In a previous article, we made recommendations on what best to do with cigars wrapped in cellophane (“Should Cigars Wrapped in Cellophane be Unwrapped for Storage?”). For cigars that come in tubes, however, the advice is a little different.
Why have cigars in tubes anyway? If we are to believe what the experts write, the tubes originated from the need for strong, tight packaging that would protect cigars from damage or drying out too quickly during transport (Read here: “Read the Story of the Aliminum Cigar Tube“). Nowadays, the significance of this type of packaging is primarily as a marketing device.
Tubed cigars have an outstanding brand presence in a humidor, they make ideal presents, are practical for carrying around, and in shops which cannot always be guaranteed to have the best storage conditions, such as duty-free shops or smaller retailers in particular, they provide far better protection from damage or drying out than small cardboard packages. Presenting the goods in this way also allows smaller retailers to offer a wider range of products, since they rarely have sufficient opportunity or the clientele to stock a cigar box of 25 premium cigars.
So what should the smoker do? Put the sealed tube in the humidor, unscrew the lid and put the opened tube in the humidor, or take the cigar out of the tube instead? In my opinion, there is more than one answer to this.
Basically, a cigar matures more slowly in a tube than when it is lying unwrapped in a humidor. Almost no fresh air penetrates to a cigar in a tube, so the aromas do not develop as quickly and the cigar keeps its nose, in other words its fragrance, for longer. So, for example, if you buy a very strong cigar and leave it in the tube, it will take longer to mature. If you want to smoke it within the next two to three years, you will want to force the tempo at which the aromas develop. In this case I would take it out of the tube.
If you want to store a whole box, you can do as you please and might experiment by dividing the cigars into two groups: while the opened cigars mature together in the box, the tubed cigars will develop sealed off almost entirely from any air. In the first case we are tending more towards oxidative storage, whereas with the group kept in tubes we come very close to the idea of reductive storage (isolation from oxygen). There is no doubt that the cigars will develop differently. It would be a really interesting experiment to carry out a comparison like this over several years to establish the differences in the development of the aromas using cigars from the same production batch.
When smokers have the opportunity to try out cigars that have matured over a long period (between 15 and 20 years), occasionally you’ll find someone or other is left feeling unhappy. Many cigars, for example, no longer have anything in common with the young cigar of the same brand – wholly unaccustomed aromas develop, the cigar becomes milder – sometimes even too mild. If these cigars are stored in an aluminium tube over a long period of time it can be a very pleasant surprise. Even after several years the cigar still has a clearly discernible nose, but the very slow evaporation over the years of the ammonia and the essential oils will produce different, unaccustomed aromas that will certainly be interesting.
The following overview may help as a guide as to how best to proceed. It represents my own personal view and shouldn’t be taken as the ultimate definitive answer. The basic assumption is that cigars in a tube are stored in perfect conditions with regard to humidity. The following principle should be observed above all else: if a cigar tends to be of the stronger variety, it should be removed from the tube after a short period of storage in order that the aromas may develop more quickly. The milder the cigar and the longer it is stored, the more important it is to follow the recommendation to leave it in the tube so that complex aromas can develop.
Recommendations for Tube Storage
If the objective is to smoke the cigar within the next three years: With individual storage remove the cigar from the tube or unscrew the tube lid and leave the cigar in the tube. With box storage, remove 50% from the tubes, leave the other half in the tubes and compare the smokes. Then decide individually.
The objective is to smoke in the next three to six years: With single storage, leave the cigar in the tube, in the case of strong cigars possibly unscrew the lid, milder cigars should be left in the closed tubes. With box storage, remove 50% from the tubes, leave the other half in the tubes and compare the smokes. Then decide individually.
For cigar aging (storing to mature more than ten years): Leave the cigars in the closed tubes.
This article was published in the Cigar Journal Autumn Edition 2011. Read more