Cruising Cigar Man
Safe Harbor for your cigars
Aug. 30, 2005 06:30 PM
Before you sail off to the next port of call with your cigars, you’ll need a travel humidor that will keep your precious cargo out of harm’s way. Whether it’s a simple pocket humidor or an elaborate attaché case, the humidor must do two things for your cigars: keep them fresh and protect them.
According to Michael Chunko, President & CEO of Csonka Worldwide, one the cigar industry’s leading makers of customcigar cases, a good cigar case will keep the cigars properly humidified. A great cigar case will provide good humidity, but will do so with style, elegance and a lot of security. You don’t want your cigars rolling around loose.
So what does the cigar smoking traveler need to consider before choosing the proper case?
“I look at three things with regard to making a buying decision,” says Chunko. “First, the amount of cigars you want the humidor to hold while you travel. For most people, a 4-5 cigar case is perfect because it’s a good size for the golf course, the casino, business meetings, dinners, etc. Additionally, if you’re traveling, it gives you some space to add cigars you may buy on your trip.
“Secondly, what are you trying to accomplish? For some cigar smokers, plastic baggies are fine, but most cigar enthusiasts want a humidified case that holds their cigars securely and reflects their personal sense of style. That goes to the third aspect: being comfortable with the size of the case, its design, and even the color.”
Another way to truly customize your case is with laser engraving.
“This has been a big success with many of our corporate clients who have had cases customized for everything from sales meetings, to awards dinners, to golf outings, fundraisers and other events. We’ve customized cases for wedding parties and even for rock bands like Aerosmith. Being able to have your name, company logo, or an event that you attended on the case really goes the extra mile.”
The best travel humidors are lined with Spanish cedar, include a humidification device, have some form of padded material, pre-formed slots, or a brace to hold the cigars in place, and include additional accessories like a cutter and a hygrometer.
Only 20-25% of the cases physically include a humidity device. If you count the popular “finger” style leather cases, which actually pull the humidity out of your cigars (true!), the number is even lower.
“Built-in humidification should be the primary reason for anyone to buy a travel case,” say’s Chunko. “Otherwise it’s just a case.”
Some humidity devices are better than others, particularly when it comes to travel. The popular green floral “oasis” foam used in most desktop and display humidifiers works well in a desktop environment, and as a result, many travel cases also come with similar floral foam humidifiers.
Chunko prefers to use terracotta humidity elements in his cases. Travel case humidifiers fluctuate a lot, and when not in use, dry out. When floral foam dries it has a tendency to break up and emit a potentially hazardous dust. According to his research, the government has published an MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) on floral foam. The reason why oasis foam is fine for desktop humidors is they are continually moist so they rarely dry out completely. The terracotta device absorbs and holds water well with no disintegration of the material, so it’s much safer, cleaner and it has more longevity. Wick-type humidifiers can also be used in lieu of floral foam.
Csonka also includes pipettes in many of their cases. These are capped, refillable, eyedropper-type devices that hold distilled water. They can be used to replenish any loss of humidity in the travel case right then and there, so you don’t have to wait until you get home to refill.
Some other important things about cigar humidors and humidity: the wood inside the humidor plays the biggest role in humidification, because the wood holds much more moisture than the humidifier alone. The humidifying device is only there to maintain the ebb and flow of the system as the wood continually absorbs and releases moisture. Although most cigar smokers are focused on keeping their humidity at an “ideal” 70%, the truth is, the acceptable range is actually 65-75%, so you have a lot more headroom than you think.
Even on the water, where one might presume that the humidity is relatively sufficient, you can still encounter fluctuations. You can be in one part of the world one day where the climate is damp and a few days later, somewhere else where it’s very dry. This further drives home the basic precept of the case being able to maintain proper humidity no matter where you are on the planet.
So, before you decide which case is right for your particular travel needs, kick the tires; inspect the case for size, quality of materials and functionality. The rule of caveat emptor greatly applies here. You’ve invested good money in your cigars. Protect them well and they’ll love you back. Happy sails!