The quality of a cigar is not only dependent on the variety of tobacco used, the leaf curing process, and the method of rolling the cigar (which locks in freshness). Just like a cask of red wine, it is also affected by how you store your cigars and how long you age them before you smoke. So make sure you learn the best methods for storing your stogie to keep a smooth and luxurious smoke.
Aging a cigar is a matter of personal taste. Some prefer fresh cigars rolled within the last six months, while others will age their cigars a full five to six years before smoking them.
You can't help getting older, but you don't have to get old. George Burns
Whatever you decide, cigars should be kept in a controlled environment, between 68 to 72 degrees with 70-75 percent humidity. A cigar that is too dry will smoke hot, fast, and unevenly, but a cigar that is too moist will be hard to draw and can lead to moldy or split cigars. This is where storage in a humidor comes in to keep it at just the right amount of humidity.
Cigars should stay in a humidor until they are ready to be smoked. If you don't have one or your humidor is full you can get away with storing them in a zip-lock bag with a moist sponge or paper towel for a day or two, but it just doesn't have the elegance and staying power of a humidified (we call it charged) wooden humidor.
If you leave your cigars out or let your humidor go dry, the cigar can dry out in less than an hour depending on the environment. Some humidors come with an insert to keep moistened using either a humidor solution or distilled water. If it doesn't come with an insert you can use a spouge on top of a piece of plastic (to prevent the box from getting wet). Do not use tap water or mineral water as the minerals can affect the taste of the cigar.
If your humidor does not have a humidity gauge simply keep an eye on the cigars. If they are exuding a little oil the conditions are perfect, if they seem dry to the touch add more water, and if they get moldy you will have to throw them out and use less moisture next time.
Keep in mind that if you have multiple varieties of cigar in the same humidor that the flavors can mix. You can either purchase multiple humidors or buy humidor dividers to try to keep the different types of cigars separated.
Seasoning a Humidor
When you first purchase your humidor it is necessary to properly humidify it prior to putting the cigars in, because a dry humidor can ruin a good cigar. Most humidors are made of untreated cedar, but if your humidor has a varnished or finished wooden interior you will not need to season it.
To season first take a new and thoroughly rinsed out sponge and wet it with a liberal dose of distilled water. Wipe down the inside wood, inside lid, and any dividers. Then add more distilled water to the sponge, place it inside the humidor on top of a piece of plastic, and let it sit with the lid closed overnight.
The next day you will remove the sponge and charge the humidifier using the normal humidor instructions. Let it sit again overnight. Check it the next day and recharge as necessary until the humidity in the box reaches the desired level and you no longer lose moisture overnight. Then it is time to add in your precious smokes!
A dry cigar will burn too hot and ruin the flavor. If your cigars become dry (oops I forgot to charge the humidor!) you've got two options. You can throw them out and learn from the experience to set better reminders for next time, or you can try to recondition them. To recondition put them into a humidor that has no charge and slowly (over the course of weeks) increase the amount of moisture in the box until you are back up to normal 70-75% humidity level. This method will prevent them from getting too moist too quickly and try to avoid swollen or split cigars.
If your cigars are exposed to conditions above 75 degrees it is possible that you can get tobacco beetles in your case. You will notice little holes in your cigars. Maybe this isn't the most exciting thing to hear as a cigar smoker, but it is relatively common - just like getting gnats on your bananas if you leave them out too long.
If this happens you can put your cigars in a zip-lock bag, freeze them for 48 hours, then transfer them to the fridge for 24 hours before returning them into your newly wiped down humidor container.
How to Carry your Cigars
If you like to keep your cigar on you, or are planning to take some for a vacation you will need a travel humidor to protect them from getting crushed and de-humidified. Make sure that the travel humidor is big enough to fit your chosen cigars, and season it accordingly before adding the cigars.
If you only need short term storage for a single cigar you can use a silver or wooden cigar tube. A good one should keep your cigar moist for about 2-3 days. Just make sure that you transfer any unused cigars back into the humidor when you are done traveling.
Thanks for reading and happy smoking!
-The Don Collins Team