Cases and tubes obviously serve to transport a few cigars safely in your luggage or in clothing. They are made of leather, wood, metal, carbon, plastic or a combination of these materials and were designed to transport a small number of cigars. When choosing the right case for your purpose, the following criteria should be taken into account:
• how well the cigar is protected against damage
• how well the cigar is protected against drying out
• how suitable it is for transporting different formats
• perceived quality and visual appearance
• comfort, handling and serviceability
Regardless of the material, tubes are made of two cylinders which can be joined together, or of double or triple cylinders, depending on whether one, two or three cigars are to be transported. They provide excellent protection against damage and also protect the cigar against moisture loss. Naturally you can carry smaller cigars in large rigid tubes, but in that case you must be very careful not to drop the tube as there is a danger that either the head or foot can crash against the end of the large tube, which can sometimes cause it to burst. For this reason tubes are available in various lengths. For single cigars fully adjustable cases are also available which can be adjusted to the exact length of the cigar.
In addition to the cheap (but practical) cases made from tinplate, others made of precious metals are available for several hundred Euro. Whilst these look better quality they are in fact no better, nor worse suited to their particular purpose. The handling is straightforward: you must simply take care not to catch the wrapper against the relatively sharp edge of the case whilst inserting the cigar. That may sound obvious but – hand on heart – who hasn’t done it at some time?
If your cigar has made it into the case undamaged, then getting it out again is exciting, especially if the case is long and your cigar short and fat. If you have pushed the cigar too far into the case, then you are going to create quite a performance at the table. There will be a great deal of shaking and banging, and it is not at all unheard of in this situation for a hearty shake to send the cigar case flying onto the neighbouring table. At a Habanos Festival some time ago we nearly split our sides laughing as a long-suffering user of cigar cases recounted how he once sat on the beach, trying in vain to extract his too thick cigar from his all too thin case. The only solution was to put the case out in the full sun and allow the cigar to dry out a little so that it reduced in diameter, then to shake it out of the case.
Wooden tubes are not exactly in fashion at the moment, but they are very attractive. They are usually made form briar wood, but turned tubes made from wenge, oak, mahogany and other woods are also available from dealers. Since wood absorbs moisture and the insides of the wooden tubes are not sealed, they should always be stored in a humidor, otherwise the dry wood quickly draws the moisture from the cigar wrapper, which loses elasticity, shrivels up and is no longer able to contain the densely packed filler. The result is, of course, a burst wrapper. For this reason a wooden tube should always be stored in a humidified environment and never allowed to dry out (which is also not good for the wood as it can cause it to split). The edge of a wooden case is not as sharp as that of a metal case, so there is no danger of damaging the cigar when inserting it into the tube. In all other respects the same applies as for metal tubes.
Leather Tubes and Cases
Yes – it is all a matter of personal taste. Or of smell. Very high quality, well-prepared leather can be almost free of smell, but leather cases usually come from India, Pakistan and China and are anything but odourless. If the cigar is only to be stored in the leather case for a short time, that is insignificant, but after 1 or 2 days in a leather case the cigar has often ceased to smell of tobacco, smelling of leather instead.
When buying, take care that the leather smells as little as possible, and if you are buying over the Internet ask the dealer to verify this. The price is no guarantee in this respect; there are very many beautifully worked, expensive leather cases that stink like a tannery, and other no-name products that are almost odourless. Your nose or a guarantee from a reliable dealer are the only help available to you.
Leather also absorbs quite a lot of moisture, which can result in the cigar drying out quickly. However, whereas a wooden case should be stored in a humidor, this most definitely does not apply to a leather case. The high level of humidity in the humidor would cause it to smell musty, and the smell of leather no more belongs in a humidor than does a glass of rum, a slice of apple or a bar of curd soap. Some leather cases are lined with Spanish cedar, which does reduce the leather smell, but these cases are then so thick that you cannot carry them in your jacket pocket without beginning to resemble the hunchback of Notre Dame.
I cannot resist giving a personal opinion after all: of all the cases available on the market, the carbon ones are my first choice. They protect the cigar perfectly against damage and drying out, come in variable lengths, are visually extremely attractive, very light and, with a wall thickness of only 1.5 mm, are so thin that you can even carry them in your shirt pocket with no problem.
The only disadvantage is that the choice of cases currently available is very limited. The reason for this is that manufacturing them is expensive and complex, since it requires appropriate press moulds and the pressing and drying of the polyester-carbon composite must be carried out in an autoclave, a kind of pressure furnace. For this reason they must be produced in relatively large numbers to prevent the prices becoming astronomical.
Very few manufacturers put themselves to such effort. However, the carbon cases available on the market are an excellent option, for they combine every possible advantage, although the rather technological appearance is a matter of personal taste.
Tubes with a Humidification System
Nowadays you can also find tubes or cases which have a built in humidification system. This usually consists of either a piece of sponge or a piece of florist’s oasis located at the end of the tube and separated from the cigar by a perforated disc. So it is up to you to decide whether you want a soggy foot or a squishy head – this construction is frankly nonsensical, because the cigar is only ever hydrated at one end, and that with no form of regulation. Don’t even think about buying a product of this type.
However there is one exception: Habanos S.A. has brought out a tube for single cigars with various trademarks, the construction of which is really smart and which delights me as a humidor maker (picture to the right). The case has been made as a double-walled cylinder, that is to say a second tube has been built around the actual tube, with a gap of about 1.5 mm between them. At the end of the tube is a screw cap, and behind this is a long humidification sponge in a cylindrical opening. This inner tube has little holes in its sides, and the inner tube holding the cigar also has the tiniest holes in it.
So the moisture can reach the whole cigar through the space between the two tubes, thereby avoiding uneven humidification. Although I am no fan of so-called humidor fluid (a mixture of demineralised water and propylene glycol), the sponge in this tube should only ever be moistened with this. If you were to use demineralised water alone, this would result in excessive humidification. The question of whether a humidification system is really necessary in a sealed tube for a single cigar is another thing altogether. Of course it is not really necessary, but the way in which they have solved the problem of humidification in such limited space is really successful.
This article was published in the Cigar Journal Winter Edition 2011. Read more