So...I enter a tobacco shop (that will remain nameless - not trying to bad mouth any establishments here)...WHOA! This place had a HUGE walk-in humidor that looked fantastic from the door – it was looking good from afar, but far from looking good!
Immediately upon opening the door and entering the humidor, I was hit with this heat – I wondered…am I in a humidor or a sauna? The free-standing humidification unit was off. I decided to investigate further, but could not determine whether the unit was just powered off, not plugged in, or just damaged. I immediately searched for a room hygrometer, which was sitting in the window sill facing outward.
I exited the room to check it out – OMG…these guys have no clue that their cigar stock is on a path of destruction! I grabbed who appeared to be the proprietor and proceeded to inform him that the humidification unit was off, which is a huge no-no. With a “who-the-f*#k-are-you” glance, he authoritatively stated, “The room is just fine. Look, the thing says 81!” The hygrometer (which the owner referred to as “the thing”) displayed a temperature of 81° with 50% humidity. Instead of flat out telling him that it’s too goddamn hot, too goddamn dry, and felt like a friggin’ sauna instead of humidor, I chose my words carefully and educated him properly on room humidor care. I also informed him that his continued negligence will ultimately result in a huge product and financial loss - the reply to my 5-minute lesson: “OK.” Yep, that’s all I got...
A good tobacconist will ensure that the humdification and temperature of their humidors are well maintained - walk-in, cabinet, or table- or desk-top units. Temperature is an important factor for cigar storage, as it affects humidity. Warm air has a higher mositure capacity than cold air, so the temperature of a humidor should be maintained no higher than 75°. Microscopic beetle larvae naturally occur in tobacco leaves and may be present in cigars that make it to the marketplace. Once the temperature reaches about 75°, the beetle larvae may hatch and completely destroy your cigar and others within the humidor, as evidenced by tiny holes in the cigars or the sight of tiny beetles in the humidor. Humidity is relative to temperature (hence the term relative humidity) and should be maintained in the range of 65% to 75%.
So, BEFORE YOU BUY, take the time to assess how the cigars are being stored prior to making your selection:
1) If entering a walk-in humidor, make sure that the door is closed behind you and immediately assess the temperature feel of the room. Look for a humidification unit - you may see fine water mist billowing into the room from a free-standing or a wall unit.
2) Look for the hygrometer - every humidor, no matter the size or type, should have a calibrated hygrometer. A hygrometer measures the content of moisture in the air at any given temperature. Most analog hygrometers (as pictured above, top left) only display the relative humidity, while some digital hygrometers (as pictured above, top right and bottom) display both temperature and relative humidity. The temperature should be no higher than 75°, but no lower than 70-72°. Higher temperature and humidity will not only promote bettle infestation, but will cause cigars to retain more moisture. In addition, a cigar with too much moisture will not burn properly, will alter the intended flavors, and may even cause cigars to swell and burst. On the other hand, lower temperatureand humidity wil cause cigars to dry out - not only will the burn and taste of a dry cigar be altered, but the cigar will be prone to lose its construction as the wrapper will become torn or frayed. These elements should also be considered when selecting a cigar (which we will cover here at Smokeasy at a later date).
In the past, I have walked out of tobacco shops who do not maintain their humidors well - poorly maintained humidors lead to damaged goods. But now, I take the time to inform and educate the shop proprietors, if necessary...not only to save them from themselves, but to ensure the availability of fine cigars to my fellow enthusiasts. I encourage you to do the same!