Calixto Roncero, a renowned carpenter and a humidor manufacturer for 40 years, tells us all about humidifiers
“Before, a humidor for cigars didn’t last long. Now, there are humidors out there that were manufactured 35 years ago”.
Calixto Roncero (Madrid, 1949) is an expert in his field, with over 40 years experience as a humidor manufacturer. Not only in the creation of them, but also in the handling. He is a master cabinetmaker who began to focus his career on making humidors by a stroke of fate. His interest was a result of an order from cigar makers. His first humidor was such a success, that he hasn’t stopped making them since.
How many years have you been making humidors?
We started manufacturing humidors in January 1980.
Why did you choose to focus on this type of product?
It was by chance. We were making a library for a classroom, when we first started in the workshop. The client was an accountant in a cigar factory. So, he asked us if we would be interested in making some boxes. We made some samples and the company were delighted because we gave them much better quality than they already had. From there, the whole conversation of humidors came up.
What was that model you made like?
We started by making a model that had a snuff box, and then we offered them other ideas. We made them one of ours from a tiny personal humidor and they were delighted. As a result, we have not stopped doing it. Then we start with the bigger models. They asked me for a special model that was different, and that’s where the Monarca model came from. It occurred to me to put a roof on it, with the hygrometer there. I introduced it and the manager of the tobacco company at the time told me that I had hit the mark. They loved the model because it looked like their tobacco house in Cuba, which has a gabled roof. And we continue to do so today, after almost 40 years.
Are humidors a product available to everyone?
Yes, there are models for everyone. For example, personal humidors are not an expensive product, especially now, with all the access to all kinds of markets.
What characteristics should a good humidor have for the preservation of cigars?
Before, they were made of chipboard. But this is a material that degrades with moisture. Every 2 or 3 years they had to be replaced. It occurred to us to make them in fiber, with a cedar leaf and varnish them in mahogany color. We did so well that we revolutionized the market. Before a humidor for cigars lasted two years, now there are functioning humidors that were made 30 or 35 years ago and they are still like the first day they were made.
“Making a solid wood humidor is a total mistake”
Solid wood is never used?
Solid wood humidors cannot be made, because solid wood is in continuous movement. With the heat it expands and cracks will appear. You have to work with fiber so that it does not have as much movement. Making a solid wood humidor is a total mistake. The humidor has a greater humidity inside than the outside. If the wood has moisture on one side and not the other, it will twist. Thus, the part of the interior wood, which is in contact with moisture, swells. However, on the outside, as it is not in contact with moisture, it does not swell. As a result, the wood bends and deteriorates. Some of the humidors that we make have elements of solid wood, but only in parts that do not affect the structure.
Why is cedar wood always used?
Inside, we always aim for cedar wood. It gives the tobacco an aroma, so that it does not take on the outside smells, the virtue of cedar is that it eliminates odors. It makes the humidor smell like cedar and prevents other smells from entering the humidor.
Is there no other wood with those same characteristics?
Many woods can be used, but those specific characteristics are only found in cedar. There are many types of cedar, with different scents. We use ‘Spanish cedar’, which in reality is actually Hispanic, because there are no cedar trees in Spain anymore. In addition, we used an African one, which is harder and with less resin. It also eliminates odors.
What does the preservation of cigars in the humidor depend on?
The humidity. You have to get a degree of humidity inside the humidor. Generally about 70% humidity. Cedar wood helps maintain those levels, because it retains moisture very well. A humidor that does not have cedar tends to smell bad and musty.
And the temperature?
Temperature is especially important for the insects that are attracted to tobacco. If it is very high, the eggs of the tobacco insects hatch, and eat the cigars. If you keep a humidor below 20 degrees, the eggs will not hatch.
A humidor is vital for the correct preservation of the cigar
Are you more in favor of natural or electronic humidification?
An electronic device in the humidor to generate humidity actually does the same job as a sponge tray (natural humidification). If with a tray with a sponge you achieve the humidity you want, you do not need the device. But in large furniture it is convenient, because it moves the air and distributes the humidity evenly throughout the humidor. In addition, the humidor reaches the ideal humidity levels sooner.
What are the benefits of storing cigars in a humidor?
The humidity and the preservation of the cigar. If you keep a cigar without moisture … they spoil.
Are humidors also used for the aging of cigars?
The humidor influences aging in that it keeps the cigars for longer, then the cigars age longer. A cigar, in 15 days, dries up and spoils. If you keep it in ideal humidity conditions, that is, inside the humidor, it will keep for years and, therefore, it will age.
Does the humidor influence the flavors of the cigar?
The smell of cedar is very good for tobacco. It adds flavor.
For someone buying a humidor, what advice would you give them to get it going?
Have it without tobacco for a couple of days with the chosen humidification system – natural or electronic – until it reaches the appropriate levels. Once it has reached the ideal humidity, the cigars can be put in.
How should cigars be stored?
The best thing is to put loose cigars. But if you decide to keep them inside the humidor with their boxes, they will not dry out, since moisture penetrates everywhere. But the loose cigar is better, without cellophane or anything. In any case, there is no problem in mixing different brands and types of cigars.
If there are problems when calibrating the cigar humidor …?
If there is excess moisture, do everything possible to remove the excess moisture. You have to take out the cigars and let them dry a bit. You should try to keep more or less humidity, closer to 65% than 72%, which is too much for the cigar.
Depending on the climate, how should a humidor be calibrated?
Where there is humidity, the humidor is not so essential. In this case, it is rather a question of having them arranged, collected and aesthetic. At the beach, if you leave the tobacco on the table, and after two days it is too wet to smoke.
“The light in the humidors gives heat and harms the tobacco”
Do humidifiers with more glass parts, and therefore less wood, need more humidification?
The glass in the humidor is not natural, it is more of an aesthetic element. The humidor has to be made of wood, because the glass does not hold moisture. However, wood does; the wood gets damp and, even if you stop pouring water into it, you have many days in which the humidor remains in perfect condition due to the moisture absorbed by the wood. Glass makes humidors prettier and more colorful, but they are not effective.
And the lighting, what does it contribute?
The lighting is a mistake, although the humidor with lighting looks very nice. The fact is that the light gives heat and, if it gives heat, it harms the tobacco. Direct light also affects the coat of the cigar, discolors it and damages it. Although an illuminated piece of furniture looks very nice in the store, a light on the inside of the humidor is giving heat. Therefore, you are stressing the tobacco and it does not benefit you at all.
Is it essential for a cigar humidor to have a hygrometer?
It is not essential, but it is very convenient. It helps to see how the humidity is. In any case, if it is not used, the smoker can know if the cigars are in good condition. Just pick them up and move them with your index finger and thumb. If they don’t sound, they are moist. Also if they are soft it means that they have a lot of humidity.
What is your favorite humidor?
I like all the models. But the Monarch is a classic, because we have been doing it for 40 years without rectifying anything. It continues with the same image with which we created it.