A humidor is used to keep cigars at a constant humidity. It’s basically a well-constructed, almost airtight, box. Contrary to popular belief, the Cigars International website says that, “A humidor lid should not be airtight, to allow the necessary circulation of air. Musty smells destroy cigars.”

Humidors aren’t complex electronic or mechanical devices. A no-name brand can be as good as a famous brand. Finely crafted, quality humidors can cost a few hundred dollars. Humidors with cosmetic blemishes are called “imperfect” and are sold at bargain prices.

Less fancy, but still functional humidors can be had for $30 to $100. A cheap plastic box or glass jar from the supermarket will also work, though few would call one a humidor.

Examples of brands are Adorini, Cohiba, Davidoff, Montecristo, Diamond Crown, Romeo y Julieta, Savoy, Daniel Marshall, Don Salvatore, Elie Bleu, Csonka, Pompeii, Madelaine, Savinelli, H. Upmann and Bubinga. Avallo and Aristocrat specialize in large, cabinet humidors.

Some of the information in this article is based on user reviews on the Amazon.com website.

How to Choose a Humidor

Wooden boxes are traditional, look good and work well. Spanish cedar wood is commonly recommended as the best lining material. It absorbs moisture, serving as a humidity reservoir (a separate humidifier is still required). Its natural scent also adds flavor to the tobacco in the cigars. The case itself can be made from all kinds of wood: cherry and walnut are popular. The outside of the humidor is varnished for appearances, and also to reduce moisture loss. The inside of the box should be unvarnished to avoid affecting the taste of the cigars.

The Cigar International website says that, “Cedar is the best wood for the inside of a humidor, because of its ability to enhance the aging process (allowing the various tobaccos in a cigar the chance to ‘marry’ so that the cigar is not composed of distinct pieces of tobacco, but of subtle nuances of taste).”

The first decision that needs to be made is the size of the humidor. Typical sizes for desktop humidors are 25, 50 and 100 cigars. Sizes above 200 cigars are usually reserved for cabinet or end table humidors. The actual usable capacity will depend on the size of the cigars. Larger humidors have horizontal trays or vertical dividers, useful for organizing different types or ages of cigars.

It’s better to buy a larger humidor than is needed. This allows for future expansion, and space for air circulation within the humidor. Additional space might also be required for the humidifier and hygrometer (some are fixed to the inside of the lid of the humidor, and take up less space).

Next, is whether to get a glass-topped or plain wooden lid humidor. A glass top makes the humidor a display case, allowing the cigars to be viewed without having to lift the lid (allowing humidity to escape). People who enjoy looking at their cigars (not as strange as it sounds) will want a glass top. They also allow an internal hygrometer to be read, and curious friends to examine the collection, without losing humidity. A beveled edge on the glass top adds a touch of class.

Some humidors come with a built-in analog hygrometer. The mechanical dial lends an old-fashioned charm to the wooden box (already a rarity in today’s plastic world). Analog hygrometers are notoriously inaccurate and need to be calibrated. The hygrometer should be removable for calibration, and have a calibration adjustment screw.

The hygrometer can be mounted:

  • on the front of the humidor (through a hole in the case)
  • underneath the glass top
  • underneath the wooden lid (less useful, as the box needs to be opened to read the hygrometer)

A built-in humidifier is also common. This is usually a sponge for distilled water or propylene glycol. Many people prefer to use gels, beads or other cigar humidifiers instead.

A latch or lock might be useful for some. A brass plate for engraving is a nice touch, especially for a present. If not provided with the humidor, one can be purchased separately from a craft store.

Travel or Pocket Humidors

Travel humidors are used to safely carry a few cigars for a few days or weeks. This is too short a time for aging the cigars or getting them musty, so cedar wood and outside air circulation isn’t necessary (some travel humidors are waterproof, to protect the cigars from the rigors of travel). Examples of brands are Xikar, Csonka, Dunhill, Herf-a-Dor, Don Salvatore, Montecristo, Perfecto XLT and H. Upmann.

There are two main types of travel humidors:

  • Small versions of standard wooden-box humidors, which have about 15 to 25 cigars capacity.
  • Hi-tech plastic or aluminum humidors, 1 to 15 cigars capacity. These are typically waterproof and crush-proof, like an Otter Box or Pelican case. Smaller versions can be slipped into a jacket or coat. Cigar tubes hold one cigar.

The Best Cigar Humidor

Any tight-fitting box will work as a humidor. More important are the humidifier and an accurate hygrometer. However, for aging and flavoring cigars, only a cedar-lined wooden humidor will do. It isn’t necessary to spend a lot on a big name brand.