Recently we had a reader write in with the following question:
“Do you think cabinet selections are somewhat better than dress boxes?”
This is a good question and well worth addressing. For those not already familiar with the different ways that cigars can be packaged, dress boxes and cabinet selections are both common styles.
A dress box is also known as a “semi-plain box.” This is the most common type of packaging you will come across, and basically the default for most purchases. A dress box is typically made of either cardboard or wood, and usually includes some kind of finishing material on top like decorative paper. On top of that go all the logos and seals you expect to see identifying the brand.
A cabinet selection is a large square / rectangular box made out of Spanish cedar. It may also be known as a “slide-lid box” or sometimes just “SLB” or “cabinet.” As these names indicate, a cabinet selection usually is closed with a wooden slide-lid. Sometimes the lids are hinged. Usually around 20-50 cigars are packed into a cabinet selection.
A lot of people say they prefer to purchase cabinet selections rather than cigars in dress boxes. There really is no “better” here, since it is very much a matter of subjective preference.
What are the advantages of going with a cabinet selection? Most smokers who prefer them say that they like them better because:
- Cabinet selection boxes are often not as cramped as the dress boxes, so the cigars have more room to breathe. (Cigars in cabinet selections are often pretty cramped, though.)
- The cigars in cabinet selection boxes are in direct contact with cedar. This (apparently) imparts something to the flavor profile of a cigar. This actually is probably the case no matter what material you store your cigars in. But many people prefer the cedar flavor to the flavors that are imparted from dress boxes and other types of containers.
- Maturation. For the two reasons above (room to breathe and contact with cedar), it is commonly believed that cabinet selections are better for maturing cigars than dress boxes. Some smokers feel they age faster. Others feel they simply age better.
- Presentation. Many people prefer the cabinet selection boxes over the dress boxes for aesthetic reasons. Cigar smoking engages all the senses, so this is a completely sensible point of view.
- Psychology. Since cabinet selection boxes have a reputation of distinctiveness over dress boxes, many people just prefer them for that reason, and openly admit that they aren’t sure that cabinet selection boxes really make their cigars taste better. They just feel good buying them.
In short, all of these advantages are somewhat hypothetical. Even people who are fairly certain that cabinet selection boxes impart a better flavor will usually admit that they aren’t positive, as there is a lot of variation and inconsistency from one cigar to another. Personally I think out of the two main theories about flavors and maturation, the one about cedar makes the most sense.
In the end, whether you go with cabinet selections or dress boxes is up to you based on your own personal tastes. If you prefer cabinet selections, then by all means, go with them. If you don’t notice a difference, that’s fine too; not everyone does.