Cigar appreciation is a fun hobby that can take a lot of different paths. Some like to keep it more casual. They keep one or two cigars on hand, smoke them at will, and smoke them as they buy them.
Others prefer to keep a healthy stock of cigars around for special occasions or just a casual evening relaxation. They’re great for sharing or celebrating—plus it’s nice to have variety.
Either way, a humidor is an ideal way to keep those cigars in good smoking condition for when you’re ready.
But what about long-term storage? Can you store cigars long-term? What happens to them when you do? And just how long can you keep them? Let’s look at a few answers.
What is a Humidor?
To break it down simply, a humidor is a place to store cigars. It’s usually a wooden box that sits nicely on a desk or counter. But inside, there’s a lot more to it than that.
A humidor works like this: the interior of a humidor is lined with a kind of wood called Spanish cedar. This wood is remarkably absorbent. When a humidor is properly “seasoned,” it creates an ideal environment for storing cigars.
Seasoning a humidor involves adding moisture to the interior. You can read more in our guide to Seasoning a Humidor, but ultimately the lining of the humidor absorbs enough moisture to create an environment with optimal humidity for cigars. If cigars are stored in conditions that are too dry, they become brittle and the oil that makes their smoke so enjoyable evaporates. On the other hand, if cigars are stored in too much humidity, they can mold—or even become infested with tobacco beetles. Dry cigars become acrid when you smoke them, and moldy cigars…well, there’s no joy in smoking mold.
A properly seasoned and maintained humidor, on the other hand, keeps cigars in perfect smoking condition, with their oils intact offering an ideal smoke.
What Happens When You Store Cigars Long-Term?
Once you’re further into the hobby, you may choose to keep more cigars on hand than you can reasonably smoke in a short period of time. There’s nothing wrong with this—especially when you enjoy trying different kinds or find a favorite and like to stock up when you can. That said, that means some cigars can linger in your humidor for quite some time. But how long can a cigar stay fresh in a humidor?
Cigars are, obviously, natural products. Made of tobacco and then dried, there’s nothing inorganic about them. That makes them very susceptible to natural breakdown. However, because of the drying process, the oils which make the cigars fragrant remain while the moisture in the leaf which would lead to degradation is mostly gone. This leads to a balancing act that your humidor must play: keeping the cigars just moist enough without causing them to dry out further.
There are a lot of schools of thought on this, and much of it depends on how your humidor is designed.
Even before most cigars are shipped to your favorite tobacco shops, they go through an aging process for about six months. This allows them to dry to a point where they’re still perfectly fragrant, yet hold together on their own and are already in great shape to smoke.
That said, many cigar aficionados believe an additional period of aging will help the cigar’s flavors develop even further. As such, they’ll age their cigars a minimum of three months before they even think about snipping and lighting one.
Others, though, like to leave them even longer. As these cigars continue to age, the air that’s circulating them continues to interact with the oils. Much like aging wine, where slow oxygen ingress impacts the wine’s flavors, the oils of the cigars mature and change as well. Smoking a cigar that’s three months old and one that’s three years old can be very different experiences.
How long can you age a cigar? If your humidor is well-maintained and regularly cared-for, many believe cigars can age indefinitely. It may be debatable whether those long-aged cigars will still taste better, but it’s certainly worth an experiment to find out.
How to Best Age Your Cigars Long-Term
There are certain things you can do to make sure your humidor is set up well for long-term cigar aging.
The first, and most important, is to give your humidor regular check-ups. Make sure the humidor humidity levels remain between 67 and 72 percent. If you have a battery-powered hygrometer, check them regularly.
Second, airflow is important. Remember, it’s the interaction with oxygen that maintains and changes the flavor profile of your cigars. Wrapping your cigars in cellophane or cling wrap would prevent air from properly circulating—and might even create a higher likelihood of mold growth as it traps moisture inside and doesn’t allow the cigar to breathe.
The third thing is temperature. While humidity levels matter, temperature can wreak havoc on delicate cigars. Try to keep the temp of your humidor as consistent as possible. It’s best to store your humidor in a cool, dry place—away from windows that get a lot of sun and may heat things up.