How to store and prepare Habanos for your principal

Together with watches, jewellery, cars and many other valuable collector’s items, cigars are also to be considered a delicate item, a result of a unique craftsmanship that requires great care. Before talking about storage, I think it is essential to quickly explain the anatomy of a cigar. Cigars are usually made of five leaves, three of these leaves are blended to form the filler where the aromas and strength of the cigars resides, the binder leaf wraps around the filler leaves together defining also the shape of the cigars and finally the one very delicate thin leaf that beautifully dresses the outside of the cigar, called wrapper leaf. Temperature and humidity affect the structure and aroma of the cigar, therefore, it must be kept in the right environment, a humidor.

Humidors recreate the natural conditions of the Caribbean, where most cigars (and the best for my opinion) come from. The temperature inside the humidor should be from 18 to 20 degrees Celsius and the humidity from 68% to 70%. These values are displayed on the humidor’s hygrometer. Every humidor contains also one or few humidifying parts. It is important that distilled water is used with these elements because tap water causes mould to form and contains minerals that can destroy the effectiveness of some humidifiers. Ensuring the right Humidity and temperature levels is essential for your principal to enjoy his or her smoke: dry cigars smoke too fast and hot, but most importantly, the leaves lose the essential oils and consequently the flavour. A wet cigar will not draw. I should mention also that those levels must be kept constant as sudden changes in both (drop or raise) will force the tobacco to shrink or to expand, creating damages in the wrapper leaves.

My advice is to keep an eye on the humidor at least twice a week to check the moisture/temperature levels. If the humidity is too low, make sure there is enough water in the humidifier and fill it with water. If it is too high, leave the humidor opened for an hour or so, releasing the excess moisture. With time you will be able to identify the perfect conditions and adjust the moisture accordingly: gently pick a cigar from the humidor with your thumb and index finger let the cigar roll between your fingers, it should be firm but spongy. Make sure the humidor is placed away from direct sunlight and in a cool dry spot of the house. Once the principal has chosen the cigar for his smoke, pick it up gently from the humidor making sure you are holding it from the paper band and never on the head (closed part of the cigar) as for obvious hygienic reasons, this is where your principal will smoke from, and using a double guillotine cutter, you should cut above the line where the cap ( round piece of tobacco that close the head of the cigar) meets the wrapper (outside leaf) in order to create enough aperture for the draw but without letting the wrapper unravelling. Use an odourless flame like a butane gas lighter or wooden matches. Do not use a petrol lighter or a wax match or a candle because their aroma will permeate the cigar. Hold the foot of the cigar at 90 degrees to the flame and rotate it until the surface is evenly charred and a white ring of ash has developed. You can now gently pass the cigar to your principal wishing a good enjoyment.

Written by Master of Havana Cigars, Paola Paolillo. Paola is the Founder & Director of Slow Burning Ltd – Cigar Experiences. You can learn more about Paola’s exclusive  services by visiting her website: www.slowburningevents.co.uk – You can also connect with Paola on LinkedIn

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