Outside the box

Outside the box

At the retailer, while travelling and at home, the proper storage of cigars is vital

Cigars & Whisky | 13 Jul 2018 | Issue 153 | By Christopher Coates

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In the previous two issues, we discussed the importance of storing cigars in adequate conditions while travelling, utilising, for instance, an air-tight and insulated travel case such as those produced by Xikar, and the list of defects to watch out for before accepting new cigars into your collection.

Now we move on to topic of home storage. Readers of this column will undoubtedly have seen the impressive walk-in humidors installed in cigar shops and likely, for a moment at least, wished to have something like it installed in their own home. However, in lieu of such an indulgence, what are the other options available to the majority of cigar aficionados?

Starting with the largest of home-storage options, we begin with free-standing cabinets and trolleys. The former is certainly the most traditional option and these cabinets are usually constructed from at least two types of wood, often with glass windows in the doors and sometimes the sides.

The structure and outer fascia is usually made from a wood that’s both strong and attractive, though cheaper options will be veneered. Invariably, the interior is constructed from (or veneered in) Cedrela Odoratsa, generally referred to as Spanish cedar, which is the traditional wood used for lining cigar boxes and humidors.

This type of wood became the gold standard for humidor construction on account of its capacity to absorb excess moisture and cope with differing humidity inside and outside of a humidor

In spite of its name, this wood is neither Spanish, as it originates from the South American tropics, or a true cedar, as it is actually a species of tree in the Mahogany family (Meliaceae). Name aside, this type of wood became the gold standard for humidor construction on account of its capacity to absorb excess moisture and cope with differing humidity inside and outside of a humidor without cracking; its pleasant aroma, which is evocative of true cedar; and also its natural resistance to rot and insect infestation, a handy bonus that helps stave off mould and mites. These tower cabinets vary in size but will usually have capacity for up to 3,000 corona-sized cigars as singles or in boxes, though this will of course vary massively depending on the vitolas and how they are stored.

For those who wish to store large numbers of cigars but also have the option to transport that collection safely, the best option for large-scale storage is a cabinet flight trolley, which is almost identical to the kind used for transporting food and drink for in-flight services. Popularised by the humidor manufacturer Adorini, these air-tight containers are constructed from stainless steel, have wheels on all four corners and have most often been retro-fitted with Spanish cedar shelves and lining, and humidification apparatus. Best utilised for secure long-term box storage, these trolleys will usually hold up to 800 corona-sized cigars in boxes and are fitted with humidification kit.

The most utilitarian method for storing a large number of cigars in the home is the humble scuba box. Essentially a very large, rugged and airtight Tupperware, the scuba box is very similar to an uninsulated cool box, though a cooler would work just as well. By adding the appropriate humidifying kit and a hygrometer, scubas can provide a safe environment for long-term storage.

The robust construction means they can be tucked away in the loft or garage, though one should bear in mind ambient temperature before doing this as the ideal range is between 18-22°C and much variation outside this could lead to damage to the cigars. As with all humidors, they should be stored out of direct sunlight and opened from time to time to allow fresh air to enter. When choosing such a storage box, it is important to ensure the plastic is aroma free and food safe.

Sherry in the Dark

Balblair 1991 Vintage and La Flor Dominicana La Nox

La Nox is a straight-sided ‘Toro Extra’ vitola (6 1/2" RG50) with a very dark Brazilian wrapper, Mexican San Andrés binder and Dominican filler from the company’s La Canela farm.

Though the very dark, oily wrapper might give the impression that this cigar will be a very heavy hitter, the first third opens with medium-full body, medium strength, and a complex flavour profile including salted almond, green apple and a meaty beef stock note. Into the second third, as the nutty note builds with the emergence of paprika and a little green pepper. A green, floral note lurks in the background but remains part of the ensemble throughout the final third as coffee and cream step forward to compliment the existing profile, while strength builds to full.

This cigar benefits from pairing with rich and sweet spirits, especially aged rums, and sherry-cask matured whisky.

The Balblair 1991 vintage (46% ABV) has been blended using spirit matured in ex-Bourbon barrels and Spanish oak sherry butts, with the latter providing the prevailing character of the palate. The orchard fruit notes one expects from Balblair are complimented by date, cherry, clove, and crème brûlée. The spirit’s inherent sweetness does well to quell some of the cigar’s spicier notes, bringing balance.

Don Quixote in Keith

Gordon & MacPhail Distillery Label Strathisla 2006 and Montecristo No. 1

The long and elegant Montecristo No.1 is perhaps one of the Habanos most evocative of the image of the well-attired Cuban gentleman enjoying a cigar in the sunshine. Indeed, this vitola (6 1/2" RG42) has come to be cherished among cigar smokers as a reminder of a time before fat and stubby cigars ruled the roost. Carrying the factory name ‘Cervantes’, this shape is much better known as the Lonsdale, in honour of Hugh Lowther, 5th Earl of Lonsdale, a famous English bon viveur and cigar aficionado of the 1930s.

The Monte No.1’s body and strength sits at a high medium throughout and treats the smoker to lashings of cappuccino coffee and cashew throughout, with milk chocolate and consistent spice note that brings to mind Ras el Hanout. However, don’t expect great variation from this during the cigar, as the profile is pretty consistent throughout.

The medium profile of the cigar provides the perfect foundations for pairing with a more subtle dram that requires space to breathe. G&M’s DL Strathisla 2006 (43% ABV) has all the usual delicate citrus and apple notes one expects from Strathisla, accompanied by stewed pear and plums, cocoa and almond by virtue of its sherry-cask maturation.

Where to smoke

La Descarga
Old world décor, a superb selection of spirits, and a limited but high-quality cigar selection. Guests are welcome to bring their own cigars.
Dress code applies.
1159 North Western Avenue, Los Angeles, CA, 90039
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