Buying a cigar humidor

Purchasing your first humidor will be much less intimidating with these informative tips.

Cigar appreciation often grows from the first one or two nice cigars to regular tobacco shop forays. Suddenly you find a special sale on a box of your favorites but you have no place to store them. A humidor will create the perfect environment for your new acquisitions.

Buying your first humidor requires research and some basic knowledge about cigars and their upkeep. Like other investments, you should shop around, particularly at specialty and online shops. Controlling relative humidity is the most critical job for a humidor, followed closely by temperature regulation. A humidifier and a hygrometer may or may not be included with a humidor. Wherever you make the purchase, make sure a return is guaranteed if the humidor fails in either of these areas.

Humidors come in all sizes and styles, from upright clear containers to desktop models to cabinets that hold several hundred cigars. Desktop models fit most people's needs and prices vary widely. The general rule of thumb is to buy the best humidor you can afford.

What you should know before you shop:

How many cigars are you planning to store? What size cigars do you usually smoke? Always allow for extra space, as you will probably receive cigars as gifts once your friends know you have a humidor. Cigars need room to breathe in order to age properly. In an ideal storage space, cigars should never be layered more than two rows high. Many humidors allow for deeper stacking; don't worry, just rotate the cigars on a regular basis and they should be fine. You also want to leave room for the humidifier and hygrometer, which are usually attached to the lid's interior.

If you are unsure as to interior size, it is always easier, and ultimately more affordable, to buy a larger humidor. The alternative is to purchase a second humidor once the first one reaches capacity.

Now you're ready to shop. What should you look for?

Humidors are, after all, just boxes that protect your cigars. A good humidor is designed to allow cigars to age properly and to protect them from deterioration. Humidor construction is a detailed process and takes many hours of labor. Some boxes are plain and utilitarian while others can be delightful additions to your d├ęcor. Either way, the box has to meet certain standards.

The interior should be raw Spanish cedar. Other woods are often used, but this soft cedar serves as protection against bug infestations, it absorbs and releases humidity, and, over time, it injects a fine woody flavor into the cigars. If you are planning for long-term storage, Spanish cedar is the only option.

Look for solid construction. You should not find a gap or flawed seam. Corners should be flush and without fillers. The interior lip must be snug all the way around. It will be inside the lid or as part of the lower box. This lip will allow the lid to close with a slight resistance. Inspect the hinges as well. Inset, or quadrant hinges, are the sign of a quality humidor.

While the requirements for interior design are more rigid, the choices for exteriors are somewhat flexible. Humidors are constructed either as solid wood boxes or with a veneer. Regardless, your humidor should be a minimum of 5/8" thick on the sides. Typical veneers are either mahogany or cherry and most are heavily varnished. The humidor's exterior is responsible for keeping the outside temperatures from interrupting the steady interior environment. In summer, a humidor battles air conditioning and in winter, heat is pounding away at the outsides. There are advantages to choosing a veneer: as the interior contracts and expands, the outside corner joints remain stable.

Some humidors feature see-through lids. These are acceptable as long as the humidor will be kept away from sunlight or, preferably, placed in a darkened room. However, if you are planning on long-term cigar storage, an all-wood box will offer the best protection.

You may be tempted by the upright plastic or glass humidors. These might be a great way to show off your fine cigars, but these circular, see-through models have drawbacks. Standing a cigar on end causes the tip to disintegrate. In addition, these models do not have the breathing power of Spanish cedar lining.

Interim storage options do exist while you are researching and deciding which humidor is best. Once a purchase has been made, you will need some additional time to cure your humidor before filling it with cigars. Plastic containers, called Tupperdors, and ice chests, which are referred to as Coolerdors, are great for short-term storage. You will still need a hygrometer and a humidifier inside. Even a plastic baggie will work for a week or so in an emergency. Just

place a wet paper towel inside but make sure it is not touching the cigars. Because the interior cannot breathe, however, mold can form and air cannot circulate.

These alternatives might be fine for your cigars, especially if you will smoke them within a few weeks or months.

Most people who enjoy cigars will agree that it is much more fun to show off a fine collection nestled in the confines of a beautiful humidor.

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