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It’s time for Humidors 101. Get out your #2 pencils and unbox the humidor you got for Father’s Day. If it’s already on your dresser, you might want to start over: Hardly anyone who enjoys cigars really knows how to prepare and maintain a humidor, and countless perfectly good cigars wind up paying the price.
I got a wonderful present this week: a Salerno humidor from TampaHumidor.com. If the life of a cigar columnist were filled with unsolicited $100 bills, I might have bought one sooner. But a cigar column is, I learned quickly, a license to receive free cigars from all over the Western world. Frankly, I was running out of room in the 100-stogey box I got on eBay last year.
This humidor is really, really nice, considering the modest retail cost. It fits 300 cigars in a main compartment and two spacious trays. It comes with two humidification elements and a hygrometer built in to the front panel.
Yes, it’s okay to be jealous.
I was surprised to see that it was made in China, but I suppose that shouldn’t surprise anyone at this stage of the game. (Quick riddle: What do you call shopping at a Wal-Mart in China? Buying local.)
Unboxing a humidor doesn’t immediately make it ready for prime time. You can’t just squirt some water into a humidification module and dump your cigars into a new humidor. Not unless you’re a fan of crumbly — or worse, soggy — cigars. You finally found a great cigar that you really enjoy. Don’t turn that pre-embargo Cuban into a cheap cheroot. (RELATED: Havana comes to Northern Africa)
Here’s a step-by-step guide to avoiding tobacco disaster.
(1) The fancy hygrometer on your humidor is about as reliable as a cheesecloth condom. You have to calibrate it first. Get a bottle cap from a soda bottle and put a teaspoon of salt in it. Then add a few drops of water — just enough to make it moist and mushy. Put the cap and your hygrometer in a Ziploc bag and seal it with some of the air still trapped inside.
After about six or seven hours, the humidity inside the bag will be exactly 75 percent. If your hygrometer doesn’t read “75,” use an eyeglass screwdriver to adjust it from the back. Presto! You’re in business.