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Sunday, October 10, 2010

Humidor Etiquette

Retail walk-in humidors must be rigorously maintained. Their temperature, humidity, air quality, and sanitary standards must be perfectly kept to preserve the cigars and protect the customers that smoke them. People walking in and out of retail walk-in humidors bring germs, dirt, and debris into the environment, so many steps must be followed to protect the cigars. Firstly, Tobacconists must regularly dust, sweep, mop, and vacuum their humidors. But it takes both customers’ and Tobacconists’ efforts to maintain the integrity of the cigars in a walk-in. Ultimately, Humidor Etiquette is about following the ‘golden rule’ and doing unto others as you would have done unto you. The following etiquette rules apply to both consumers and Tobacconists who use a retail walk-in humidor.
The natural aromas of a walk-in humidor are a subtle co-mingling of different tobaccos from all over the world. Part of the reason Tobacconists make their walk-ins accessible to customers is so that they can enjoy the smell of aging tobaccos. Lit tobaccos will overwhelm the natural aroma of a walk-in and excessive smoke can taint the flavor of the cigars. Not smoking in a walk-in is part courtesy to the next customer and a way to protect the cigars themselves.

Ultimately, the head of a cigar will enter your mouth, so cigars must be treated with the same care and respect as food. Maintaining clean hands when touching cigars is imperative. It is important for Tobacconists to have sanitary soap and hand sanitizer on hand for personal and customer use. In addition, when inspecting cigars you should only touch the foot and shaft area. Never touch the cigar above the band (head and shoulders) since someone will eventually put that cigar in their mouth.

As consumers, we all have the right to smell the wrapper and foot of a cigar. In fact, that is part of the enjoyment of picking a great cigar. While smelling cigars can be part of the pre-selection process in a walk-in, it must be done in a sanitary and respectful way; as the nose contains germs and mucous that must be kept off cigars. If the cigar is wrapped in cellophane, push the cigar half-way out of the cellophane. Cellophane smells like cellophane so there is no point in sniffing it: when finished, you can push the cigar back in. Whether smelling just the wrapper or the foot of the cigar, always keep the cigar at least one inch from your nose and/or facial hair. One inch is close enough to sample the aroma of the tobacco yet far enough to minimize contamination.
Now that we have covered the proper techniques to touch and smell cigars, we can address the more general process of picking one out. Some customers take the first cigar out from on top of a box, while others like to scrutinize every single cigar. To each his own method; there is no right or wrong. But, when pulling cigars out of a box, one must be very careful not to tear the wrapper or damage the head: in particular, the cigar foot is highly susceptible to damage. If you take cigars out of a box, lay them in a safe place and return them carefully when you have found your perfect cigar.

One of the biggest economic challenges for retail Tobacconists with walk-in humidors is minimizing the amount damaged cigars: it is a massive expense unique to our business. While some cigars come damaged from the manufacturers/distributors, most damage occurs because of consumer mishandling. Retail Tobacconists absorb the cost of damaged cigars since they cannot be sold at standard retail margins. If you see damaged cigars in your retail Tobacconist’s walk-in, let them know: they will thank you for it.

Sometimes you take a cigar all the way to the cash register and then decide that you don’t want it – that’s ok. As long as you’re handling the cigar properly, you can return it to the walk-in. When returning a cigar to the humidor, it is always best to place it in the proper box with the head up and cigar band facing forward. This is called “facing” and retail Tobacconists do it every day to honor the brand, cigar maker, and our customers.

Most retail Tobacconists will not allow customers to buy a cigar, take it out of the shop and return it at a later date. Due to cigars’ precise humidification and temperature requirements, plus the fact that they will end up in your mouth, cigars must be treated like perishable food.

OFF THE FLOOR Keeping cigars off the floor is obvious, but it is also important not to place boxes on the floor, either. Placing cigar boxes on the floor contaminates them with the same dirt, debris, and germs that people’s shoes have been tracking in. This piece of humidor etiquette is particularly important for Tobacconists to heed since it is easy to forget when stocking and organizing the walk-in.

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