Random questions frequently asked by novice smokers and aspiring cigar connoisseurs
Why does my humidor smell like ammonia when I open it?
The odor of ammonia emanating from your humidor is likely from some cigars that need more aging - they're just too "green" or too young!
Ammonia is a natural byproduct of tobacco leaves during the fermentation and aging process. Premium cigars that reek of ammonia may contain tobacco that has been under-cured as well. There is nothing wrong, and you shouldn't feel that you got some bad cigars - they just require additional aging.
Should this occur again, my suggestion is to remove the culprits from your humidor, so as to avoid further transference of the ammoniatic odor to the other properly stored and aged cigars. In fact, should you discover the odor prior to placing the cigars in your humidor, don't put them in with the rest of your stock at all - I would seperate them completely. The optimal solution would be to place them in a spare humidor to allow additional aging within an ideal environment. Opening the lid of the humidor, or at least cracking the lid a bit, periodically throughout the day will help get rid of the accumulating odor from the humidor. If you don't have a spare humidor, place them in a sealed Tupperware-type container and add a humidity pouch (like Boveda). It may take a few weeks before the ammonia odor is completely dissipated, but the cigars may require a few months, even up to a year, for natural aging.
True story -- One day I received 5 new cigars from a manufacturer to review. Upon opening the box they were shipped in, the odor of ammonia was a slap in the face. I knew immediately that these cigars required additional aging, and I also did not want them in my primary humidor with my good stuff! I placed 4 of the 5 cigars in my spare humidor (which I maintain regularly and remains stable at about 68-70% relative humidity), but smoked one just to ascertain the flavor profile of an immature stick - IT WAS HORRIBLE! I remained patient and smoked another after about 5-6 weeks - OK, it was better this time; it was decent, but still retained a bit of that ammoniatic aroma, although the odor was completely gone from the humidor. I let the 3 remaining cigars rest for about another 3 months before I picked up another, and smoked them over another month - the flavor profile was much, much improved!