanish cedar of good higher end humidors impart a characteristic on the cigars I keep in the humidor. However, with that said I also have an all acrylic humidor and use a lot of large Ziplock style bags, specifically designed to keep cigars for storage. Each style has its benefits, pros, and cons.
Wood Humidors for me are the quintessential device for storing and keeping your cigars. A high-end wood humidor uses white Spanish cedar as the inside so that your cigars get the essence of this wood as they age. This is a very traditional way and this method has been used for many years even in the grand aging humidors of many cigar makers factories. However, there is a downside to a wood humidor. You need to find one that has a tight fit in the lid, a fit that is nearly airtight so that humidity does not leak out. The better, high end humidors almost all are tested prior to shipping but, you still need to check. There is an old dollar bill test that many people use which is to close the lid with the dollar bill partially out and see how tight the closure is by trying to pull out the dollar bill. If it is tight and perfect, the dollar bill will not budge. But remember that even though in the store it is tight you always need to check the closure since wood can warp or dry out and then that changes how the lid seals itself to the rest of the humidor. Another item that you need to consider when purchasing and using a wood humidor is how to season it. When you season your wood humidor do not take a wet sponge and wet the inside, this can cause it to swell and even crack. Season it properly by following the manufacturer’s directions or research devices that help you season a new humidor for the first time. Seasoning is a particularly important step since it brings the humidor up to the correct relative humidity needed to store your cigars.
Non-Wood Humidors that look like wood:
I do not recommend these, and you basically know that these are not the high-end kind by the price. They are made of wood composite and not with solid wood materials. Of course, that does not mean that you are not buying a good product, but you will have to sort through a lot of these to find one that seals properly. With that said I do have one of these that I use when I want to display cigars for guests since it will be opened and closed a lot and the cigars are only stored in in temporarily. These non-wood humidors are also more susceptible to warping and swelling.
Acrylic or Plastic Humidors:
Personally, I like these types of humidors too. I own an acrylic humidor and love how it works. The purpose of these types of humidors is that they do not impart the Spanish cedar onto the cigars and leave the cigars to age with each other only. I know several cigar friends that use Tupperware as aging humidors and again this works just make sure that you find a food grade one that is safe for storing food for a long while.
Ziplock style bags:
Again, a great idea if it is cigar safe and truly airtight. There are manufacturers that make these specifically for cigars and include a humidification device with them which you can find at your local tobacconist. I know many people, including myself, that use these since they are a great way to hold a lot of cigars in a small space.
Travel Cases or Pouches:
For the purpose intended these work well, however they are not designed for long term storage. I know many people have used the large travel cases made of plastic but long term these leak air no matter how good the seal. However, I can tell you that for the intended use, to be used while traveling, the plastic travel case is the best way to go in my opinion. They are durable, do not crush your cigars, often have foam inside to protect your cigars further and seal well for at least two to three weeks. I recommend that you use at least 2 humidification packs in the larger ones.
Now for some absolute facts about keeping and storing cigars. Do not use any old form of humidification device, like an old sponge filled or clay filled item. I have seen people use wet sponges, open jars with water or just the greater humidity outside. If you are using water for a humidifier then only use distilled water for the device. I know many people say what is the difference and let me tell you that tap water contains additives and minerals that depending the location can completely change the flavor of your cigar. Distilled water is pure and simple H2O and the best for both your cigars and the device you are putting it in. It also is rather inexpensive to purchase and I usually keep 3 to 4 gallons at home, so it is always on hand.
Humidification devices come in many forms too. There are sealed packs that work with a two-way system keeping the relative humidity at the number desired. There are beads or beads in jars that you use distilled water or poly propylene solution to create the humidity. You can even buy electronic humidification devices that will work for larger humidors like a closet or large cabinet. I suggest you research what options exist prior to deciding because each type has both a cost and maintenance factor involved. For example, sealed humidification packs are probably the easiest to use but are also the most costly long term, while and electronic humidor has an initial high up front cost but requires a greater amount of maintenance since you need to fill it and clean it.
I recommend that you have a hygrometer in each humidor to make sure that the humidity level is correct at 68% to 70%. If you are someone that likes to smoke flavored cigars and non-flavored cigars, I recommend that you have a separate humidor for the flavored cigars keeping them separate from the non-flavored cigars. Lastly do not leave any humidor in the direct sunlight even if it is indoors it will just heat up your cigars.
It is important that you regularly check your humidor and make sure it is operating correctly. Too often I hear about collections lost because the individual ignored their humidor for months and found that every cigar inside was dried out from under humidification or wet from over humidification. Regularly checking and maintenance will avoid this and with a new humidor you should do it more often until you figure out how that specific humidor works. YES, humidors work differently even from the same brand and even the same exact humidor. They “breathe” and “live” differently because they are affected by both the inside and outside environments.
As I stated in the beginning, the way you store and keep your cigars is a personal choice. I use or have used everything mentioned above and this is how I know today what I like. At home I have wood humidors, an acrylic one, travel humidors and even Ziplock bags for cigars. I use several different type of humidification units, but my choice today is sealed humidification packs for their ease. I have warped wood humidors and even cracked them. I have broken travel humidors, this is tough to do, but it can happen. But when all was said and done, I realized what kind of humidor I like, what relative humidity I prefer and who I am when it comes to keeping and storing cigars. I recommend that if you have the time and the ability to do so that you try as many ways as you research to keep and store cigars so you too can discover who you are in regards to your cigars.