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The trouble with cigar humidors…
To some cigar aficionado smokers, cigar humidors can multiply like rabbits. When we first get started with the cigar obsession (addiction perhaps… ), many of us may buy the least expensive humidor we can find or purchasing an expensive one…and hope for the best. After all, we start with only a handful of cigars (again…not knowing and buy cheap cigars…albeit handmade you hope), often recommended by a cigar store clerk who also directs us to a humidor in which to keep them. He tells us about conditioning the box and instructs us to put Distilled Water in the black rectangular sponge thing. But what he doesn’t tell us is that the humidor is barely suited to protect and condition our cigars. The problems (dry, mushy, bland cigars), are very obvious because even inferior humidors can look beautiful. That’s how the manufactures get us to buy them. Conversely, expensive humidors can have the same deficiencies as that of the cheaper ones.
So what makes a humidor effective?
There are two major differences between an inferior humidor and a “real” humidor. (Real being one designed to adequately protect your cigars). One is wall and/or bottom thickness and the other being a lining of Spanish cedar planks rather than a thin cedar (if you’re lucky), veneer. It stands to reason that the thicker the wall, the more moisture retention the humidor will have, and this is certainly true. But the addition of cedar planks will not only add more wall and/or bottom thickness to the humidor, it will also keep the cigars further from the materials used to construct the box. Today’s humidors are often made from particleboard and not from solid wood. (The highest quality humidors are made from solid wood but can be prohibitively expensive). Particleboard is made from wood scraps left over from sawmills, combined with a binding agent and pressed into thick sheets. Although the resins used to make particleboard are considered environmentally safe, it does contain formaldehyde (I’d rather my cigars not spend years in a formaldehyde environment, but that’s just me. So the barrier of additional cedar planks on the bottom seems desirable.) But most importantly, particleboard is not resistant to moisture. This translates to poor moisture containment within the humidor. The addition of a layer of solid Spanish cedar adds insulation and helps to maintain the humidors desired internal humidity.
Thin walls = bad moisture retention...thus thick walls w/ raised Cedar inserts = good moisture retention.
Cedar plank inserts improve humidor performance
And there is another weak link in many humidors, even some with cedar plank lining. That is the very thin wood used at the bottom of the boxes. I have had a few humidors with this hidden flaw
But there is hope…
If you are a little handy and have a miter box, (a specially designed slanted cutting box), you can turn an inexpensive humidor into a “real” humidor. By performing an Ebay search for “Spanish cedar” you can usually find people selling exactly what you need…inexpensive ¼ inch planks of kiln dried Spanish cedar. By measuring (twice…then cut), and cutting you can create a true cedar lining and a thicker, more protective humidor bottom. And the improvement is well worth the effort. The additional insulation will help the humidor retain moisture and the internal humidity will be more reliable. As a result, your cigars will be better conditioned, which in turn will age them properly.
Kiln dried Cedar planks from Ebay
When buying new humidors it is good to look for boxes that have these features, and price is not necessarily an indicator of quality. Some cheap humidors have them while some expensive ones don’t. It has been my experience that when researched, it is possible to get a very good humidor at a very reasonable price and, invariably, the boxes with the thick, cedar lining (walls and bottom), will give the best performance. Sometimes all they require is just additional cedar planks on the bottom.