Thursday, May 15, 2014

What Embargo?: Episode Cuatro Recap "(RH): What to Store Habanos at. Benefits and Risks of Specific Percentages"

The RH debate really comes down to personal preference, and every collector you run into will give you a reason why theirs may be the best.  Really, determining what RH to store at comes down to experimenting with the risks and benefits of specific percentages to see what is right for you.  The following serves merely as a guideline and opinion. The relation to Habanos will be discussed as well.  

70%+ RH: We do not recommend storing at RH above 70%.  Since there are Boveda packs out there that are 72%, I figured we would start at the top and work our way down.  I do not know any experienced smokers that store at 72%.  The benefit of doing so would probably age a cigar a bit quicker, but in the long run damage the oils.  This is just a hunch, and I have no scientific explanation for it, only experience.  Cigars stored this high must be smoked extremely slow, and if smoked in an unstable RH environment, may be prone to expand and have wrapper issues.

70%RH: This seems to be the standard status quo of most run of the mill recommendations.  A higher percentage makes for a wetter smoke, and a slower pace must be taken to insure proper combustion.  70RH will age cigars properly, and I know plenty of collectors that store 70% for the first five years they have Habanos.  I personally think that cigars stored at 70RH are prone to mold, cracking, and tend to get tar build up at times when smoking.  I have found that some types of cigars, like certain Connecticut wrappers, smoke better at the higher RH, and I used to employ a 69-70RH humi for those smokes and aging.  The mold risk when storing cigars in boxes in a large collection that is aging is too high for me though, so I will not go near this rh.  I also think it takes a little more effort to maintain a higher humidity, which results in a less stable environment. 

67-68%RH: There is definitely a crowd that prefers storing at this RH level, and typically keeping it under 70% is a general rule as beetles hatch at 70 degrees or higher, and an RH of 70% or higher may contribute.  I think you still get the aging properties here, and my large NC humidor with samples is run at that RH to aid in breaking down the strength in the NC stuff.  I have never had a mold issue in years with this humidor, and it holds 300-400 at any time.  I do think that at this RH, you still must have a slower smoking pace.  For folks wanting to age Habanos, I would highly recommend this RH.  When I finally get a cabinet after grad school, I will be keeping my cabinet here for aging, with a humidor and winedor for cigars ready to be smoked.

65%RH: This is the industry standard amongst cigar geeks and most aficionados.  65%RH is not too dry, not too wet, and there is virtually no risk of mold, with a decreased risk of beetles as well.  I highly recommend 65%RH, and my personal humidor and Kelner humidors are run at 65%RH. If I get cigar ROTT that needs to be reviewed ASAP, I toss them in one of these humidors, as I know they are rock solid. I think cigars age well at 65% and burn well with little issues.

60-62%RH: This is a much drier RH to store at, and the preference of many Habanos smokers.  I do not have any scientific evidence for why Habanos taste better at a low RH, they just do.  I store all my Habanos in a wineador at 62% that has been steady there for well over a year.  To me 62% means I have no worries of mold, no potential fluctuations, and at worst my RH goes down under 60% which I do not think damages them at all.  I cannot remember the last time I had to add water to my wineador, as the boxes the Habanos are stored in provide so much stability, I never have to tweak it.  There is an anti-aging property of a lower RH as well.  When Habanos, or any cigars really, have reached the point of aging potential, a lower RH will keep them in ideal smoking shape much longer then a higher RH.  Many collectors store vintage Habanos at 60%RH and 60 degrees to slow the process down.  I keep the lower portion of my wineador at 60 degrees for that reason, and the RH stays a bit lower there as well. 

Cedar Wraps, Paper, Coffins, Tubos: My experience with storing cigars in this manner is they tend to be mold magnets.  I had a discussion with a well-known company about it, and they insisted 70RH would not lead to mold on paper wrapped of cedar coffin cigars.  They sent me examples of both, and both had mold.  I believe Habanos SA recommends not storing cigars in their tubos as well; however, it is generally believed that a tubo will slow the aging process down, which may be beneficial to the collector with cigars over the 8-10 year mark.  My theory is that the close proximity of the wrapping, tube, or coffin creates a more humid environment in close proximity to the cigar; thus, leading to higher RH and mold, even though storage RH may be lower.  Again, this is my experience, and I have never had a mold issue in any of my humi’s.  I take all cedar wrappers, paper wrappers, coffins, and tubos out of my humidors.  I never buy a cigar packaged in such way without inspecting it, and I cannot tell you how many times I run into this.  So take this paragraph as a personal recommendation from my experience, and nothing else.  I am sure there are collectors out there that have not had this issue. 

Any comments, questions, or concerns, please feel free to contact us at the forum.  I am going to start a poll there to discuss the issue further, as I feel I have learned so much through the years from other BOTL that share their own knowledge and experience.  Remember, everything is subjective in this hobby, so do what is best for you.  Oh yeah, and DO NOT use analog hygrometers please, buy Xikar’s and calibrate them properly.