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Smoke: Sealing the Deal

Richard Carleton Hacker

“There are 374 steps involved in making a humidor,” says John Harding, proprietor and managing director of Manning Humidors in Bagenalstown, Ireland. “What makes us different is that we do each one of those steps very well.” Coming from a company that has been crafting humidors for a scant eight years, Harding’s statement may sound like an empty boast. However, Manning is no neophyte when it comes to creating expertly crafted boxes; the company had been manufacturing custom cabinetry and high-end furniture since 1887.

Manning shifted from making furniture to making humidors during the cigar boom of the mid-1990s. “We made some excellent boxes,” he recalls, “and after six months we realized that we knew more about making humidors than the other companies did.”

Each Manning humidor is made of Brazilian mahogany, lined with solid Spanish cedar, and undergoes a 13-coat lacquer process to produce the glasslike exterior. All of the joints are cut in such a way that if you trace your finger around the inside and outside corners, you cannot feel the mitered seam. A ridge along the inside edge of the lid fits into a corresponding groove in the center of the box edge, a feature Manning calls a double overlap seal. The fit is so tight that when the bottom drawer of a cabinet or humidor is pushed in, air pressure pushes out the top drawer.

Still, the real test of a humidor’s quality is whether it can maintain humidity. While the humidification units in most noncommercial humidors must be charged (soaked with distilled water) every two to three weeks, depending on the season, the Paradigm humidifiers in Manning humidors require refilling only once every two months.


“The difficulty for cigar smokers and, in turn, humidor makers, is that every time you open and close the lid, you create an exchange of air,” explains Harding. When humid air escapes, the cedar interior draws humidity from the tobacco, causing some of the oils and other components that provide flavor, called esters, to evaporate. Over time, the cigars dry out and lose flavor. A humidor with a tight seal can quickly replenish and retain moisture, ensuring a longer-lasting, better-tasting cigar.

In addition to superlative craftsmanship, Manning humidors are also known for exotic veneers and inlays—such as Kosipo pomelle, Macassar ebony, and Vavona burl—that Harding personally selects. Because of the rarity of the woods, most Manning humidors are limited editions, including the current Brazilian Rio rosewood humidors. Harvesting the logs was banned in 1968, and Harding purchased all of the certified pre-1968 rosewood he could find.

If locating wood sources was not enough of a challenge for Harding, last year a factory fire destroyed 850 finished humidors and $250,000 worth of veneers. “The $250,000 was irrelevant,” he says. “What was relevant was that these were irreplaceable woods.”

Despite the setback, Manning’s 11 craftsmen continue to produce about 50 humidors a week, although each one takes roughly three weeks to complete—not including drying time. Says Harding: “I don’t care how long it takes. I don’t care what we have to do. I don’t care how much it costs. The goal is to create a perfect box.”

Manning Humidors, 800.414.8522

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Photo by Richard Carleton Hacker
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