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Cigar Tip: Control Temperature and Humidity with the NewAir CC-300H Humidor

3 Sep 2019

When the folks at NewAir inquired with me about my interest in checking out the CC-300H (yes, they sent me one free of charge to make this review possible; no, their generosity in no way impacts my opinion of the product), I decided to take them up on the offer. I’ve often longed for a large, centralized cigar storage system to help me get over the complications of managing many small- to medium-sized humidors. I was hopeful this unit would be solution that finally motivates me to donate many of my other humidors to family and friends. I’ve only had it for a couple weeks—I’d like to see how it fares through a Chicago winter before rendering a final verdict—but so far so good.

The CC-300H retails for $549.99 and arrives in a big-ass box (22.6 inches x 25.6 x 32.3, to be precise). It boasts a 400-cigar capacity (I believe this claim) and has a power consumption of 70 watts. Other features include a cooling/warming system for a range of 54-74°F, a lockable drawer, and Spanish cedar shelves.

Fresh out of the box, there’s virtually zero assembly required (which is great). There are, however, several steps needed to prepare the CC-300H for your cigars. First, it’s recommended you wipe down the interior with lukewarm water and a mild detergent (not the Spanish cedar) to help get rid of the “factory odor,” which is basically a plastic-like smell. Next, the unit needs to remain upright for several hours before first use. Finally, you need to bring the device up to the proper humidity level, which can take up to three days. After that, you can select your desired temperature and add your cigars.

First, the PROS: The seal on the door is tight, and the unit holds its humidity well, as long as you’re not opening the door often. The temperature also holds steady and is easy to change. The cedar drawers and shelves provide ample space. These are the main things you look for in a large, temperature-controlled humidor, and the CC-330H checks those boxes well. Oh, and it has a blue light!

And now for a few CONS: Since it cannot be stored in a garage, basement, or in direct sunlight, finding a place to put this contraption is likely to yield several hot-tempered conversations with your wife. It includes no humidification device, save for a plastic tray for distilled water (as you can see above, I’m employing several Boveda packs and anticipating they will last a long, long time, given the aforementioned seal). It includes no hygrometer (I borrowed a calibrated one from another humidor and positioned it so I can see the readings without opening the door). Finally, while it comes with a lock and two keys, the door can still be pried open at the top when locked, which is not ideal.

Overall, I’m quite happy with my new humidor and its home in the living room, nestled out of sight between a piano and a wall (compromises, folks). Assuming the humidity holds well in the winter (I’ll report back in a few months), the CC-330H should be a welcome addition to my cigar setup for years to come.

UPDATE: If you’d like to invest in the CC-330H, NewAir is offering StogieGuys.com readers $100 off the retail price. Please use this link and enter “PATRICK100” as the discount code.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Tip: How I Learned to Stop Worrying About Humidity and Just Focus on Enjoying Cigars

28 Aug 2019

cigar-humidity-tip

There was a time when I stressed over keeping my cigars at a perfect humidity. These days, I’m not so fussy about monitoring my humidors, as I’ve learned to keep all my cigars smoking well without worrying on a daily basis about the readings of my hygrometers.

When you first get into cigars, you read that 70/70 (humidity/temperature) is the ideal way to store your cigars. Soon, though, you probably realize that a slightly lower humidity (62-65%) is often better.

We’ve covered the fundamentals of proper humidity before, but as the outside temperature gets hotter it’s a good time to recap. Anywhere from 62-70% is generally fine. (You can even go all-out and build your own temperature-controlled humidor, or just buy one.)

It’s often a matter of personal preference if you like your cigars a little drier. On the low end of that range, your cigars are certain to burn easily, but possibly a bit quick and hot.

Of course, the first step in proper humidity is making sure your hygrometer is properly calibrated, especially for the inexpensive spring-loaded hygrometers that come with most humidors. For those you can use the salt calibration test.

Eventually, though, you might get to the stage where you don’t even need a hygrometer. I now keep most of my cigars in humidors without one (or I have one but rarely consult it).

I’ve gotten to the point where I’m really only concerned about keeping a select few cigars at their ideal humidity. Over time, I’ve found certain cigars smoke better at slightly higher or lower humidity levels. Thick Broadleaf wrappers, in particular, tend to benefit from a slightly higher humidity.

Other cigars I may pull out of the humidor a few hours before smoking to let the humidity drop a bit before lighting it up. Cigars with a closed foot, which is becoming more common, tend to hold moisture more easily than traditional cigars, so they may benefit from this. The same goes for cigars with a particularly firm draw.

In the end, it’s a case of trial and error, and you may want to experiment a bit. Of course, you’ll want to keep an eye on humidity, and when it comes time to add humidity you shouldn’t hesitate to do so. My favorite way to do this is adding the extra large 320-gram Boveda packs, which do an excellent job maintaining humidity for months at a time, even for the largest humidor.

Ultimately, it’s about checking on your cigars enough to start to know when it is time to add humidity. Once you know how a cigar smoked properly, smoking them (or, at the very least, checking on them regularly) is the best way to keep your cigars smoking ideally.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Tip: Storage Wars (Multiple Humidors)

19 Aug 2019

[Editors’ Note: In the coming weeks, I will be writing about my experience consolidating my cigar storage setup. As a precursor, today I am republishing an article I wrote about managing multiple humidors. It originally appeared here on April 25, 2012.]

Wouldn’t it be nice to have one large humidor in your home, preferably a walk-in, with all the cigars easily accessible, sorted by name, and labeled with received dates? It would make aging simpler, humidification easier to monitor, and your whole stash more organized.

Sometimes I think those of us who regularly visit the online cigar community, or those of us who write for it, automatically assume every reader has one elaborate cigar storage setup that costs thousands of dollars. I’m sure some do. But I don’t. And chances are you don’t, either. That said, I want to be clear that I’m not complaining. As I’ve written before, I’m fortunate to have a wonderful cigar den that allows ample room for my humidors, as well as nice space for indoor smoking during those cold Chicago winters. While I may not have a walk-in teeming with the world’s rarest and most expensive smokes, I’m certainly happy and thankful for what I have.

All this isn’t to say that my setup doesn’t present some challenges. It does, and I think many of the challenges apply to the average cigar consumer. So I figured I’d outline my top two challenges—and the solutions I’ve concocted to confront them—so the information can help others (or with hopes that you have comments and suggestions about how I might improve my own setup).

First, let me say that at any given time I have anywhere from five to seven humidors. The variance is explained by the fact that, depending on inventory, I sometimes outfit two large Tupperware containers with humidification beads and Spanish cedar to store spillover smokes. In a perfect world I would only have one very large humidor to worry about, not a handful of medium- to small-sized humidors. But because the five traditional wooden humidors all carry sentimental value (i.e., the one I got for my wedding that’s engraved with the wedding date) I can’t bring myself to consolidate. Plus, given the space I have in our condo in Chicago, one very large humidor would be a lot tougher to make space for.

One challenge with this setup is monitoring the humidification levels of each individual humidor. Each humidor seems to hold onto humidity differently, and that can make proper maintenance difficult. My solution? Once every so often (more often in the winter, when the natural air humidity is lower) I examine and rotate the cigars in each humidor. I also check to see if the humidification device in each humidor needs to be “recharged.”

The second challenge—especially with all the rotation—is keeping track of which cigars are stored where. I combat this by keeping brands together (i.e., Tatuaje with Tatuaje, PDR with PDR, etc.) and then noting in a spreadsheet which brands are in which humidor. This isn’t perfect because it requires me to reference a document if I’m looking for something in particular. But I’ve found it helpful. I’m considering doing something similar but, instead of organizing the cigars by brand, organizing them by type (i.e., cigars that need to be reviewed, golf course smokes, special cigars for special occasions, etc.).

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on how to improve my setup. Or, if you have a completely different setup/strategy, please feel free to share in the comments below as well.

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Tip: How to Spot an Excellent Tobacconist (Updated)

29 Jul 2019

[Editors’ Note: This article first appeared at StogieGuys.com in September 2014. We felt it worthy of re-publication and an update since (1) last time it generated a good conversation in the comments and (2) the concepts are still relevant today. As always, we look forward to your opinions, comments, and feedback.]

I travel a fair amount for work, staying a few nights here and there with meetings during the day and (sometimes) little to do in the evening. So, naturally, wherever I go, I try to find a good (non-private) cigar lounge or tobacconist where I can enjoy a smoke, catch up on some emails, do a little writing, and perhaps even have an adult beverage or two.

Cigar Store Indian

While there are lots of great lounges and tobacconists across this fine nation, believe me when I say that sometimes a good locale is hard to find. I’ve been mentally compiling a list of attributes common among the good shops/lounges. Today I thought I’d share them.

Maintains a good selection at fair prices. This one is obvious. I assume I’ll be paying more than I otherwise would online—and I’m completely OK with that, especially since the shop is offering me a place to smoke. But I don’t think it’s necessary to charge crazy mark-ups, either. And the selection should be big enough to require more than a few minutes to peruse, with the usual suspects and hopefully some hard-to-find smokes as well. House blends, when done right, can add an exclusive touch. The best shops bring in the brands their regulars are clamoring for.

Serves coffee and/or liquor, or implements BYOB. I realize local ordinances and laws may make this impossible, but nothing goes better with a fine cigar than coffee, bourbon, rum, wine, scotch, etc. I’m happy to pay the shop/lounge for drinks, if possible; BYOB is a great alternative. If nothing else, providing coffee or water for free, or for purchase, is a great idea.

Has a friendly, attentive staff. Nothing is worse than being rushed, watched like a hawk, completely ignored, or assumed to be a petty thief. I love it when the staff says something like, “Welcome. Would you like some assistance picking out your cigars, or would you prefer to browse the selection yourself?” It’s a simple question that’s rarely asked.

Stays open later. Time and again I find many shops and lounges close early in the evening—like an hour or two after a normal work day. I understand it isn’t always possible, but I love it when they stay open late enough to have a post-dinner smoke. Bonus points for shops that recognize there are important sporting events that need to be watched, and that often merits staying open later if there’s a crowd.

Provides comfortable seating with access to power outlets. I don’t need decadence, but I don’t want to sit in a lawn chair, either. Plentiful, spread-out seating with solid ventilation is preferred. This is what makes me want to hang out, spend money, and come back.

Makes cleanliness a priority. I’m not asking for much. Empty the ash trays, dust the surfaces, and vacuum after those three guys got pizza crumbs everywhere. Also, the bathroom shouldn’t look like the opening scene of Saw.

Takes good care of the product. The cigars you sell should be in perfect smoking condition at the time of purchase. Period. Too often I’ve purchased a cigar that, once lit, proves to be under- or over-humidified. This should never, ever happen.

Values entertainment. Good TVs, WiFi, and maybe even a poker table. These touches go a long way.

Hosts great events. These days, many cigar consumers follow their favorite cigar makers on social media. They surely notice pictures and posts from cigar celebrities who visit shops across the country, often bringing with them exclusive cigars, branded merchandise, and a chance to make a more personal connection. Good cigar shops attract the best events and offer event-only deals.

Provides valuable consultation. There are tons of cigars on the market, and smoking them all is just not possible. The best shops can make educated suggestions about cigars to try based on a particular customer’s current tastes and interests.

What am I missing? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Patrick A

photo credit: Flickr

Cigar Tip: Cure Your Lighter Woes with the Z-Plus 2 Lighter Insert

8 Jul 2019

If there’s one thing most cigar smokers can agree on, it’s that, while butane torches are great for lighting up, they can also be among the finickiest, most unreliable, most erratic of accessories. Finding one that works well is often a quest.

For several months, I’ve been using a Z-Plus 2 insert in a Zippo case. I’ve been impressed.

Z-Plus inserts come in single- and double-flame varieties with a price difference of only a couple of dollars. I paid less than $25 for both a new Zippo and a double-flame insert. (Note: This article is not the result of any request by a manufacturer, distributor, or any other entity besides my own curiosity; I paid for the inserts myself.) I chose a standard Zippo brushed chrome case that doesn’t appear to have changed since I carried one in high school to light Marlboro cigarettes.

One of the first things most cigar smokers learn is to not use a conventional lighter with petroleum-based liquid fluid. The concern is that the fluid’s smell can get transferred to the tobacco. Butane, on the other hand, is an odorless gas at room temperature and has virtually eliminated lighter fluid as the preferred fuel supply for cigar lighters.

But, as noted earlier, butane lighters can be dicey to keep working over the long haul—or sometimes even over the short haul. Most use an electronic spark to ignite the butane, and that can become misaligned. Or the flame valves can get clogged. Sometimes, though, it’s nearly impossible to figure out what’s wrong, other than the darn thing won’t light. It can be terribly frustrating, especially since many of these lighters cost an arm and a leg.

My Z-Plus has ignited consistently. The only lighting problem I’ve encountered was my own fault. After filling the lighter and sliding it into the case, I found the flame would die only a few seconds after igniting. Finally, it dawned on me that it was probably shipped with the flame at its lowest setting and should be adjusted. Since adjusting that? No problems.

They’re made by the Lotus Group, one of the major lighter and accessory manufacturers. There’s little visual difference in the single- and double-flame models, though the single’s casing is opaque so you’re not able to see the fuel level.

Another attraction of the Z-Plus insert and competitors such as Vector’s Thunderbird line is for collectors. The variety of Zippo cases is seemingly endless.

Zippo itself tried the butane market a few years ago with a distinctive lighter it called Blu. Apparently, it never really caught on and even ran into legal trouble over the name. Finally, the lighter, by then called the more-prosaic Zippo Butane Fueled Lighter, was discontinued in 2016. (My colleague, Patrick A, had a Blu, but it was eventually confiscated by a TSA agent.)

I have only one real complaint with the Z-Plus, and it’s rather minor. Though there’s no problem depressing the ignition when the lighter is upright, it can be a little tricky to keep your fingers out of harm’s way when used at an angle for a touch-up.

Overall, I highly recommend the Z-Plus 2 as a low-cost butane torch. It’s worth a try—especially if, like me, you’ve had problems with other torches.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Tip: Rediscover the Cigars You Used to Smoke

19 Jun 2019

Here’s an easy suggestion for anyone who has been smoking handmade cigars for more than a few years: Revisit those that were your favorites but you don’t smoke as often anymore.

If you’re like many cigar smokers (including me), there were certain cigars you used to smoke frequently that you just don’t anymore. You probably haven’t even thought much about why they aren’t in your regular rotation anymore. They just aren’t.

There are lots of good reasons why you no longer smoke certain cigars. Maybe your tastes have evolved. Maybe the blends have changed. Maybe your cigar budget changed.

All those are true for me. But this year I decided to make an effort to smoke more of the cigars that were go-to smokes back when I really got into cigars well over a decade ago. The results are interesting.

Some were disappointing, or at least not as good as I remembered. Despite my colleague’s recent high praise, I found the Gurkha Regent underwhelming. The Rocky Patel 1992, a cigar I often cited as a favorite back in 2005, was pleasant but not as interesting as I remembered. Same for the Maria Mancini, which was the first box I purchased nearly 20 years ago.

Others have stood the test of time. Joya de Nicaragua Antano 1970 is still an excellent full-bodied smoke. The Ashton Classic remains a well-made, mild smoke, even if that profile isn’t one I turn to as often. CAO Brazilia, another go-to from long ago, is still enjoyable, even if it isn’t as full-bodied as I thought it was at the time.

In other words, the result of my exploration of the cigars I used to smoke is a mixed bag. But the exercise was thoroughly enjoyable. Some I plan to smoke more often, others I’ll probably leave alone.

Your experiences may vary, but revisiting cigars from your past is a fun, interesting exercise. Go ahead and try it out and let us know how it goes.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Tip: Six Basic Go-To Cigar Accessories

21 Feb 2019

You could spend almost as much time learning about cigar accessories as the cigars themselves. There’s a long history of cigar gadgets, with many of them being mostly useless.

That said, you do need some accessories for a cigar; after all, you won’t get far without a way to cut and light your cigar. To that end, here are five simple, inexpensive accessories worth using.

Djeep Lighter

A lighter is as simple as it gets, and the Djeep is pretty simple. It’s also dependable, has a large capacity, and it’s cheap, especially when you buy in bulk .

Jetlight Torch

Soft flame lighters are great for indoors (or when you’re traveling on a plane), but sometimes, especially outdoors, a butane torch works best. I’ve had a ton of torches over the years, including some very expensive ones, many of which have worked flawlessly. But when it comes to dependability (the key to a good torch), none other than the Ronson JetLite do so much for so less. You can find one for less than $5.

Palio Cutter

There’s nothing worse than a dull cutter that rips a cigar rather than cleanly slicing it. Many fulfill that purpose, though lately I’ve been really enjoying a Palio cutter I managed to pick up for just $10. Not only do the double blades effortlessly and effectively cut my cigar, but the concave design makes it an excellent resting place for a cigar.

Leather Cigar Case

I’ve had this particular case forever. Honestly, I have no idea where I got it. What I like about it is the versatile size (you can fit three coronas just as easily as three Churchills) and the low profile (it fits neatly in the inside pocket of a suit coat). Here’s a similar case on sale for $22.

Travel Case

When it comes to protecting cigars while traveling, nothing works better than a hard plastic case (like one from Xikar or Cigar Caddy). I’m especially a fan of the five-cigar size, which easily slips into a work or golf bag and holds enough cigars to get anyone through a day.

Boveda

Boveda packs aren’t the cheapest way to keep your cigars properly humidified, but they are the easiest. As long as you change them out when they dry out, they will work flawlessly.

Any other accessories you can’t live without?

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys