Have you had an experience when a cigar felt dry and the wrapper was crumbling? Did the cigar have an off-putting taste and smell? Did it leave your mouth feeling burnt or ashy? It could be a poor-quality cigar, but most likely the cigar has not been properly maintained.
I can think of multiple occasions where I’ve been offered cigars from friends who pulled cigars from their golf bag knowing it has been there potentially since last season. I’ve had colleagues hand me a stick in a humidor without any humidification devices to be found. I have even experienced walking into a retailer’s humidor and immediately know they flooded their cabinet humidors with way too much humidity. The smoking experience in these situations left me, and probably many of you, with a one-dimensional flavor profile best described as burnt and ashy, or in the over humidification scenario, the cigar had trouble staying lit and burned unevenly. Some describe the dry cigar experience as “smoking paper,” while describing an over humidified cigar as “water logged.”
Cigars are meant to have complexity with multiple flavor profiles layering on top of each other as the master blender intended. Hand crafted cigars require careful storage to fully enjoy their flavor and aroma. In this blog, we will discuss best practices used to store and maintain your cigars allowing the best smoking experience.
Tobacco leaves are highly sensitive to moisture, but how much moisture does is appropriate? What is the right percentage to have the best smoking experience? This is where opinions vary in the cigar community, especially across global geographies. While traveling in London, I stopped by a cigar retailer called Hava Havana, a La Casa Del Habano, in Teddington. I had the amazing opportunity to sit down with the shop owner and true Cuban cigar aficionado Ajay Patel. He stated to me “Americans flood cigars with too much humidity!” I laughed, but he did have a point when compared to the percentage the Brits maintain their cigars. He went on to explained most Brits enjoy the lower relative humidity (RH) around 65-67%. US readers would agree most humidors are maintained anywhere from 68-72% and possibly higher.
Opinions of this topic can vary across individuals, geographies, and cultures. I personally like to keep things in the middle for all the cigars in my humidor at 70%, but vast variability conveys it comes down to personal preference and what works best for you.
Let’s move on to discuss the importance of temperature control for cigar storage. Keeping a humidor at a range between 64-70°F (18-21°C) is pretty typical, but one thing all cigar enthusiasts can agree on is avoiding temperatures above 75°F (24°C). If you smoke cigars regularly, you most likely know about the dreaded tobacco beetle. As long as your humidor is continually maintained at a temperature below 75°F (24°C), you’re safe. Tobacco beetle eggs need a warm environment to hatch. Once hatched, they will eat holes through all your beautiful cigars until their heart’s content. Make sure to keep your humidor out of direct sunlight to avoid these nasty bugs and you should be smooth sailing.
The Wrap Up
In the end, no one can tell you what is the ideal relative humidity and temperature to maintain cigars in your humidor. We can only tell you what we prefer. I maintain my cabinet humidor at 70% RH and 70°F (21°C), or commonly referred to as the 70/70 rule. I suggest experimenting with different humidity and temperature levels with your cigars and see if you can experience the difference.