For cigar enthusiasts, a fine stogie is a beautiful thing. That beauty comes not only from the way it smokes and feels, but also the way it looks in a collection, which means there are few things worse than pulling a ruined cigar from your stock.
“If you’ve spent hundreds of dollars on your cigars only to see them ruined, it’s tantamount to using money in your fireplace for kindling,” says Gary Korb, Executive Editor at Cigar Advisor.
When storing a cigar collection, you need the right environment, which is why most collectors and aficionados choose to store their cigars at home. However, as with any collection, it’s not always possible to keep cigars close at hand. Whether your collection has become too big for your space, you’re worried about the intrusion of pets or children, or you’re simply moving from one home to another, self storage can be a great place to store cigars.
Using Humidors for Cigar Collections
Even though you’ll be storing your cigars in a storage unit, you still need a safe container. A humidor is, by far, the best way to protect a cigar collection. If you’re just starting a collection or looking to store your collection more seriously, it’s good to understand the way humidors work since they’re the most important line of defense between a collection and the environment.
Sam Phillips, Vice President of Marketing at cigar company Alec Bradley, explains that there are two things to look for in a humidor: a great seal and a lining of Spanish cedar. Phillips says once you’ve got your humidor, you’ll need to season it by lightly wiping the cedar with a clean rag dampened by distilled water. Then, place a gauge (called a hygrometer) in your humidor and check on it after 24 hours to make sure the humidity levels are just right.
Bryan Ott, Merchandising Manager at Cigar.com, says, “It pays dividends to have a good digital hygrometer,” and Phillips agrees. Korb adds that digital hygrometers “are not only more accurate, but they include equally accurate thermometers,” which makes it easy to keep track of both the humidity and temperature of your humidor.
Korb, Phillips, and Ott all cite the ideal relative humidity for cigar storage as somewhere between 68-70%.
If a humidor seems too pricey for cigars you’re moving to storage, you can make your own out of a cooler. “You can essentially create a cooler-dor out of any container that’s dark when closed, clean, unscented, and provides a seal to the outside environment,” says Ott. “This concept is great for storage units because [coolers] are easily stackable, and there’s no need to worry about damaging the finish of the more ascetically pleasing traditional Spanish cedar humidor.”
Phillips says less traditional methods like the cooler-dor can work (so can humidipaks) but insists that “humidors are so much more attractive.”
How Climate Control and Good Security Can Help
To store cigars properly, you’ll need a climate-controlled storage unit in addition to your humidor. This might seem counterintuitive, but these experts say humidity regulated by the humidor and a stable temperature with climate-controlled storage work together to protect your cigars. “Temperature goes hand in hand with humidity for creating the correct environment for cigars,” Ott says.
Even if a unit with climate control is kept at 70°F year-round, Korb says renters would still need a humidor to keep their cigars together. Again, you can’t have one without the other in self storage.
Failing to create the right conditions for a cigar collection can have disastrous effects. “Dry cigars will burn hot, create harsh, unpleasant flavors, and will be susceptible to cracked wrappers,” Ott says, adding that damp cigars are equally as disastrous, as they’re hard to keep lit and even harder to draw on.
Phillips and Ott also suggest a storage facility with advanced security measures if your collection is particularly large or valuable. “There are cigars out there worth hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Phillips says. “[A collection] isn’t something you can go to your insurance to get replaced. No amount of money could replace it.”
The Benefits of Proper Storage
Storing cigars improperly can ruin your stock, but putting a little thought into storage can be extremely rewarding. “I liken the cigar-making process to the wine-making process,” Phillips says, detailing a three to five-year journey in which more than 200 hands touch a cigar from tobacco seedling to finished product.
All of the experts say that while certain cigars will obviously age in different ways, proper storage can keep cigars smokable for hundreds of years—that’s right, hundreds!
With the right preparation, a storage unit can help you keep your collection fresh and protected, whether you need it long-term or short-term. As long as you’ve got climate control to keep the conditions outside your humidor as ideal as the conditions inside, Korb says “there’s no reason not to store [cigars] outside your home.”