A receive a couple of emails every week asking me to recommend a good box of cigars to a new cigar smoker. I almost always reply by saying, the first box you ever buy should be one that is empty. Of course, what i mean is that the first box any budding cigar aficionado should buy is a humidor, a box in which to store your cigars.

In a way, i give this sagely piece of advice because i want the new smoker to avoid making the mistake i made very early on, which is to try to save on the humidor and spend the money instead on more cigars. It turned out to be a costly error.

The first handful of cigars i every bought was the leftovers of a SLB of HdM Epicure #2s. I still remember them — they were remarkable cigars (they don’t make Epi2s the way they used to, the blend has changed in the last 3 years or so), back in the day when SLBs came with unbanded cigars. I do believe they were 1999s, not a particularly good year by any means, but still far superior to any Epi2 you can find today.

Only 5 sticks, if i recall correctly, but i was so proud of them. I had done the research and thought i had the answers — the theory behind cigar storage was to keep the cigars in a stable environment, as close to 70 degrees F and 70% relative humidity as i could. I thought that everything else didn’t matter. So i chucked them into a ziplock baggie and for good measure threw them into an airtight tupperware i picked up at the local store for $20. A small sponge soaked with propylene gycol i bought from the tobacconist to keep things moist went into the tupperware as well. I was all set.

I had a small hygrometer in there as well, and i found that as long as the tupperware was stashed in a cool place, things stayed reasonably well on an even keel. I was so proud. Humidors were expensive (still are), so i thought i was being smart and saving the cash to buy more cigars.

Over the next few weeks, as i dipped into the tupperware for each stick, i discovered something unusual — why did the cigars taste less nice than the ones i bought at the store (which had a properly controlled walk in humidor). I couldn’t really place my finger on it. Was it just a psychological difference, was my mind playing tricks on me? I also found myself being a bit paranoid, and had to check the tupperware every so often to make sure the conditions were stable. Despite what the hygrometer was telling me, i knew something was wrong — the cigars just didn’t taste right.

My first humidor, the Adorini Torino

Later on, i decided to pony up the cash and bought my first humidor, a beautiful Adorini. It was an excellent humidor, small but functional. Well constructed, it sealed well, and the Spanish cedar just smelled so rich and luxurious. In the weeks to come, i kept my new purchases in the Adorini, and was well rewarded. The cigars were perfect each time.

Two things were different:

1. The aroma of cedar is important in the storage of a cigar. Purists might scoff, but there is a reason why cigars ship in cedar boxes. Cedar and cigars are like milk and coffee. Sure, coffee tastes great black, but a rich drop of creamy milk gives it a whole new dimension that can be immensely pleasurable.

2. On a more scientific note, cedar breathes in the way a ziplock baggie or a plastic tupperware cant. It’s a pretty porous wood, and a well made humidor not only keeps the cigars in a stable environment, it also allows for the cycling of the air which in turn allows the cigars inside a chance to breathe as well. In fact, the best humidors are designed specifically to allow for this flow of air through and around the cigars inside. This keeps the cigar fresh, and helps ensure that the cigar doesn’t get stale with uncirculating air.

Plus, the fact that it gave me a lot of peace of mind to know that the cigars were being stored in the way that they were meant to be kept. That fact alone should have tipped my hand from the very beginning, it was only afterwards, when i had it, that i realized how important it was.

So, follow my advice — even if you’re only a casual/social cigar smoker, but you have the need to keep a supply, small or large, of cigars on hand — don’t skimp on the essentials. A humidor is an integral part of the hobby and passion, and it should be amongst the first purchases you ever make.