"I am the smoker of the fine Perdomo 10th Anniversary Champagne Torpedo cigar, they are a medium to mild smoke. I buy them at Doc James Cigar & Golf in Shrub Oaks NY...." Ira

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Humidors and Hygrometers: Seasoning and Troubleshooting Tips

Cigar storage requires close attention to humidity, which is why most smokers invest in a humidor to protect their finely-crafted purchases. Shop owners are a primary source for information on humidor preparation and maintenance, but many smokers lack such a knowledgeable resource in their region. Fortunately, the process is simple enough to explain, but it does require diligence and patience on your part.

The basic tools for cigar storage include a humidor, distilled water, humidification element, sponge and hygrometer. Generally, humidors are purchased dry from a retailer or wholesaler and must be prepared before holding cigars. The interior is constructed of untreated Spanish cedar, which is chosen for both its neutral aroma and ability to absorb and hold moisture without warping. Humidors constructed of glass or other nonporous materials do not require seasoning.

Seasoning the Humidor

The process begins with a new sponge soaked in distilled water. You will use this to clean all the interior wood, including any dividers. The sponge should be plain, without any additives, and it should not leave any debris after cleaning.

For large humidors with sufficient space, wet the sponge again for placement inside the humidor. A piece of plastic wrap or another neutral waterproof material should be used to prevent direct contact with the wood. The humidification element should be filled to maximum capacity with care taken to remove excess water. Interior wood will suck moisture from the air but should never be directly exposed to water for lengthy periods.

Once the element and sponge are safely stored inside, close the humidor's lid. Check progress on the following day. This involves checking the sponge and element for dampness relative to the previous day. If they remain damp, return them to the humidor and wait another day. If they are drier than they were on the previous day, moisten them again and continue the process. After two days, the wood will reach the proper moisture equilibrium to maintain internal humidity.

Hygrometer Calibration and Troubleshooting

Humidors are designed to approximate the tropical atmosphere in which tobacco is cured and rolled into cigars. The best test of function is to squeeze a cigar stored in the humidor. If it is spongy or brittle relative to its condition at the time of purchase, the humidity is too high or too low.

The optimum conditions for storage are a temperature around 70 degrees Fahrenheit and a humidity between 68 percent and 72 percent. An analog hygrometer will provide approximate humidity, but an exact measurement requires a digital hygrometer. Many humidors ship with one or the other. With an expensive cigar collection or large humidor, it is wise to employ two or more hygrometers.

If the feel of the cigar does not match the hygrometer reading, it may be necessary to purchase a new hygrometer. However, you should first attempt to recalibrate the hygrometer. A hygrometer may be recalibrated by being wrapped in a moist rag and left out overnight. This should result in a high reading, and it will certainly reveal a broken hygrometer.

Other Tips

The external environment plays a large role in the humidor's ability to maintain the proper humidity. One of the more common problems with cigar storage is placement of the humidor in the home. It should not be placed near air vents or other places of continuous air movement. Moist environments are also best avoided. A cool and dry location will prevent the internal fluctuations that may ruin a batch of cigars.

It will be necessary to use both the hygrometer readings and inspection of the humidification element in order to maintain optimal humidity. Simply refill the element as needed. It is also a good idea to periodically remove all cigars and wipe down the interior wood. The hygrometers will likely need to be replaced at some point, but a carefully seasoned and maintained humidor will serve its purpose for a lifetime.