A humidor is a good investment, even for the occasional cigar indulger 


The Davidoff Macassar Dome

FOR MOST FOLKS, sparking up a stogie is only a sometimes thing, reserved for special occasions—the birth of a child, a wedding or having successfully returned from the Caribbean with a computer case filled with (wink, wink) “exotic” cigars. Problem is, unless you light up within a couple of days of purchase, your investment is sure to go stale. Which is where the humidor comes in.

Even if your cigar intake is limited to every month or two, that’s OK. You don’t need to be a pinky-ringed Tony Soprano to maintain a small cache of fresh, well-kept cigars at the ready. It’s not unlike always having a bottle of Champagne around—you should be able to indulge whenever you see fit, without trekking to the store. And a personal humidor allows your tastes to grow as you experiment with a wider variety of tobaccos and wrappers, as your collection builds and diversifies, and even as you start to age your own cigars so that their flavors become richer and more complex. Buying your first one can be intimidating as they all just look like boxes with wildly varied prices, but it’s easier than you think. Here’s how.

—Rafi Kohan

1. Choose your box

Start off with a desktop humidor—they’re space-efficient and often handsome. Most importantly, you don’t have to fill them with hundreds of sticks. Expect a desktop to hold 25 to 100 cigars. They range in price from $25 into the thousands.

2. Before buying, check the seal

Two seal-checking tricks are the “car door” and “dollar bill” tests. For the former, lift the lid a few inches, release, and listen for a car-door-like whoosh—that means it has a good seal. For the latter, insert a greenback halfway into your humidor, shut the lid and slowly pull on the bill. While you don’t want the seal to be completely airtight—which can lead to mold inside the box—you want to meet a fair amount of resistance; pull hard enough, though, and the bill should release.

3. Remember: Money isn’t everything—or is it?

It’s true, money can’t buy you love or happiness, but in the world of humidors, it seems it can earn you peace of mind. Most humidors do what they’re supposed to do—keep your cigars fresh. Ultimately one’s choice of humidor comes down to aesthetics and a willingness to monitor the box’s humidity levels (see step 5). What top-of-line models like Davidoff Macassar Dome ($5,080, www.davidoffmadison.com ) offer, in addition to handcrafted luxury, is ease of use. Less expensive models, like the Adorini Torino Deluxe ($184, humidordiscount.com ), may require a more vigilant watch.

4. Season it right

Seasoning is hugely important for Spanish cedar boxes because a dry box will steal your cigars’ moisture. Almost every manufacturer offers a variation on seasoning, but in general this involves wiping down the interior with a damp-but-not-soaking-wet cloth several times over the course of a few days. It’s important to note that the cloth should not be oversaturated—pooling water can warp the wood—and that you should use distilled water to avoid mold-inducing bacteria. Some higher-end models do not need to be seasoned (it’ll say so in the instructions) since they are crafted from nonporous exotic woods that do not absorb humidity. Nonabsorbent boxes typically have a slight gap in their seals to promote air circulation and prevent over-humidification, so don’t be alarmed.

5. Keep things humid

To be considered useful, a humidor should maintain a relative humidity (RH) level between 65% and 75%. Any lower, and the tobacco dries out. Any higher, and the cigars may prove difficult to keep lit, or worse: tobacco beetles may hatch, thanks to the incubator-like climate. Ideal conditions are between 68% and 72%. To monitor these levels, you’ll want a digital hygrometer, which are generally more reliable than their analogue equivalents, which require finicky calibration. Pretty much every humidor comes with a humidifier, although quality varies greatly. If your box isn’t maintaining a good RH level, try switching to a crystal- or bead-based humidifying technology or to Boveda packs. The latter can both absorb and release humidity, and only need to be swapped out every few months.

A version of this article appeared June 23, 2012, on page D11 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: More Than a Box.