It’s pretty easy for cigars to become dried out. Sometimes you misplace a box of cigars and forget to store them in your humidor (incredible, but it does happen). Sometimes you find a box of old cigars in your grandparents’ basement. Or your non-smoking friend tells you about his trip to Cuba seven months ago and how he brought back a box full of Behikes for your birthday. Anyway, by the time you find those cigars, they’re completely dry. The good news is that depending on how far gone they are, you may be able to bring them back, although, in most cases, somewhat short of their original quality. You’ll still be able to enjoy them, but some of their flavors may be lost. If the wrappers of the cigars are cracked or unraveling, then it’s too late to revive them (they’ll fall apart as you try to smoke them)—but if the wrappers are intact, there is a good chance you can 'repair' them. The process of reviving dried cigars is not a quick one, but with some time and patience you’ll be able to save your cigars.
There are several different techniques you can use to revive dried cigars, most of which will take you several weeks to complete. Don’t ever put your extremely dry cigars into a fully charged humidor right away. This will ruin them. It’s a good idea to equip yourself with a hygrometer which can measure moisture. This will help you to control the process of reviving the cigars and to know when the process is complete and the cigars are ready.
- Get a Tupperware container or a plastic bag. Don’t use a cedar box, since wood aerates moisture, both absorbing it and releasing it at the same time. The result is that you won’t be able to build up moisture in a cedar box, which is what you need to be able to do. So use plastic instead. Tupperware containers and plastic bags both can seal, which is critical.
- Get a sponge, or alternately oasis foam, and access to distilled water (propylene glycol works too). Start out by placing the cigars in the box or bag with the hygrometer and sealing them in. Walk away for a few hours then come back and read the humidity on the hygrometer. This will give you an idea where you’re starting from.
- Next, place about a teaspoon of water on your sponge or oasis foam, and place that inside the box or bag with the cigars and the hygrometer.
- Walk away again, but keep coming back to check on the process regularly. You’re waiting for the hygrometer to read 70%. Every 24 hours open up the bag and add another teaspoon of water to your sponge.
- Once the hygrometer reaches 70%, you’ll need to maintain the humidity level in the box or bag at 65%-70% for 2-3 weeks, adding distilled water to your sponge as necessary. Every few days you’ll need to gently turn the cigars over a quarter turn.
- After several weeks the process should be complete and the cigars revitalized.
- Open the box of dried cigars and place the box in a damp location such as a cellar or crawl space where moisture gathers.
- Keep the box of cigars in the damp place for roughly a week. You may need to do it longer if your cigars are extra dry. During that week, rotate the cigars a quarter turn every couple of days.
- After a week or two is up (depending on the severity of the dryness you’re trying to counteract), put the cigars in your humidor at 70% humidity. Continue to rotate the cigars a quarter turn every few days. The process will be complete when every cigar has been turned the full way around at least two times.
If your humidor isn’t fully charged, then consider placing the cigars inside for a week. Only after a week should you consider charging the humidor fully and letting the cigars sit in the fully charged humidor. Again, never put the dried out cigars into a fully charged humidor to start with.
Dampen a sponge or a paper towel. Either wrap the damp paper towel around the cigar box and leave it for a week, or use the sponge to dampen the cigar box. You don’t want to get the box wet. You just want to create moisture. If you go with the sponge method, put the box in a sealed plastic bag for a couple of days. After that your cigars should be ready. This is a rush method though and it is more likely to fail than the others.
And if you don’t want to do it yourself…
Some cigar shops will actually revive dried cigars as a service to regular customers. As professionals, they are adept at providing cigars with just the right amount of humidity to restore them (some cigar stores will also store cigars for customers in humidors to keep them at the right level of humidity to begin with). This is really a good idea if you don’t feel confident about doing it yourself since you won’t risk ruining your cigars.
Techniques 1 and 2 are probably the best ones to go with if you are going to try to revive your dried cigars yourself. The last technique is probably not a great one to go with unless you’re in a big rush—but the fact is, the best results aren’t going to come with a rush job, and you’re more likely to ruin your cigars permanently if you’re in a hurry to get them back into pristine condition. Take your time reviving your dried cigars—the problem wasn’t created overnight and won’t be solved overnight. With several weeks to a month of diligence though, you should be able to revive even extremely dry cigars—always assuming they aren’t peeling apart or cracked when you start out.
Again, revived cigars will probably not be as great as they were before you (or somebody else) let them dry out. Expect some lost flavor. If you’ve never tried a particular cigar before and you try one for the first time after reviving it, chances are you won’t be getting an entirely accurate idea of its quality. It’s certainly still better than losing the cigar completely though!
PS Know any other techniques to repair dried cigars? The comment section is all yours.