Occasionally, in spite of all your efforts to care for your cigars, they get dried out and you find yourself in need of a quick solution. Perhaps you need to rehydrate a cigar that you left in your car. Or you neglected to remoisturize your humidor. No problem. They can be brought back as long as 1) the wrapper hasn't cracked, and 2) the cigars have not become so dry that all the oils have evaporated from the tobaccos. The process of rehydrating cigars can take weeks or months, so it’s important not to rush it. A cigar that hasn’t been properly rejuvenated will smoke hot and have an unpleasant, bitter taste.
How Does the Cigar Feel?
First, let’s make sure we’ve got the proper diagnosis. Cigars should feel somewhat soft to the touch and give slightly when you apply a bit of pressure with your fingertips. But, anything beyond that is likely an indication your cigars are either over-humidified or under-filled – both of which are unwanted circumstances.
Dry cigars, however, will be overly firm. There isn’t much give at all when you squeeze a dry cigar. Be careful not to crack the wrapper leaf either. It’s nearly impossible to remedy a cracked wrapper. The best evidence of a dry cigar is physical.
Gradually Introduce Humidity
When you need to rehydrate, or rehumidify, dry cigars, you have to do it gradually. Premium handmade cigars lose moisture at a rate four times faster than they can safely gain it. That means you have to rehumidify them in stages.
You can shock your cigars if you’re using a standard humidification unit that releases too much humidity. With a standard humidifier, it’s critical that you monitor the humidity with an accurate hygrometer. Start off by adding smaller doses of water to your humidification unit – just enough to achieve humidity levels in the lower 60s. Gradually introduce a higher percent humidity over time by adding more water to your humidification unit. A standard humidification unit requires a little more maintenance and attention, but you can definitely restore a box of dried out cigars this way as long as you’re diligent.
If your cigars are already in a humidor, take them out and place them in a ziplock bag. (You can also use a clean Tupperware container in lieu of a ziplock.) You may or may not use humidity pillows in your humidor as your primary humidification source, but you can definitely use them in a ziplock bag when you’re rehumidifying your cigars.
The biggest advantage humidity pouches, or humidification bags, offer over a standard humidification unit is that there is no guesswork in regulating your humidity level. Humidity pouches are manufactured to deliver predetermined humidity levels. The patented 2-way system will not release too much humidity too quickly and does not require extensive maintenance or monitoring with a hygrometer. Preset humidity levels range from 62% humidity to up to 84%. Start with 62% humidity and gradually expose your cigars to increasing levels over a period of several weeks or months.
Cigars naturally expand and contract. Injecting a surge of humidity into your humidor or a ziplock bag will cause them to explode, literally. Tossing an 84% pouch into a bag of dry cigars will shock them and cause the wrappers to crack. It will be particularly damaging to a batch of dry cigars.
Begin with a 62% pouch and replace it with a 65% after 2-3 weeks, depending on how dry the cigars are. The drier they are, the longer you should expose them to each humidity level. Then, replace the 65% with a 69% after another 2-3 weeks. We don’t recommend going over 72% as that represents a safe ceiling for cigar storage. A lot of cigar lovers elect to stop at 69%, too.
Rehumidify Your Humidor
In the meantime, if your humidor dried out with your cigars, you’ll need to re-prep the box by wiping down the interior with distilled water. Close the lid and let it sit for a day. Repeat the process. Refill your humidification unit with distilled water or propylene glycol solution – just like you were prepping a new box.
When enough time has passed and your cigars have recovered, you can return them to your humidor – or, you can continue storing your smokes in a humidification bag if you prefer. You’ll know that your cigars have recuperated by gently squeezing them. They shouldn’t crack or crackle. They should exhibit the same slightly soft consistency as you would expect when buying them fresh from the humidor of a reputable cigar retailer.
Rotate Your Cigars
Throughout the rehumidification process, it’s important to rotate your cigars – especially when they are in your humidor. Because dry cigars are more susceptible to fluctuating humidity levels, rotate your collection so that the same cigars aren’t always nearest the humidification source. Move the top row of cigars to the bottom of the box and vice versa. Exposing your smokes to an even distribution of humidity ensures they will exhibit optimal flavor and burn.
Once your cigars have been fully restored, go ahead and smoke one. You’re looking for an even burn with a perfect draw and great flavor. Keep in mind, though, that cigars that have been dried out may lose some of the flavor you would normally anticipate because the natural oils you’re accustomed to tasting in the wrapper, binder, and filler tobaccos may have dissipated. Even so, it’s always better to rehumidify premium handcrafted cigars and at least give them a chance to come back instead of abandoning them in the trash. Patience is the main ingredient.