With a title like that you probably expect this post to deal with the topic of maintaining your dating passion in your married life. Well, close, but no cigar. :) This post is about maintaining the passion in your cigars! Specifically while they lay waiting for you inside your humidor.
It occurred to me today that I still didn’t understand the intricacies of proper cigar storage as well as I’d like to. I know that the humidor sweet spot seems to be 70 degrees (Fahrenheit, 21 Celsius) at 70% relative humidity, but it wasn’t fully clear to me why that’s where I want to be. And based on my previous experience with cigar related advice, it seemed likely that there were other view points on the matter. As it turns out, I’m right. There are differing (but overlapping) ideas on the ideal cigar environment. For the purposes of this post, I’ve compared the information from 4 sources: humidor-guide.com, the FAQ on cigargroup.com, shortcut-cigars.com and the advice of “the respected local tobacconist” who was introduced in my last cigar-themed post.
The concensus on temperature appears to actually be 68 degrees, not 70 as I had previously thought. (The CigarGroup website maintains that 70 degrees is ideal, but states that slightly lower temperatures are fine so long as humidity is maintained.) The reason you want to avoid higher temperatures (between 75 and 80 degrees and higher) is to avoid the hatching of bugs or infestation of worms in the tobacco in your cigars. One website notes that the presence of pest eggs in cigar tobacco is actually more widespread than most believe. Higher temperatures also are favorable to some molds and fungi.
Lower storage temperatures are less dangerous to your cigars than higher temperatures. The only problem with lower temperatures it can slow or halt the benefits of aging, and prevent the “marrying” of cigars (more on cigar marriage later). But you have a lot of room on this side of the thermometer. Cigar aging is severely impaired only after you cool to somewhere in the range of 61 to 54 degrees or cooler. These extremely low temperatures are generally only a problem if your humidor is located in your wine cellar. Cellars are not the best idea for long term storage.
The humidity consensus seems to be closer to the 70% mark, but with a bias toward a degree or two lower. If your humidity bounces around a bit (as it will for up to 3 weeks you first purchase your humidor) there’s nothing to worry about. You just need to keep it in the 68 to 74% range. At 75% relative humidity and higher, your start to run the risk of mold (almost guaranteed above 85%), and you may find that your cigars go out too easily. Also you cigars may swell which may result in a tighter smoke and possibly even damage to the cigar’s wrapper.
Unlike temperature, you don’t have as much play in lower readings. At humidity levels below 65% your cigars will begin to dry, and the wrappers may crack. Dryer cigars may also burn too quickly and be bitter. Important oils in the tobacco may evaporate, which will cause an irretrievable loss in fullness and flavor.
Also, and interesting tidbit I picked up while reading the CigarGroup website was that new analog hygrometers can be as much as 20% out of calibration! Fortunately, mine is digital, but if yours isn’t, you might want to visit their site and try out one of their hygrometer tests. Shortcut-cigars.com has a few easy tests also.
I’ll be honest. I didn’t know anything about “marrying” cigars before I started reading up on the consequences of straying from the 70/70 cigar utopia. But when I started reading about it, I wasn’t at all surprised. The basic concept of cigar marriage is well introduced in a brief article on humidor-guide.com:
“Cigars absorb aromas from their environment. That is, they not only absorb the aroma of the humidor’s interior wood lining but also aromas from other cigars stored in the same humidor.”
The idea of cigars being infused with their environment is not something that should surprise anybody. But its something you should keep in mind when you’re buying and organizing your cigars. If you mix your mild cigars with bolder or spicier cigars, you’ll discover that your mild cigars are not so mild after a while. And that may work ok in some cases, but in most cases what you’ll have is a bunch of ruined cigars. However, if you store a bunch of similar cigars together, over the long term (3 months or more, with improvements up to 2 to 3 years) the results will be a pleasant batch of cigars that smoke very consistently and with better flavor than if they had been kept apart.
The key to cigar marriage is the cellophane wrapping (or other sleeve). If you want your cigars to marry, you need to remove the tube, cellophane or sleeve the cigars came in to reap the benefits. On the other hand, if you have a medley of different strengths and flavors of cigars, you want to make sure that you leave these covering in place! The cellophane wrapping will do a good job of preventing a bad marriage. (I won’t explore the possibility of innuendo at this time, but yes, it crossed my mind. :) )
The Importance of Position
I came across on more thing that hadn’t occurred to me while I was reading up on the merits of different levels of humidity- the importance of direct you place your cigars in your humidor. Generally when you see pictures of humidors you see them with cigars laying horizontally (length-wise) inside. In many cases, the option of placing your cigars any other way isn’t available. The box just isn’t wide enough for your cigars to lay width-wise (one end pointing at you, the other away). And that’s a good thing.
Evidently, laying cigars width wise can cause an uneven, inconsistent smoking experience with a cigar. That’s due to the repeated exposure of one end of the cigar to the dryer outside air more than the other end when the humidor is opened. It may sound far-fetched, but over a long period of time, I can see this becoming a noticeable problem for your older cigars.
Wow, and to think this post started with the question “Hmm… my humidor’s at 75 degrees, I wonder what if anything would happen to my cigars if left it there?” Hopefully you have found this exploration as interesting as I have.
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