The best humidor
Left exposed to the air, a cigar dries, becomes fragile, and loses flavor -- so if you appreciate a good cigar, you'll certainly appreciate a humidor. Many are very affordable, and when you consider the potential value of the contents, it's money well spent. Our quick and comprehensive guide discusses the points to look for, and we've made a few suggestions to help you make your decision. Our favorite, the Mantello Desktop Cigar Humidor, is not only an efficient device for keeping your cigars in prime condition, it's also an attractive piece of furniture in its own right.
Considerations when choosing humidors
People typically think of a humidor as a wooden case or cabinet, perhaps with a glass lid or front panel. In fact, there is a second type -- clear acrylic jars (they look a bit like a straight-sided preserving jar). They are cheap and do an acceptable short-term job, but it's not good to have cigars standing on end for long periods, because it can cause damage. Most cigar smokers soon move on to something more visually appealing, as well as more efficient.
That's invariably a wooden case or cabinet of some kind -- and it doesn't matter what the main body is actually made of. It's quite possible they're fiberboard or plywood with a veneered outer surface to give a quality appearance. What matters is the wood inside -- the tray (if provided) and lining. It needs to absorb moisture in order to prevent the cigars from getting damp (you'll notice the insides of cigar humidors are not varnished or waxed), and it needs to be as aromatically neutral as possible so it doesn't adversely affect the cigar's flavor.
Mahogany is popular, as are cedars. Western red cedar is used, but some don't like the flavor it imparts. Spanish cedar is considered the best -- though it's also the most expensive. Spanish cedar does add an aroma over time, but most cigar smokers find it pleasant. The smell also deters tobacco worms, a nasty little bug that can destroy your cigar stock. Mahogany doesn't flavor your cigars like cedar, but it doesn't stop tobacco worms either.
There's some debate over glass lids and doors. On the one hand they allow you to see your cigars without opening the box and letting out that carefully controlled atmosphere. On the other, they can cause overheating in bright sunlight. The answer is to never leave a humidor of any type in direct sunlight.
A hygrometer is almost always provided and can be analogue or digital. It tells you the humidity inside your humidor. A target of 65% to 70% humidity is usually considered ideal.
A humidifier is a device that absorbs and releases moisture to help keep the levels right. They contain foam, synthetic clay or gel. Usually they're built in, but it's often possible to change them, and gel packs are particularly popular.
Thermometers are sometimes included with the hygrometer in high-end humidors. Ideal temperature is considered 70°F (damage can occur above 73°F). It's a nice addition, but not vital if you're careful to keep your case out of the sun. Humidity is the key element.
A lock is a nice extra. It probably won't stop a determined criminal, but will prevent casual "borrowing."
The cheapest humidors are the upright acrylic-jar type, which start at under $20. Travel and desktop humidors needn't be expensive, with a wide selection that will hold 25 to 50 cigars in the $20 to $50 range. You can get a 100-cigar humidor for under $100, and a 250-cigar cabinet model for between $150 and $250. Above that, it depends how serious you are about collecting. Bespoke handmade humidors can cost a thousand dollars or more, and walk-in models ten times that.
Q. Does my humidor arrive ready to use?
A. Acrylic models often do, wooden ones do not. You may need to calibrate the hygrometer, prepare the humidifier, and season the case. It's not difficult, but it can take 24 hours or longer. The manufacturer will provide instructions. Don't try to short-cut them. They are vital to proper preservation of your cigars.
Q. Should I leave the cigars in their cellophane?
A. The wrappers will impede air flow, so removing them allows the atmosphere in the humidor to do its job properly. You can leave the cigar band in place.
Humidors we recommend
Best of the best: Mantello Desktop Cigar Humidor
Our take: Large superbly crafted case for the more serious collector.
What we like: Brass knife hinges are an indicator of quality construction. Glass is tempered for toughness. Tray and lining are Spanish cedar. Holds up to 100 cigars. Lockable.
What we dislike: Little. A small number experienced problems maintaining humidity.
Best bang for your buck: Cherry Finish Spanish Cedar Humidor
Our take: Well-made, stylish, entry-level desktop humidor is very affordable.
What we like: Discrete appearance. Spanish cedar lining. Inclusion of pre-calibrated hygrometer and good-size humidifier make it excellent value for money.
What we dislike: Quality control not always great. Lid needs to be open to read hygrometer.
Choice 3: Guardsman Travel Cigar Humidor
Our take: A great idea for the cigar lover who's often on the go.
What we like: Smart, compact carry case. ABS molded plastic construction is very tough (similar material used in crash helmets). Watertight and airtight seal maintains humidity well.
What we dislike: Should be rated for 10 cigars, not 15. No instructions for humidifier disk.
Bob Beacham is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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