Recently I went on a quest to buy a cigar humidor. As I compared the offerings from a number of cigar merchants, I asked for advice on the proper way to prepare a new humidor before loading it with my small collection of dry and drying cigars. I think even seasoned cigar aficionados will be surprised at how much the advice varied from one merchant to another. For your reading pleasure, here are the highlights.
Mall tobacco & wine shop
“I just fill up the humidifier unit, leave it overnight and put cigars in the next day.” And that’s almost an exact quote.
Strip mall cigar shop
The gentleman here offered a two day treatment process that involved a special seasoning fluid and/or distilled water, applied thoroughly each evening. He didn’t say, but there may have been a charge for this service.
Respected community tobacconist
The older gentleman’s advice at this establishment was to wipe down the cedar lining with tap water and a cloth or paper towel (absolutely no chemicals) 2 or 3 times over 3 or 4 hour time frame and it’d be ready. He also made a point to caution me against using tap water in the humidifier. The gentleman I spoke to at this shop was the owner and operator of one of the oldest tobacco shops in the area and the advice he offered seemed to be a good balance of practicality and thoroughness. And he offered me a great deal on a Diamond Crown Wellington Cigar Humidor. (To be honest, it’s probably more humidor than I absolutely need, but I’m really enjoying filling it up.)
Now just for fun, I checked out a number of websites offering a manner of tips on cigars and humidors after I purchased the humidor. About.com’s cigar pages advises a process very similar to the Strip mall cigar shop, with the addition of a damp sponge left over the first night (one other merchant advised a small bowl or cup of water). Another article at BlogCritics agrees, leading me to think that the 2-day sponge seasoning process is prevailing wisdom on the internet. (Note: I am specifically not linking to several pages who have listed advice with the intent on selling you expensive special chemical treatment fluids. It’s clear to me that this is not only not necessary, but eventually harmful to your cigars and humidifiers.)
Also noteworthy about the BlogCritics article is the explanation as to why you’re sponging down the lining: “This is how a desktop humidor that contains a passive humidification device works: the Spanish cedar, or (mahogany) retains the humidity, and the humidification device replenishes the moisture in the wood.” I think people selling humidors assume this is understood by the customer (this was never mentioned to me anywhere), but I don’t think this is a safe assumption to make.
So the question now is, which method did I choose? Well, I started out with the Respected Tobacconist’s approach, which morphed into the 2 day sponge/paper towel treatment. I found that several quick treatments spaced several hours apart simply wasn’t enough to maintain a stable humidity.
I think the reason there is so much variety in seasoning process has to do with there being so much variety in humidors. My advice to anybody buying a humidor is to play it by ear, but expect it’ll take a couple of days to be ready. And just maybe this post will help you get it done with confidence. :)
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