The proper care and storage of cigars is important, whether you like to puff on premium Montecristos or simply enjoy inexpensive stogies.
“Cigars are living and breathing organisms,” said Patrick Ashby, editor in chief of StogieGuys.com, a website for cigar lovers. “They will change, depending on how they are stored.”
“If they are not stored properly,” he added, “they will diminish in value, they will diminish in quality, and they will not be a good experience.”
Poorly stored cigars might burn unevenly or too rapidly. They might develop a bitter taste. In some cases, they might be difficult to light. Even worse, you might find tiny holes in the leaves, a sign of tobacco beetle infestation.
“Those beetles are microscopic,” Ashby said. “They are tasteless and harmless, but they eat tobacco. They can do a lot of damage to a cigar collection.”
Find a Secure Place
People who appreciate cigars are protective of their collections and don’t like them to be tampered with. If you share a home with people who don’t share your respect for cigars, renting a storage unit can be a good solution. Be sure to rent a unit with temperature control and place your cigars in a humidor to keep them properly moist. Humidors come in a variety of sizes. Prices for a good humidor typically start at roughly $100.
“The humidity and temperature are important to maintain the pliability and the smokability of cigars,” said cigar blogger Craig Vanderslice, who runs CigarCraig.com.
You can avoid tobacco deterioration by keeping your cigars at a temperature below 73 degrees Fahrenheit and between 68 percent and 74 percent humidity. The ideal condition for storage is 70 degrees Fahrenheit and 70 percent humidity. This sometimes is called the 70-70 rule.
It’s a good idea to visit your storage unit monthly to make sure your cigars are being kept in the 70-70 range, Vanderslice said. He suggests occasionally opening the humidor to allow air inside.
“You should not leave cigars in a sealed environment too long,” Vanderslice said.
General Storage Tips
Experts recommend that you use a humidor for cigar storage, whether you’re keeping cigars at home or in a self-storage unit. Tad Gage, author of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Cigars,” said manufacturers typically line humidors with Spanish cedar, a type of wood that doesn’t have an odor that will be absorbed by cigars.
If you don’t have a humidor, any clean plastic container with a tight seal that can accommodate a damp sponge can be a good substitute. Vanderslice noted that some people use plastic food and beverage coolers to store their cigars at home.
Gage said he’s used gallon-size zippered freezer bags to store his cigars at home. To keep the tobacco from drying out, he recommends placing a moist, 2-inch-square sponge inside a quart-size zippered bag. Leave the smaller bag upright and unsealed inside the larger bag, but make sure the sponge doesn’t touch the cigars.
Store the gallon-size bag containing your cigars in a dry, dark place. Kept like this, cigars can last for years without deteriorating, Gage says.
Cigars Are Easily Damaged
Gage said tobacco products are fragile. A good cigar is like a fine bottle of wine—it should be protected from swings in temperature or exposure to light.
“Cigars are very, very delicate,” Gage said. “They generally are made in the Caribbean or tropical to subtropical climates. There is a long process to manufacturing, where the leaves are allowed to dry out. When the cigars are shipped, the rule of thumb is they need to be kept pretty much in the same type of environment.”
Gage said that while inexpensive, machine-made cigars are popular, the more people are turning to premium handmade cigars.
“It’s very much like wine and premium spirits trend,” he said. “People are drinking less, but higher-quality.”
Handmade cigars “have a long leaf rather than little bits of tobacco,” Gage added. “It’s very time-consuming to create them.”
High Cost Doesn’t Equal High Quality
Vanderslice said that when it comes to cigars, high price doesn’t guarantee good taste. Prices for desirable cigars can start at as low as $3 each.
“It is more a personal preference than dollars and cents,” he said. “You can spend $15 on a cigar and not particularly like it.”
So just how long can you store a cigar? Some have been in storage in the U.S. for more than half a century. Vanderslice said some collectors own premium Cuban cigars that were purchased before the U.S. imposed a trade embargo in 1962.
“Properly kept, they should be smokable,” he said.