When Craig Vanderslice gets home from a long day’s work, he looks forward to lighting a premium cigar, preferably the sweet Nicaraguan kind. He takes his first puff while walking his beloved American Pit Bull Terrier and ends in his favorite porch chair, where he likes to finish his thoughts, and his smoke.
“Cigars have always been about the ‘me time,’” he said. “Taking the time to sit and reflect and do nothing but enjoy a cigar.”
“It’s basically an hour vacation.”
If you’re like Vanderslice and building a cigar collection for later (he has about 1,000 on hand!), or perhaps are looking to store some stogies from a recent trip to Cuba, here’s the tips you need to make sure you get a quality burn every time.
Choose Quality Cigars Before Storing Them
You can’t expect to have a good cigar in two months if you don’t have a good cigar to begin with, so make sure you start by storing premium cigars from a reputable tobacco shop.
“The best way is to find a good tobacco shop with a good proprietor that can help guide you in your decisions,” said Vanderslice, whose love for cigars dates back two decades.
He has travelled the world looking for quality smokes, watching the creation process from seed to cigar, and seeking advice from the best tobacconists on how to store cigars. He chronicles his journeys and shares his advice for choosing quality stogies on CigarCraig.com.
You could say that Laith Haddad is one of those experts worth writing about.
He has owned and operated The Cuban Seed Cigar Company for nearly 20 years on the famous Sunset Strip in West Hollywood. He not only sells cigars but also makes them in his plants in Nicaragua and Honduras, where his family has had ties to the cigar trade since the 1940s.
His cigars have a richer flavor because they are handmade using higher grade, whole-leaf tobacco. This is in contrast to the salvaged, leftover pieces sandwiched together and rolled into lower quality cigars found on convenience store shelves. He uses tobacco aged for no less than seven years for more complex flavor, like an aged whisky.
These are the types of qualities smokers should look for in cigar.
“Cigars are in their own world,” he said while describing the anatomy of cigars like a sommelier would describe the nuances of a fine wine.
Buy Quality Humidors or Boxes for Storing Cigars
Both of our experts agree that a Spanish cedar humidor is the best option for cigar storage and can be as cheap as $40, which is the average cost of two premium cigars in Haddad’s shop. It is a small price to pay to maintain the quality of imported cigars, which are expensive and often cost $20 or more each in his shop.
“Spanish cedar, it’s actually not a cedar at all but a mahogany,” Vanderslice said, warning buyers to be cautious. “Cedar will actually make your cigars taste really bad.”
To store only a few cigars for a short time, a smoker can use Tupperware or Ziploc bag.
“Something with a good seal and some air inside,” said Vanderslice.
Make sure to keep a humidity pack or a quarter slice of an apple inside (and make sure to switch out the fruit so it doesn’t rot!) to maintain moisture.
Monitor Temperature and Humidity to Keep Cigars Fresh
Whether you use a cooler, humidor or humidity pack to keep your stogies in mint condition, you must regularly check to make sure cigars are stored around 70 degrees Fahrenheit and 70 percent humidity to keep the cigar’s wrapper from cracking or getting moldy.
“Cigars come from warm, humid places, so they like to stay fairly warm,” Vanderslice said.
Too moist or too warm of a temperature can ruin the wrappers – 60 percent of a cigar’s flavor – and make cigars unsmokable for someone with high standards.
When travelling, keep cigars in the bathroom or kitchen – the most humid indoor areas. Place the cigars in the freezer just after the trip, before returning them to your humidor. You don’t want to put overheated tobacco into storage.
Cigars can last forever – wrapper intact – but proper storage is important for an even burn and maximum flavor.