Does a $2,000 humidor keep cigars fresher than a glass jar? What type of cutter works best: guillotine, punch, drill, your teeth? A guide to cigar paraphernalia
Cigar lovers are an independent-minded and sometimes contentious breed. We concur that smoking a fine cigar slowly and reflectively is one of life's most rewarding pleasures. But there's not much else we agree on when it comes to cigar connoisseurship. The mention of a favored method of cutting, lighting, or transporting a cigar ignites debate. Bring up a cherished theory on proper humidification, or whether Spanish cedar does more harm than good to a cigar, and expect controversy.
We can't even agree whether a cigar is best enjoyed in solitude or in the company of like-minded souls. For some, cigar smoking is the ideal way to form bonds; for others, it is a solitary ritual. Designer Adam D. Tihany has the best of both worlds. He founded a group of passionate smokers who meet once a year in a far flung locale for two or three days of fine cigars and good conversation. Otherwise, he jealously restricts his smoking to what he calls "a deeply personal experience." As he puts it, "I don't need to discuss the size of my cigar with anybody." (They are big ones, Churchills and Double Coronas.)
Hence, it's no surprise that opinions vary wildly when it comes to cigar paraphernalia. Tihany, like many longtime smokers, doesn't have patience for it. "I don't walk around with pockets full of accessories," he says. "I don't have a James Bond suitcase with all these things in it. I'm a cigar aficionado, not an accessory aficionado." Chrysler Corporation vice chairman Bob Lutz agrees: "As a cigar smoker, I'm way past the trick accessory phase. I just use whatever works."
However, there are those that revel in the extraordinary variety of craftsmanship and design that cigar paraphernalia inspires. Dickson Farrington of U.S. Cigar, which makes Astral and Don Tomas cigars among others, says, "I just love the feel of my Dunhill hobnail-finish, guillotine-style cutter." Even Philip Gregory Wynne, CEO of Felipe Gregorio Inc., who eschews accessories in general, has more than 35 humidors. "I have specially made ones for aging batches of cigars, and smaller ones, each for a different brand of cigars since I refuse to mix them."
In fact, both points of view are valid. For cigar paraphernalia is like cuff links: It's largely a matter of style, as price often has little or no relationship to performance. That $55 Zino cutter works every bit as well as pieces costing hundreds of dollars. The Tom's Roasted Peanuts glass jar Washington attorney Tom Susman keeps on his desk, some say, functions as well as humidors priced in the hundreds or thousands.
While the cigar company CEOs, accessory manufacturers, and serious smokers I interviewed say there are no correct answers when it comes to choosing cigar paraphernalia, there are important subtleties. They are the focus of this guide.
Humidors are not complex devices—essentially, a humidified atmosphere sealed within a container—yet the lifespan and freshness of cigars depend on them. Cigars are naturally hydroscopic, which means they lose moisture in drier air and absorb it in wetter air. The question is exactly how much humidity is best? Some insist on 70 percent because they contend it simulates the tropical climate in which the finest cigar tobacco grows. Others say that acceptable moisture levels start at 65 percent, below which cigars tend to crack, and go up to 75 percent, above which mold and pinholes from Lacioderma worms (the larval stage of the cigar beetle) become a serious threat. Most smokers in this country favor a narrower range, 68 to 74 percent, although some subscribe to the European tradition of a drier smoke (even under 60 percent). "The key is having the right moisture level for you," says Alfred Dunhill smokers' products executive Marc Perez. "It's a balancing act, of being able to control the environment in the box."
No matter how costly, many humidors fail miserably at this task. "Humidors have been my biggest disappointment," says Los Angeles investment banker Fred Roberts, who has been smoking cigars since 1972. "I have six beautifully designed, outrageously priced, underperforming humidors that either give me mold or dry out the cigars." There is also the issue of temperature, which is much less discussed than humidity but, say experts, every bit as important. Ideally it should be 68 to 70 degrees inside the box, but most cigar smokers, and virtually every humidor maker, ignore temperature altogether.
Humidors are also essential when it comes to aging cigars—a process which can be as important to their flourishing as cellaring is important to the blossoming of tannic red wines. As investment banker Fred Roberts, who's had a cigar locker at Alfred Dunhill in Beverly Hills for more than 20 years, says, "Aging is more important than ever because most of the cigars you can buy now are far too young." According to Marc Perez, "After six months to several years, a cigar that was originally full-bodied and spicy will be noticeably smoother, easier to smoke, with more depth of taste." Some believe that cigars begin to hit their peak only after two years, and may stay in prime smoking condition for another six to 10 years. Perez, who has smoked cigars 35 years old, says that no matter how expertly cigars are kept, the tobacco oils—which give cigars aroma and flavor—inevitably dissipate over time.
Cigar storage boxes of old, such as the pair of 1930s Benson & Hedges humidors owned by Edgar M. Cullman Jr., CEO of General Cigar Holdings, traditionally depended on the most primitive humidification system imaginable: an open container of water placed on a saucer. Modern humidors often utilize only slightly more elaborate devices, such as blotting paper, sponges, vials, wicking mechanisms, absorbent clays, ceramic disks or strips, and dense materials similar to the foam used by florists. Yet even many of the most complex devices—sliding vents that adjust the moisture release rate; phenolic resins that emit moisture at a slow, steady pace (and even reabsorb it when levels get too high); and the use of distilled water infused with glycerin or a polymeric fluid to help inhibit mold—are able to provide only approximate humidity levels and crudely adjust to conditions inside the box. "What's really needed is a system that controls humidity based on the ambient atmosphere," says Roberts.
The first thing most smokers consider when choosing a humidor is the material, which ranges widely from glass, plastic, and acrylic to ceramic, stone, and sterling silver. Sometimes humidors are retrofitted within antiques, or made from odd containers such as violin cases. Others are covered with exotic leathers. Many cigar lovers prefer wood, the most expensive and highly crafted boxes often made with exotic woods such as mahogany, thuya, and Macassar ebony covered with several layers of protective lacquer. Some manufacturers, such as top French company Elie Bleu, use rosewood and amboyna. Such humidors often have mortise-and-tenon or tongue-in-groove joints and gold-plated or ship's brass hardware. Surprisingly, some of the finest aren't made of solid wood but of veneer over a lesser wood or pressboard because such construction resists cracking.
Aside from the materials the most important consideration is the lid, which should fit tightly. Many expensive humidors are constructed as a box, then the lid is sliced off and reattached with hinges to ensure a perfect fit. "I look for one that makes a 'whoosh' sound when the lid closes," says Dickson Farrington.
Most well-made humidors, such as those from California manufacturer Daniel Marshall, which has one of the finest reputations in the business, are lined with Spanish cedar, the industry standard, because it imparts a subtle yet almost neutral complementary taste while retaining humidity, with trays and dividers made from the same wood. Some manufacturers, including Alfred Dunhill, use mahogany instead because it is denser, absorbs less humidity, and is far more neutral, tending to give little or no flavor to cigars. Modestly priced boxes are often lined with other kinds of cedar, such as American cedar, which is not as good and may be too aromatic for storing cigars. "If it smells like Grandma's sweater locker, it's not Spanish cedar," warns Kent Lawrence, cigar buyer for the national chain of Beverages & More.
Some aficionados think wooden linings are unnecessary, saying they do nothing to improve the flavor of the cigars, and make it more difficult to maintain the proper humidity level. Instead, they prefer old or antique boxes lined with glass, porcelain, or a neutral metal like zinc. "Metal works better for me," says Tihany. "You don't have to water them as much, and the humidity level stays for a longer time."
Beyond these considerations, it's a matter of aesthetics. Heirloom-quality humidors, thanks to their fine cabinetry and exquisite craftsmanship, can cost from about $1,000 to more than $30,000. "When you're spending a lot of money, you're buying a piece of furniture, an object of art," says Farrington. "That's wonderful, as long as it still functions reliably."
But the ultimate home or office humidor, according to some, is a walk-in. Lutz's wife had one built for him in the wine cellar of their home. "It's like a large wooden phone booth with a glass door. It's got an automatic humidification system and a lot of shelves. I just set it on 62 percent and it does a marvelous job." Tihany, who has 27 humidors in several countries, says that eventually he will build a walk-in humidor. "I haven't had the opportunity to get all my cigars together, but I will some day," he says.
The key to opening a cigar is to cut the cap without damaging the wrapper or crown. "That helps the wrapper stay on the cigar," says Perez. "You want to look at it more as lifting a small piece of the cap off rather than cutting a hole." It is surprising how many veteran smokers use their nails or teeth to pinch. "I use my fingernails more often than I want to admit," says Farrington. "It's the one cutter you never lose." Says Roberts: "If the cap is put on just right, you can pinch it perfectly." Napa Cigar president Robert Mondavi Jr. says, "Eight times out of ten I'll use my teeth and get a pretty clean cut."
Otherwise there is an extraordinary variety of single- and double-blade cutters, scissors, punches, piercers, bullets, drills, pluggers, and notchers, each with its own chorus of supporters. Cutters, says Kent Lawrence, "are a matter of personal preference."
• Blade, or guillotine, cutters These are the most common. Perez says he prefers them because "they make a straight cut across the entire diameter of the cigar." Single-blade guillotines (available in square, rectangular, and disk models) are generally flatter and smaller than double-blade models and slip easily into a pocket. "I like a cutter that looks more like jewelry," says Farrington, perhaps thinking of Alfred Dunhill's $4,500 solid- gold disk cutter, probably the most costly one available.
Double-blade guillotines spread the pressure of the cut over two surfaces by slicing the cigar from opposite sides. "You can cut the cigar without squeezing it," says Bob Dickinson, president of Carnival Cruises. Cubano makes a solid-gold model costing $2,500; however, the benchmark is Davidoff's $55 Zino. "It's still the best," says Tom Susman.
The big disadvantage of most blade cutters is that the cutting surface is difficult to resharpen and usually impossible to replace. In fact, the more expensive cutters are, the less apt they are to have replaceable or easily sharpened blades. "A cheap blade cutter may stay sharp for only a dozen cigars; a good one, maybe only several dozen," says Lawrence. But this is not always the case. "I've kept the same sterling-silver Dunhill disk cutter on my keychain since 1972," Roberts says, "and the blade isn't dull yet."
• Scissor cutters Surgical-quality models are a common favorite because they easily render a precision cut. "They're the best way to open the end of a cigar, but they're tough to carry around," says Consolidated Cigar COO Richard DiMeola. Surgical-quality stainless-steel scissors range from under $20 to more than $400 (Davidoff's gold-plated model costs $475).
• Wedge cutters Another traditional type, though the V-notch cut leaves many smokers cold. "I think it's used mostly because it is interesting looking," says Perez. The real problem, however, is that these cutters aren't good for all types of cigars. A wedge cutter cannot, for example, be used on a torpedo, says Cullman. "You don't always want the same cut on every cigar," says Farrington. And, says broadcast personality Rick Dees, taking a notch can be tricky business. "A wedge cutter will take a piece of the wrapper if you're not careful."
• Punches, bullets, and drills The chief attribute of these cutters is ease of use and portability: Many attach to a keychain. "It's hard to screw up with one of these," says Farrington, "but they tend to work best with one specific diameter cigar." Some feel the openings made are too small for larger ring sizes and complain that you can't get a custom cut with them; others think pushing an object into the crown adversely affects the draw. "Sometimes the tobacco is compacted back into the cigar," says Dees. As for the punchers, says DiMeola, "I never did get them to work properly."
Many traditionalists say the best lighter is a sulfur-less cedar match because it is eye-catching. But using a wooden match is time-consuming and often impractical. "Convention says you light a cigar with a cedar match, but it can take a minute or two to do it properly," says Perez. "Depending on wind conditions, you can go through a lot of matches that way." DiMeola puts it more plainly: "Cedar matches may be romantic, but they're inefficient and a pain in the neck."
That's why the vast majority of smokers prefer butane lighters. Unlike petrol, butane emits a tasteless, odorless flame. Some butane lighters have a traditional flint, others electronic ignition. After that, choice comes down to the flame's width, adjustability, reliability, and of course style and cost. Like other categories of paraphernalia, prices range from a couple of dollars to thousands for top-of-the-line models. You can buy retro-look striker-tops by Alfred Dunhill, Savinelli, and Colibri; elegant block types by Davidoff, Dunhill, and S.T. Dupont; and high-tech nontraditional torches. "For the romance of lighting a cigar, you can't beat the classic Dupont with the double flame," says Mondavi.
Yet some say that more expensive models create their own problems. "I own some of those beautiful Dupont and Dunhill lighters, but I'm hesitant to carry them around because they're expensive, heavy, and make the metal detector in the airport go off," says Lutz. Roberts concurs: "I've had very expensive lighters, including a solid-gold Dunhill that fell out of my pocket at an airport. Losing it broke my heart. Now I mostly use a cheap Colibri. It's thin and I can stick it in my jeans."
The most hotly debated lighters are the torches. Some smokers find these combat-ready looking lighters, which have flames that reach 2,500 degrees, inappropriate for cigars, claiming the flame incinerates, rather than ignites, the tobacco. Other aficionados—golfers in particular—say they are extremely practical, especially outdoors. Davidoff president Christoph E. Kull is one of them: "It's not the most beautiful lighter to look at, but it lights fast and the flame is very precise." Adam Tihany likes them, too, but keeps his preference quiet. "When nobody's looking, that's how I light my cigar," he says, laughing.
Ashtrays don't get much respect in the cigar world. "I don't have a favorite ashtray because I have no interest in the ash," says Lutz. "I don't treat the remains with any special dignity." Others simply refuse to use them. When Wynne smokes in his office, he says, he just balances the cigar on the edge of his desk. Those who do use them often feel that any model will do. They include Alfred Dunhill president and CEO David Salz, who keeps an elegant lead-crystal Dunhill model on his desk but says as long as an ashtray is substantial he's happy with it.
There are, however, features to look for in a cigar ashtray. First, it should have an ample bowl, particularly if you're planning to smoke jumbo cigars. Second, the groove in which the cigar rests should accommodate its diameter. "There's nothing worse than having to balance a cigar on a cigarette ashtray," says Farrington. The cigar should also rest in a horizontal position, he adds, because "you want to insure an even burn." And, says Marc Perez, you don't want the smoke to travel up the barrel when you're not drawing.
But what really differentiates cigar ashtrays is the length of the grooves, which should be just long enough to support the cigar. Many costly, visually pleasing ashtrays—particularly one-cigar models—have grooves three or four inches long. That's fine for the first third of a cigar, but after that the barrel can become buried in the groove and difficult to pick up, or the lit end can come in contact with the groove and cause an uneven burn.
The ashtray material is a matter of taste, although handmade lead crystal is the choice of many smokers, like DiMeola, who has five on the credenza in his Fort Lauderdale office.
Pocket carriers are a source of debate among cigar smokers. Some find a day case too cumbersome; others say they're superfluous if the cigars are cellophaned. As an alternative, many smokers reuse aluminum cigar tubes or opt for a Ziploc bag. "I have them all—silver cigar tubes, leather pocket holders—but I rarely use them," says Ziploc aficionado Tihany.
Leather is by far the most preferred pocket-carrier material, ranging from about $20 for a mass-produced leather case to several hundred for a carrier of the finest handmade glove leather. Says Dees: "I find that a soft leather carrier will keep a properly humidified cigar just fine." Others prefer more rugged leather. "If I want to carry a few cigars, I have a four-finger pigskin case that's resistant to wear and tear and has darkened nicely with age," says Wynne. According to de Charette, president of S.T. Dupont, one thing that sets the finest leather cases apart is the lining. "The Spanish make the best leather cigar cases, simply because they treat the lining in the best possible way," he says. And, he adds, Spanish leather imparts no "leather" taste to the cigars.
Some smokers like to use a showcase sterling-silver tube, particularly at special occasions. "I have a two-cigar silver monogrammed piece that my uncle gave me a few years ago," says Mondavi. But de Charette warns that the metal the tube is made of may adversely affect the cigar's taste. "We found that brass alloy exuded a strong smell," he says, "so we switched to aluminum, which is a very neutral metal."
Travel humidors start with the $40 plastic Traveldor, which holds eight to 12 cigars, and escalate beyond $1,000 for those made of exotic woods, marquetry, and craftsmanship that characterize the finest tabletop boxes. Some are covered in exotic leathers for increased durability. The ultimate travel humidor is Louis Vuitton's limited-edition safe-size model that's intended for round-the-world travel.
The basic problem of travel humidors is that by definition they go from one ambient environment to another, including airplanes, and have inefficient humidification systems. Most small travel humidors (12 to 25 cigars) do a spotty job at best on trips that last more than one week. Says Perez: "I don't know of a travel humidification system that accurately duplicates the environment of a desktop humidor. Such boxes aren't designed for long-term storage."
That's why many smokers simply take along an unopened box of properly humidified (or even slightly overhumidified) cigars when they travel, sealing them in gallon-size Ziploc bags or encasing them in shrinkwrap. "Without such protection, cigars in a wooden box on a plane from New York to L.A.will arrive dry," Kull warns.
Battlefield expediency solutions work fine for many smokers on trips. Farrington: "On a canoe trip, I wrapped my cigars in a damp paper towel and put them in a plastic bag with holes punched in it; then I put the entire thing in a Tupperware container. The cigars lasted perfectly for two weeks." Dees uses a plastic VHS cassette box as his makeshift carrier. "It does the trick like you wouldn't believe if you put in a moistened sponge in plastic wrap."
This said, there is no reason to leave style behind on the road. When Salz travels he takes an eight-cigar David Linley travel humidor—an exquisite American walnut box with a mahogany lining and boxwood, rosewood, and burl walnut inlays. Susman says his "latest pride and joy" is a 12-cigar Alfred Dunhill wooden travel humidor with a leather covering that, "being Dunhill, I have every reason to believe is crocodile." (It's actually calfskin embossed to replicate crocodile.)
The newest travel humidors eschew such traditional materials, instead using plastic or aluminum construction to provide a sealed environment. These airtight, virtually bulletproof mini-attaché cases carry from nine to 30 cigars and have foam inserts rather than traditional cedar dividers to cradle cigars gently. Tihany, for one, is fascinated with his Road Warrior 2000, one of the most popular models on the market. "It's really utilitarian—weird, but fantastic. It keeps the cigars in perfect shape."
The Diamond Crown Milano ($525; 12 x 8 x 3 inches). Black walnut burl veneer, cedar lined, mahogany divider, hygrometer, and Diamond Crown humidification system. Holds 40 cigars.
Alfred Dunhill Macassar 50 ($895; 7.75 x 9 x 6 inches). Inlaid marquetry, mahogany lining, solid brass hardware, and Dunhill humidification system. Holds 50 cigars.
Prometheus Filets Rouges 100 ($1,170; 14.5 x 9.5 x 4.5 inches). Macassar ebony veneer with inlaid marquetry. Holds 100 cigars.
Asprey Zebrano ($1,650; 12 x 9 x 5 inches). Zebrawood, inlaid ebony, Brazilian cedar lining, and brass hardware, including key lock. Holds 100 cigars.
Don Cray Arch Humidor ($3,200; 25 x 10 x 10 inches). Hand-tooled Carpathian elm burl, 24-karat gold-plated fixtures. On the left side, four drawers, the top with a hygrometer, thermometer, and cutter holder. On the right, injection-molded plastic cigar tubes, one for each cigar, set in a 24-karat gold-plated grille. Holds thirty-eight 52-ring by eight-inch cigars.
Harrison James Humidor 150 ($4,500; 15.5 x 8.75 x 5 inches). Mahogany inside and out, covered with gray galuchat, or stingray skin, which was especially popular in the late 18th century and during the Art Deco period. Inlaid ebony, 14-karat gold-plated fittings. Holds 150 cigars.
David Linley for the Alfred Dunhill Collection, Villa Rotonda ($32,000; 15 x 22 x 22 inches), based on Palladio's 1566 mansion outside of Venice. Sycamore with inlays of burr ash, madrone burr, rosewood, and Macassar ebony. Comes with sterling-silver accessories, including Unique cigar lighter and a wedge cutter. Limited edition of 10. Holds 150 cigars.
Louis Vuitton Special Edition Humidor ($35,000; 19.5 x 17.5 x 38 inches) holds 1,000 cigars. This safe-size travel humidor has a poplar wood, canvas-covered frame, natural cowhide handles, and brass hardware. The top portion includes two accessories drawers and a lift-out, locking humidor (16 x 11 x 5 inches) made of pearwood and Macassar ebony that sits on a sliding tray. Below there are seven drawers to store individual cigars and three to hold unopened boxes. Only five models were produced, and at presstime four had already been sold; the fifth is available from Neiman Marcus in Bal Harbour.
We asked seven cigar company executives what their favorite piece of cigar paraphernalia is. Here's what they told us.
Richard Dimeola, COO, Consolidated Cigar Corporation. Michel Perrenoud's "Pyramid" Humidor. "Michel made it for me in 1994. It's efficient and beautiful—I consider it a work of art. It holds about 150 cigars, is made of ebony, stands four feet high, and has a drawer for a cutter. It fits right in with the decor of my home in Boca."
Edgar M. Cullman Jr., CEO, General Cigar Holdings. A Pair Of 1930s Benson & Hedges HUMIDORS. "The one in my city apartment was my grandfather's, and the one in my Stamford country house was given to me by my father. They were made in England, of burl maple inlaid with brass scrollwork. The linings are tin or zinc, and the Benson & Hedges seal is inside on the lid. They're simple humidors, hold about ten boxes of cigars, and are easy to maintain."
Philip Gregory Wynne, CEO, Felipe Gregorio Inc. King Farouk's Silver Cigar Case. "It was given to me by Farouk's nephew in the 1970s. I treasure it for sentimental reasons. The design has the Egyptian royal crest on it, and you can see that it used to have a chain attached. It fits two Corona-size cigars."
Dickson Farrington, VP, U.S. Cigar Sales, Inc. Dunhill Unique Lighter. "It's a sterling-silver butane model with a 1920s retro look. It keeps with the spirit of cigar smoking and looks very upscale. It also has a great feel and substantial weight. There's no flame spreader, but it's readily adjustable and toasts the end of the cigar easily."
David Salz, President And CEO, Alfred Dunhill Of London, North America. Dunhill Sterling-Silver Cigar Tube. "I acquired it as a gift from my colleagues when I joined the company four years ago. It has my initials on it. It's a one-cigar tube and takes up to a Churchill, and I use it if I'm going to a special dinner, preferably a black-tie affair. It is a beautiful object. When I put it on the table, it's impressive."
Robert M. Mondavi Jr., President, Napa Cigar Co. Davidoff Humidor. "My father gave it to me for my birthday during my junior year in college. It's made of rosewood and holds about seventy-five cigars—a simple, understated box with no marquetry. It's in my office but used to be in my house. My friends and I would sit back and enjoy cigars from it. We solidified our friendships around it."
Christoph E. Kull, President, Davidoff Of Geneva. Zino Portable Cutter. "It makes a neat and clean cut. I've never had one go dull on me—as long as you don't pull off cigar box nails with it, which some people do."
The one piece of furniture every smoker lusts after is the perfect smoking chair. As long as "it's tufted and it's leather," says Alfred Dunhill's David Salz, it's good. This Poltrona Frau leather smoking chair ($9,000; at Harrison James in New York) is just that. Made in Italy of butterscotch-colored capretto, or kidskin, it has a gold-plated, built-in cigar ashtray that rises above the armrest. But what really makes it a smoking chair, says the company, is the incline: When you sit in it, the chair naturally puts you in the ideal, relaxed smoking position.
Cigar smokers can now light up in the ultimate accessory: The Alfred Dunhill Aston Martin DB7, a limited-edition model (150 will be made) available only in metallic platinum. Introduced in January, the $138,580 Coupe and $148,580 Volante convertible versions are customized with a removable Alfred Dunhill of London five-cigar Macassar ebony and Spanish cedar travel humidor, sterling-silver Unique lighter, and classic disk cutter, all snugged into the charcoal leather of the center console, where there's also a set of the company's AD 2000 pens (one fountain, one ballpoint), and in the facia panel is a Millennium clock. The finishing touch: three pieces of luggage from Dunhill's new CityScape collection in the trunk. Aston Martin: 201-818-8351.
Bvlgari sterling-silver cutter ($700), with a single, stainless-steel blade. Fits up to a 52-gauge cigar, slips easily into a pocket, and looks like jewelry.
The Davidoff Zino ($55) guillotine cutter with two stainless-steel blades. Still considered the best by many.
Davidoff gold-plated Cigar Scissors ($475). Surgical quality, 5.75 inches long, for an even, circular cut.
Holland & Holland Stag cutter ($1,100). Made of sterling silver and stag antler, for a wedge, or V-notch, cut.
Tiffany & Co. piercer ($90), in textured sterling silver. Two and a half inches long, it bores a hole in the crown.
The Lighter Side
Alfred Dunhill's Unique cigar lighter comes in half a dozen different finishes ranging in price from $330 to $475; this one is made of silver and gold-plated hobnail ($360). It has an antique opening mechanism based on a 1928 design and a burner valve that produces a wide, steady flame. The Unique was popular during the Jazz Age, when, says Dunhill spokesman Steven Johnson, "people tooled around in their motorcars, keeping one hand on the steering wheel and using the other to light up."
The S.T. Dupont pocket-model cigar lighter ($930) is called Maduro after the color of the tobacco leaf used to wrap cigars. It has a double flame, is made of brass alloy to withstand the internal gas pressure, is finished with Chinese lacquer, and has 24-karat gold-plated trim.
Saturn ($85), a torch-style lighter from Prometheus International, is made of brass alloy with a satin gunmetal-plate finish. It has what the company calls a "circular flame"—one central turbo flame surrounded by eight jet flames—to make it ideal for lighting up outdoors.
Manhattan-based Hotspur is pushing the limits of ashtray design. The Labyrinth ($2,500)—eight inches square, 1.5 inches high, with four cigar rests—is made of sterling silver with a center plaque that can be removed for engraving. The Beanbag ($975)—6.25 inches in diameter, 4.25 inches tall, with two cigar rests—includes a sterling-silver circular ashtray atop the removable weighted leather beanbag, available in various color combinations. Hotspur also makes custom ashtrays. Hotspur: 888-274-8729.
Have Cigar, Will Travel
"My travel humidor is newish Ziploc bags," says Bob Lutz, vice chairman of Chrysler Corporation. "On a two- to three-week trip I take thirty cigars divided between two bags. I close the zipper ninety-five percent, suck the residual air out, close the zipper all the way, then roll the bag around the cigars. The cigars stay fresh since the moisture can't go anywhere, and the bag is impervious to damage." Many cigar smokers, including designer Adam D. Tihany, agree with Lutz, swearing that Ziploc bags are the best cigar-carrying cases on the market. Others, seeking a higher aesthetic (or a more rigid case), adopt alternatives. Silver cigar tubes, including two from Tiffany & Co. (Atlas ribbed sterling silver, $325; sterling silver, $135; 6.25 inches long and 3.25 inches wide), are, according to the cigar smokers with whom we spoke, the ultimate way to impress people at social occasions. But, say pros, make sure if the tube is not sterling silver that it's aluminum—brass alloy can give cigars a bad taste.
The jury's out when it comes to leather cases. Some say there's nothing better, others say cigars absorb the leather aroma. If you do want leather, says S.T. Dupont CEO Alain de Charette, the lining is what counts, cases lined with Spanish leather being the best. The three-finger Pheasant International ostrich case from Spanish manufacturer R.D. Gomez ($280) is a prime example: naturally tanned and dyed skin; hand-turned, -glued, and -stitched edges; lambskin lining.
The plastic Road Warrior 2000 from Burning Solutions ($150) is the size of a small briefcase and holds 18 cigars. It won't win any beauty contests, but it is water- and airtight. It has foam inserts to cradle and protect the cigars, and an internal humidification system. Bob Dickinson, president of Carnival Cruises, says he uses his so much that "it looks like something that has been through Desert Storm."
At one time relighting a partially smoked cigar was considered anathema. However, in 1996 the Cigar Savor ($200 for sterling silver; also available in leather, $85, and solid gold, $8,000) was introduced to the market. It is a spring-loaded tube that allows resuscitation of cigars up to 7.5 inches long with a 51-ring gauge. The cigar is inserted into the tube, the heat-absorbing internal snuffer extinguishes it, and the cap provides an airtight seal. "It works brilliantly," says Adam D. Tihany.
Cigad Fit To A Tee
The affinity between golf and cigars has spawned a boom in golf-related cigar accessories—from Alfred Dunhill's stainless-steel divot tool and guillotine-style disk cutter ($265); to flameless blowtorch-style lighters; to caps with elastic bands to hold cigar tubes; to Nat Sherman's Cigar Caddy, a leather case that holds six cigars, a clipper, lighter, and six tees ($93; also available in black). There are even faux golf clubs that store several cigars in a hollow shaft, such as the one broadcast personality Rick Dees "loved for about a week," until its presence in his bag disqualified him from a tournament. (It was considered a 15th club.) By far the most popular accoutrements are cigar "tees" that insert into the turf and hold the cigar horizontally while the golfer hits. A bestseller with enthusiasts: Cigar Savor's silver-plated Collapsible T ($39).
Alfred Dunhill Of London 800-860-8362
Burning Solutions 888-786-4443
Cigar Savor Enterprises 800-372-2069
Daniel Marshall 800-923-2889
David Linley 44-171-730-7300
Davidoff Of Geneva 800-328-4365
Diamond Crown 800-477-1884
Don Cray 888-695-6789
Elie Bleu 212-697-1477
Harrison James 212-541-6870
Holland &Amp; Holland 310-271-1100
Louis Vuitton(At Neiman Marcus) 305-865-6161
Michel Perrenoud 973-778-1194
Nat Sherman 800-692-4427
Pheasant International 800-684-2280
Prometheus International 800-229-5233
S.T. Dupont 800-341-7003
Tiffany & Co. 800-526-0649.
Richard John Pietschmann, a contributing editor, writes the Driver's Ed column for Departures.