Cigar humidor 101: What they are, how they work, and our top picks
Some things get better as they age, including red wines, good cigars, and George Clooney. Ah, but that red wine will swill if stored upright in a warm, sunny room. And if overexposure to heat, cold, a glut of humidity, or even overly-dry conditions, your prized Montecristo or Highclere stogie will soon taste like ash.
Let’s talk about good cigars for a hot minute, specifically proper cigar storage, which depends on having a great humidor. Cigars need precisely controlled temperature and moisture levels to keep them fresh for long-term storage, and without a humidor, you won’t be able to keep them at the proper humidity. A cigar will lose quality in less than two weeks without proper storage. With proper storage, however, cigars can improve with age. A smaller, paler cigar may be at its peak flavor profile after six months of careful storage, while a larger, darker, and more robust cigar may be at its best after two or three years.
Once you have your cigars safely stashed in a good humidor, you only need to occasionally check the moisture levels within and keep said humidor at room temperature, which should be easy enough unless you’re a #vanlife kind of fellow. Fortunately for you, we’ve got humidor recommendations right here.
We also have a guide on how to smoke a cigar correctly and eliminate cigar smoke and smell.
When you picture a humidor, barring the walk-in room at a fine tobacconist, this is probably what you’re thinking of, and for most casual cigar enthusiasts, this is what you need. Unless you’re a strictly Double Corona cigar kind of guy, this humidor will accommodate about two dozen cigars and keep them fresh thanks to the lining of cedarwood, a built-in humidifier, and included humidification gel. The lid seals snugly thanks to built-in magnets, and the case is compact enough for easy storage yet handsome enough to be left in plain sight.
When you’re ready to take your cigar storage game up a notch, this 60-cigar humidor (again, depending on the size of your smokes) is a fine choice. Divided and internal storage areas and a removable tray help you keep things sorted and mean lots of exposure to cedar wood that helps infuse the aroma and draw out excess moisture. The hygrometer on the front of the case means you don’t need to open it to check humidity status, and the glass top also lets you make your selection (or show off your collection) without cracking open the lid. Until smoke time, that is.
While presented primarily as a travel humidor and indeed a good choice, this cylindrical leather exterior humidor is handsome enough to be a desktop accessory or command a prominent place on a shelf. And as it seals well, is lined with leather, comes with a humidifier, and has a hygrometer on the lid, it’s a fine choice as your everyday humidor, provided storing only around a dozen cigars is sufficient. (And did someone say “groomsman gift idea?” Yes, yes, someone just did.)
Consider this advanced stogie storage system if you’re starting to get serious about cigars. It has a recessed humidification system set into the base of the interior that ensures steady, even humidity; its digital hygrometer removes all guesswork; and a drawer at the bottom that’s perfect for holding your cutter, lighter, and other preferred cigar tools. Also, it can hold up to a hundred cigars and does so in multiple separated spaces.
If your cigar collection numbers in the hundreds and consists of many fine smokes deserving years of aging — or if you own a cigar bar or a shop from which you’ll peddle fine tobacco — then this is your humidor. It can accommodate up to 150 cigars across its movable cedar wood shelves, has a fan system that keeps air circulating and ensures proper temperatures and humidity, and can be set to maintain temperatures between 54 and 74 degrees Fahrenheit.
A humidor is a storage container designed to help maintain a relative humidity level, which is critical for cigars because the tobacco leaves in them will naturally expand and contract based on the air’s relative humidity. When a cigar gets too dry, it withers and loses its aroma and flavor, two critical parts of smoking cigars. And by contrast, when a cigar is exposed to extremely high humidity, it can lead to mold, rot, and even an infestation of tobacco beetles (that’s right, beetles).
Humidors come in all shapes and sizes and can be as small as a box for a travel humidor or as large as a walk-in closet, primarily used in cigar shops. Regardless of the size, each humidor will have an excellent seal to maintain the internal temperature and provide a thermostat and hygrometer to help its owner maintain optimal conditions.
Humidors work by creating ideal conditions for cigars. Too much moisture, and they’ll get moldy. Too dry, and they crack apart—just right, and good times.
Here’s what you need to know.
The most important part of a humidor is its humidification system, which can be simple or complex, depending on the humidifier’s size. The purpose of the humidifier is to add moisture to the humidor so that the cigars can stay plump and burn slowly, with essential oils that provide the flavor and aroma you expect from your favorite cigars preserved.
For optimal storage conditions, a humidor should always be at 70% relative humidity. To achieve this, the humidor needs a source of water. There are several ways to introduce moisture to the interior, including sponges, the most straightforward humidifier. A sponge soaked in distilled water will release moisture inside. Distilled water must be used to avoid introducing minerals and mold to the humidor.
Floral foam (the green blocks used for flower arrangements) holds plenty of water and releases it gradually, but it also absorbs cigar odors and will need to be replaced yearly. A foam humidifier works best with propylene glycol instead of water because it automatically maintains 70% relative humidity. Crystal gel tiny beads also work, as they are designed to hold up to 500 times their weight in water, which they then release into the atmosphere of the humidor. There are also electronic humidifiers and small machines used in larger humidors.
A hygrometer is another crucial component of your humidor. It measures the humidity levels inside to tell you whether you need to add moisture or absorb some excess water to dry things out. A hygrometer can be digital or analog (which will look like a needle that spins in a marked circle or semicircle). A humidor with electronic humidity controls will be connected to the humidifier. It’s critical to check your hygrometer regularly — once every week or two — to ensure all is well in your humidor.
Cigars must also be kept at a steady temperature to keep them in top condition. In most situations, this should be about 70 degrees Fahrenheit, though you could keep your fresh cigars as cool as 60 or as warm as 72 degrees, a standard room temperature range. A simple thermometer will still provide valuable feedback about the conditions inside humidors without temperature controls. If the humidor has a heater or cooler that allows you to control the temperature inside, your thermostat will directly control these for your convenience. This also helps keep humidity levels even, as warm air holds more moisture, while cool air tends to be drier. Keeping your temperatures steady also helps control humidity, which means more effortless cigar storage.
The traditional choice for a humidor interior is Spanish cedar. Some come with cedar lining on the walls, while others use Spanish cedar wood for the shelves and drawers. Spanish cedar humidors, like a cedar closet, repel insects and protect the contents from decay. Spanish cedar also has some absorbent qualities, which allow it to absorb and release water to help keep conditions evenly moist inside the humidor.
With all those elements in place, your smokes should stay moist and fresh and will only mellow and improve with age.
If you buy a well-built humidor, like the ones listed above, there’s no reason it can’t last you a lifetime — with the proper care and maintenance. A travel humidor may be a different story. Simply due to their intended purposes, the wear-and-tear that comes along with travel will decrease its life span. If you’re an avid cigar smoker, think of a travel humidor lasting about as long as a smartphone case. Depending on how often you drop it, it can last a few years.
A humidor’s cost varies on its features and capabilities. You should be able to find a good, cigar-box-sized humidor for less than $100. If you’re looking for a large, reach-in humidor with bells and whistles, you can easily spend $200 to $500.
All you need is a desk, mantel, or shelf for a standard-sized humidor to live in. For a humidor with a moisture-controlled cooling system, you’ll need a standard 120-volt power source.
To season a cigar humidor, you will need the following:
You can add your cigars to the humidor once the humidity is in the correct range.
Here are some additional tips for seasoning a cigar humidor:
Following our instructions will ensure your cigar humidor is correctly seasoned and ready to store your cigars for a long while.HumidifierHygrometerThermostatSpanish cedar