We begin with the most humble storage option of them all: the Tupperware or ‘tupperdor’. For anyone just starting out in the world of cigars, this is the best low-cost option as all that’s really needed to store tobacco safely is an air-tight container that can maintain a consistent internal humidity. The tupperdor should also be food safe (so it won’t impart foreign flavours or aromas) and, ideally, opaque. Just like whisky, cigars don’t like being stored in direct sunlight. Saying that, keeping a transparent tupperdor in a cool, dark place will work just as well.
Though practical and thrifty, it must be admitted that whipping out a Tupperware full of cigars when friends come over for a smoke could be said to lack finesse. Most new starters elect instead to purchase a small table-top humidor. These come in varying sizes but generally hold around 50 corona-sized cigars and cost anywhere between £50 to £100, though the sky is the limit when it comes to the price of more indulgent models. Important things to look out for, however, are quality hinges and seals.
It’s worth noting that although some come with in-built hygrometers, cheaper options are most often inaccurate and should not be used as the sole means of measuring internal relative humidity (RH). Digital hygrometers are preferred for accuracy and they generally also serve the dual purpose of displaying temperature.
As noted in previous issues, cigar smokers that live in very warm (or very cold) countries should pay particular attention to the temperature at which they store their cigars. Ideal storage temperature is between 18 to 22°C and if the temperature of the storage area regularly fluctuates outwith these boundaries, then a quality wine fridge should be purchased. These are fully air tight and can be set to maintain a steady 18.5°C for storage of red wine, which is, by coincidence, also perfect for tobacco. These generally cost between £150 to £250 and some options offer dual-climate storage, so wine can be kept in one compartment and cigars in the other.
Should a more traditional option be chosen, a little initial setup is required. Wooden humidors and humidors with an internal wooden veneer must be seasoned before use. As Spanish cedar wood absorbs moisture well, it is important not to skip this process or the wood will suck moisture from the next best place — your cigars!
First of all, the Spanish cedar layer should be wiped down with distilled water and a clean (lint free) cloth or sponge. The aim is to introduce moisture to the wood, not saturate it, so ensure the cloth is just damp, not dripping, as a thorough soaking will likely cause the wood to warp.
After the interior has been moistened, a small dish of distilled water should be placed inside and the door closed. After about a week (though this time scale will vary depending on the storage environment) the hygrometer should read somewhere between 65 and 70 per cent. It is now the time to add your chosen humidification apparatus.
If the RH remains consistent over the course of the next few days, cigars can be safely introduced. This may cause a bit of fluctuation for the first few days, but the RH should soon settle down. If, however, RH drops significantly then the humidor may require further seasoning or, more likely, there is a broken seal that needs repairing. Brand new humidors that refuse to maintain a consistent RH of 65-72 per cent should be returned to the retailer.
The Beast of Havana
Partagas Serie E No.2 and Gordon & MacPhail Mortlach Distillery Label 21 Years Old
Despite its impressive size (5.5” RG54) and imposing Robusto Extra / Duke vitola, the E2 is not the beast one may fear it to be and sits in the medium strength category throughout.
The first third begins with a strong hay aroma and cream coffee flavour, the latter of which persists throughout the entire smoke. They’re soon joined by a distinctive earthy aroma (think freshly turned soil) that often makes an appearance in its sibling the Partagas Serie P No.2. However, the E2 shares only the merest suggestion of the P2’s meaty undertones. Into the final part of the first third, the strength bumps up slightly but is still only sitting at the higher end of medium. By this point, a distinctive walnut note has emerged, along with a honey sweetness that becomes another mainstay alongside the cream coffee.
Into the final third, the existing flavours are consolidated and there’s a suggestion that strength will rise again, but this doesn’t come to pass.
The balance of raisin, liquorice and cocoa notes, complimented by that inescapable whiff of sulphur for which Mortlach is known, presented by this G&M expression provide more than enough backbone to stand up to the marathon smoke presented by the E2.
The Handsome Bull
Nicarao Especial Hermoso and Black Bull 21 Years Old
The Nicarao marca boasts a range of consistently well constructed, completely hand-made cigars with flawless wrappers across three lines. As suggested by the brand name, all utilise high quality Nicaraguan tobacco. The Especial Hermoso (5.5” RG48) is no exception. Though billed as a medium to full-bodied smoke, my sample never passed the higher side of medium and strength sat squarely at medium.
The first third opens on toasted sourdough, with the merest touch of white pepper, which soon subsides, and peanut. Though a grassy note develops toward the end of the first third, accompanied by vanilla, the profile remains consistent throughout. The leaves used to construct the Especial range are aged from two to five years, which may explain the balanced profile. Some could consider this unexciting, but this style lends itself particularly well to pairing as one doesn’t run this risk of an unexpected profile shift.
Clocking in at 50% ABV, the Black Bull 21 offers a world of flavour that paints well on the stable canvas of the cigar. Waxy red apples and juicy oranges are accompanied by tablet and digestive biscuit. A touch of peat gives way to clove and anise. It’s a handsome beast indeed, though a drop of water is needed to tame it before pairing.
Where to smoke
Davidoff of Geneva (Tampa)
Offering everything from pre-embargo Cubans to the very best of New World smokes, this cigar smoker’s Mecca has established itself as Tampa’s leading tobacco and fine spirits emporium.
4142 W Boy Scout Boulevard, Tampa, FL, 33607
Tel: +1 813 513 7560