If you’ve ever been to a cigar lounge, you have no doubt noticed that the proprietors put a lot of work into displaying and storing their wares. All of this is work is not just for show. Proper storage and care for cigars is essential to keep them fresh and ready to smoke. Unfortunately, many new smokers don’t know how to store cigars properly. As a result, too many inexperienced smokers will reach for a premium cigar, only to find it dry and tasteless.
Why Knowing How to Store Cigars Properly Matters
Cigars are much like fine wines; the item itself may be a premium product, but its quality may be spoiled by improper care and attention. For wine, that ideally mean storing it in a dedicated cellar where light exposure and temperature can be controlled. For cigars, it primarily means controlling the humidity and temperature.
Several dangers can befall your prized cigar collection. Mold and tobacco beetles are perhaps the most damaging, but the most common cause of a cigar’s demise is simply being allowed to dry out.
When a cigar dries out, it loses most of the oils that give it its flavor. The result is a bland, harsh, unpleasant smoke. So keeping a cigar fresh means storing it at the optimal conditions. In general, this means approximately 70% humidity at 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
The humidity level is pretty straightforward. 70% is roughly the optimum point where your cigar will remain moist, but not so much that it becomes overly spongey, or worse, moldy.
As for the temperature, you want to regulate that as well because of how air responds to moisture at different temperatures. Warm air has a tendency to retain more moisture than cold air. So at lower temperatures, you will struggle to keep moisture in the air. At higher temperatures, the inverse become true, with the air taking on too much moisture and resulting in damp, spongey cigars.
So we know why proper storage is important, and roughly what our ideal conditions should be. Now how do we achieve them?
There are a few different solutions, some of which might serve you better depending on your requirements. They range from fairly simple and improvised to requiring a substantial investment on your part.
Keeping Cigars Fresh Without Humidification
The simplest and least expensive way to store cigars is to not use a commercial humidification device.
In general, you can expect a cigar to stay fresh outside of a humidor for about three days, give-or-take depending on the average humidity of your region. So if you plan on smoking a cigar shortly after buying it, proper storage isn’t much of a factor. Especially if you’re smoking a large-ring-gauge cigar, as the interior will be somewhat better shielded due to its greater mass.
If you need more time than that but don’t think it would be worth it to invest in a commercial humidor, you still have options. One of the most common methods is to simply improvise a humidification device out of a sponge or a paper towel.
The technique goes something like this: Put your cigar in a plastic baggy or airtight food container. Put a damp sponge or paper towel in the bag with them, and seal it up. The airtight container will seal in the humidity from the sponge or towel.
It’s not the most elegant solution, but it will do in a pinch.
If you keep more than a few cigars at any given time, it is probably worth your while to invest in a proper humidor.
Humidors come in all shapes and sizes, from a simple glass jar with a humidifier inside to walk-in humidors that are small room unto themselves. In any case though, they all function the same way.
The idea is to create a sealed storage environment where you can control the exact humidity. For anything short of a walk-in humidor, this usually means simply having a sealed container with a humidifier.
The humidifier in a humidor takes distilled water and disperses it throughout the container to create the ideal 70-75% humidity level, mimicking the Carribean climate where most tobacco is grown and cured.
And while cheaper or travel-sized humidors can be made from a variety of materials, the material of choice for a quality humidor is Spanish cedar. This is due to its moisture-regulating qualities, which helps to ensure that cigars are stored at a consistent humidity.
While a cedar humidor is the ideal choice, they take some work to be made ready for use. Basically, the wood needs to be exposed to moisture in order for the humidor to function as intended.
The most common method of doing this is to simply fill a shot glass with distilled water and set it in the humidor for 3-5 days. As the water evaporates, some of it will seep into the wood, which will start to regulate moisture levels.
Can I Save a Poorly Stored Cigar?
So what happens if you let a cigar dry out? Or what if mold has started to grow?
Well for the former, you can rehydrate by placing it in a properly managed humidor for at least six months. This will make it moist enough to smoke, but unfortunately, it will never be as good as it once was again. Once the natural tobacco oils are allowed to dry out, there is no way to get them back again.
As for mold, there is little that can be done to save them. The best thing to do if you notice mold blooms is to discard the affected cigars before they can spread to the others. You’ll also want to empty your humidor and give it a good wipe down with a dry towel for good measure.
While Your Cigars Won’t Expire, They Can Go Bad
While you can leave a pack of cigarettes out fro ages without consequences, cigars are a different animal. The premium tobacco that goes into them can go bad if not stored correctly, either due to mold or drying out.
So learning how to store cigars is crucial. Like a fine wine, you’re paying a premium price for a premium product. And just like wine, your experience can be ruined by improper storage methods.
And also like a fine wine, cigars often benefit from a paring that will complement their unique flavor profiles. For some ideas on how to elevate your nest smoke, check out this list of cigar and rye pairings that are sure to delight.