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Premium handmade cigars are hydroscopic, or living and breathing products, that absorb and release humidity from the environment in which they are stored. No matter how many cigars you’ve amassed in your collection, you’re going to want to protect those smokes from outside elements, such as light and heat and too much moisture, so they’re in perfect condition when you’re ready to cut, light, and enjoy them. Being hydroscopic, premium handmade cigars are very sensitive to humidity levels. If they are stored in a place that’s too dry, they can become brittle and crack or lose their flavor and aroma. If they are stored in an environment that’s too moist, they can develop mold and must be thrown away; or they will be too wet to enjoy because they won’t burn properly.
Humidors are in their most basic sense nothing more than a sealed container with a humidifying element that maintains the level of temperature and humidity at which cigars thrive, and a hygrometer that displays the temperature and humidity levels inside the container. Ziploc bags, Tupperware bowls, wooden boxes, glass jars, cabinets, or dedicated rooms may all be used to store cigars, and prices can range from just a few bucks to thousands of dollars. So long as there is a seal locking in humidity and a humidifying element that can maintain moisture inside the container at between 68- and 72 degrees Fahrenheit and 68 to 72 percent relative humidity, you’ve got yourself an ideal place to store your cigars.
Wooden boxes, lined with Spanish Cedar, have traditionally been the most popular choice for cigar storage. Spanish Cedar, which is actually a hardwood mahogany that’s native to Central America, South America, and the Caribbean, is resistant to insects and imparts an aromatic essence to the cigars that are stored inside. While the inside of these boxes is typically lined with Spanish Cedar, the rest of the container can be made with any type of wood and often feature an attractive veneer on their exteriors.
Humidors come in many shapes, sizes, and styles, and there are likewise many types of humidification systems that can be used in humidors. Professional tobacconists will choose active humidifiers to blow mist inside their walk-in humidors where they store and display all their cigar inventory, but consumers at home can choose any of the options. The easiest and most convenient humidifying elements are two-way humidification packs, such as those produced by Boveda, which absorb or release humidity for a few months until they must be replaced. You’ll know it’s time to replace them when they become brittle.
The most important thing to remember is when you are using water in a humidification system, be sure to use distilled water. Tap water contains chemicals that will affect your cigars’ flavor and aroma and should be avoided at all costs. When the humidity level falls below the ideal range, refill your humidifying element with distilled water. If the humidity level is above the ideal range, simply keep the humidor open for a few hours to let the excess moisture evaporate.
Monitoring the humidity and temperature levels inside your humidor is essential so you can ensure that your cigars are resting in the perfect environment. Analog and digital hygrometers measure humidity and temperature.
You can’t just buy a wooden humidor and throw your cigars into it- you’re going to have to season it. Seasoning a humidor involves slowly adding moisture that the Spanish Cedar absorbs until the interior of the humidor reaches 68 to 72 percent relative humidity. Do not wipe down your humidor’s interior with distilled water-introducing too much moisture to the humidor too quickly can cause the wood to warp and destroy its airtight seal. If that happens, you’ve bought yourself a jewelry box instead of a humidor.
It's going to take some time to properly prepare the Spanish Cedar interior, which will be very dry. If you just dump your cigars into an unseasoned humidor, the humidity you want them to absorb will instead be absorbed by the wood. To season your humidor, introduce the humidifying element inside the container and fill it with distilled water every day until the hygrometer confirms the humidity level has reached 68 to 72 percent relative humidity. It is then ready for cigar storage. If using a humidity packet, simply throw it into the humidor and wait until the inside humidity achieves the desirable range.
If a humidor’s interior is kept too moist, or your cigars are stored very close to the humidifying element, they may develop mold. To prevent mold, maintain relative humidity levels at 68 to 72 percent and rotate the cigars inside your humidor. You’ll know if you’ve got moldy cigars if you see a green fungus growing on them. Throw them out immediately!
Plume, also known as bloom, is often mistaken for mold but it’s actually a really great sign that your cigars are perfectly aged. While cigars age, they secrete oils that accumulate on a cigar wrapper’s exterior. These oils create white crystals, called plume. Gently wipe off the plume and enjoy that beautifully aged cigar!