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Cigar Humidor Guide

There are two basic requirements that any humidor has to meet: It must provide a constant and reliable source of humidity, and it must be airtight. Surprisingly enough, not all humidors have these traits, which is why many lower-end products are losing ground to some of the better grade versions that are constructed more like a fine piece of furniture with a specific purpose, rather than just a box in which to store cigars.

In addition to its functional ability, a humidor must be able to hold a realistic number of cigars for your smoking requirements. That includes accommodating the shapes you like to smoke. If you prefer 7½ inch long Churchills and a humidor has a storage area that is six inches in length, it will not be a good buy for you, no matter what the price. On the other hand, many of the 100- and 150-cigar humidors have movable dividers, which can be adjusted to accept a wide range of cigars, from the 5¼x42 Petit Coronas del Punch all the way up to the 7 5/8x49 Partagás Lusitania and beyond. But beware of some humidors that boast of being able to store fifty cigars. I succumbed to this hype with one well-respected brand, but when I got it home I discovered that they must have been referring to fifty Coronas. Try as I might, the best I could store was twenty-five of my Churchills, and that was only by laying them in horizontally. There is certainly nothing wrong with that. Just be sure you are aware of these limitations and don’t take everything you read or hear for granted. It is better to have a humidor that is too big rather than too small. After all, you can always buy more cigars.

Some humidors are lined with cedar, which becomes a very complementary aromatic when used in conjunction with tobacco. That is why the aging rooms of all the major cigar factories are lined with cedar. And why cigar boxes are built of cedar. However, there is a school of thought that says because cedar is absorbent, it can interfere with the uniformity of humidity control. Thus, you will find many humidors lined with mahogany or with a finely lacquered and sealed interior. There is no problem with this, for as long as the humidor is airtight and has a proper humidifier, your cigars will be kept fresh and will age according to the ability of their tobaccos, but without that hint of cedar spice. It is really a matter of personal preference. As for me, I have both types in my home, preferring to keep my cigars for immediate smoking in a 100-unit mahogany humidor without cedar lining, while keeping my aged cigars in a 150-unit with cedar lining. However, my personal preference is for cedar; I like that extra hint of spice in my smoke.

In a classic example of cause and effect, the US cigar boom of the 1990s created an unbelievable plethora of humidor manufacturers, both old and new. Clearly this is the one perceived accessory that everyone deemed to be in the most demand. And maybe they were right. After all, once you graduate from buying two or three cigars at a time and start acquiring boxfuls, where are you going to store all those stogies? Today, however, most of those manufacturers have gone on to craft other things, like furniture. Or clothes hangers. But a number of quality humidor manufacturers have survived, and as a result, virtually every style of humidor is available to us, from glass jars to unfinished wooden models to elegantly lacquered veneer to reconstructed humidors made from antique jewelry boxes and writing desks.

Indeed, on a recent trip to Europe, every antique dealer I spoke with bemoaned the growing scarcity of nineteenth century “laptop” writing desks due to the fact that entrepreneurs were converting them all into humidors which were eagerly purchased “by you crazy cigar smokers!” But no matter what the style, good humidors don’t come cheap.

However, Ashton markets some very attractive and efficient humidors under the Savory name, which feature wood veneers such as burl, African teak, and Macassar, and come equipped with humidifiers and hygrometers. Stepping up in price, and handmade in Switzerland by the same company since 1965, are the legendary humidors of Davidoff—all cedar lined and many with lock and key for keeping out those sticky-fingered office trainees, and all with Davidoff’s exclusive self regulator that maintains a constant humidity level of seventy to seventy-two degrees Fahrenheit. A wide variety of fancy grained wood and leather finishes is offered. Davidoff humidors range in sizes from forty to 200 cigars, plus a smaller series of travel humidors that can hold from six to eighteen cigars. In addition, their Zino line, which is made in France, includes a beautiful tobacco leaf model (with an actual tobacco leaf embodied in the lid).

The elegance of custom-handcrafted humidors is the hallmark of The White Spot, which offers a number of handmade designs under The White Spot banner. These humidors utilize The White Spot’s revolutionary Humidity Control System, which is a glycerin-based regulator charged with water and lasts for approximately four weeks, after which time it must be re-moisturized. But the real benefit of this system is the fact that it can be removed from the humidor and handheld to reveal a sliding scale that gives an extremely precise humidity level reading. The system itself is inexpensive, and must be replaced every eighteen months or so. Perhaps this is finally the answer to most factory-equipped hygrometers, which I find to be less than accurate. And be sure to check out their leather-covered travel humidors, which can lend a touch of luxury to even the most dismal of hotel rooms.

A Daniel Marshall travel humidor, finished in glossy walnut and featuring gold plated hinges. It holds up to eighteen cigars and comes with a protective suede pouch.

 

Daniel Marshall has made a limited edition of fifty humidors fashioned out of The Balvenie 21 Year Old Port Cask whisky barrel staves. To quote Marshall, “Your cigars will be gently and perfectly infused with the magnificent aroma of 21 year old Balvenie Whisky.” And just to make sure, each humidor (big enough to hold 150 cigars) comes with a bottle of 12-Year-Old Balvenie DoubleWood single malt.

 

Daniel Marshall has also made a limited edition of humidors featuring actual old Cuban license plates. The cars, of course, are still in Cuba.

California-based Daniel Marshall is a craftsman who is very much involved with bringing elegance and luxury to his customers through his rare exotic wood humidors. For the most part, he prefers to sell direct, rather than through retail shops, although many of his humidors can be seen at some of the best tobacconists throughout the world. Made in a variety of wood finishes, and in sizes ranging from fifty to 500 cigars (and larger, on request) each D. Marshall humidor takes approximately four months to construct, and features his “One Thousand Coat” deep glass-like exterior finish. Inside, his humidors are lined with Spanish cedar and all hinges are gold plated and mortised into the walls of the humidor. A very exacting humidification unit keeps cigars stored in his multilevel humidors in a constant state of readiness. In addition to optional lock and key, personalized nameplates are available. Although hardly inexpensive, these are some of the best humidors on the market; D. Marshall humidors are so tightly constructed that I only have to replenish the moisture in the humidifying agent once every two months.

But realizing that economy is a fact of life, Daniel Marshall also offers his Ambiente (which means “environment” in Italian) series, which features the same exacting construction of his higher priced models, but instead of a high gloss rare wood exterior, is finished in Black Matte, Rosewood, Macassar Burl, and Zebrawood, all with a 150-cigar capacity with a lift out tray. Not to be overlooked is D. Marshall’s stylish leather-covered travel humidors. As an extra touch, some of D. Marshall’s limited edition and bespoke humidors come with a selection of D. Marshall specially banded cigars. And one of his newest designs features authentic Cuban automobile license plates inlaid into the lid, but these, as you might image, are limited editions, as is his humidor constructed of Balvenie single malt whisky barrel staves.

 

Inlays as only Elie Bleu can do on a humidor, featuring tobacco leaf “stars” and cigar “bars,” complete with American eagle bands. This is number 24 out of a limited edition series of 250.

 

Every car should come with a built-in humidor. This custom option is only available on the current Rolls Royce Phantom.

Photo: Rolls Royce Motor Cars

Indeed, exquisite humidors are more than just a place to store your cigars; they become a statement about your lifestyle. Which makes me wonder about the lock and key prevalent on so many humidors today. About the only reason I can see to have one boarded up in this fashion is to keep your manservant from pinching a smoke while you are out in the back forty shooting grouse. But then, any thief worthy of a good cigar would probably just cart off the entire humidor. Still, I suppose a lock does keep visiting family members from pawing your aged Havanas.

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