Anyone that has ever shopped at Amazon or SmallBatch knows that there is immense satisfaction in placing an order on Saturday and receiving a package on Monday. It just feels right, like the universe is in equilibrium. This is how life should be. And, from a business standpoint, we love providing top-tier customer service in a way that enhances your cigar experience. But instant gratification isn’t the only reason that we’ve committed to using priority/first class mail with every purchase –shipping speeds help improve the quality of your cigar!
What is Relative Humidity (RH)?
Without getting too technical, relative humidity is expressed as a percentage of how much moisture is in the air compared to how much can actually be in the air at that temperature. We’re talking about saturation points, with 100% RH being fully saturated.
This is because temperature and humidity have a very important relationship that work with each other like a sliding scale. If all things remain constant, a rise in temperature would cause a drop in relative humidity overall.
How does temperature affect humidity?
When the air gets warmer, relative humidity actually begins to decrease and vice versa – when the air becomes colder, RH increases. This is because colder temperatures require less moisture to reach 100%, or become fully saturated.
Wait a minute… This means that all things are relative and my hygrometer is useless. Right?
If we didn’t have a preference for temperature, yes – the desired relative humidity inside your humidor would change based on the ambient temperature. That’s why most cigar enthusiasts prefer to keep their cigars around 65-69 degrees Fahrenheit. This gives us a baseline to establish our 65-69% desired relative humidity inside our humidors.
What does this have to do with me?
Last May we purchased a fine-tuned sensor and shipped it around the United States to see just what happened inside packages once they leave SmallBatch Headquarters. This device would record temperature and humidity every minute to four decimal places, giving us more than enough data to work with. What we found wasn’t exactly surprising, but reinforced our decision to put your box in your hands as fast as possible.
Over the course of 22 days, our temperature readings showed an average of 74.05 (rounded) degrees. Yet, before we could begin celebrating, we noticed that there were several six hour or greater periods where the temperature was above 90 degrees. In fact, the highest recorded temperature was 94.66 degrees while the lowest temperature recorded was 43.62 degrees. That means that if we had cigars inside that package, they would have been subjected to temperature changes over 50 degrees between the lowest and highest temps.
Likewise, humidity was recorded at an average of 70.44 RH. The changes here were much more drastic, recording a low of 33.81% RH and a maximum of 100% RH. And this was in May, not even the hottest time of year.
This is what contributes to what we call the Sick Period for cigars – the time after shipping that your cigars will underperform because of the temperature and humidity changes they have to endure to arrive at your doorstep.
And, the Sick Period isn’t exclusive to online retailers. Brick and mortar stores like our very own Maxamar Ultimate Cigars in Orange, CA receives cigars the same way you do: through the mail.
What else could go wrong?
Another experiment conducted by Popular Mechanics measured the amount of times a package was dropped between Fedex, UPS, and USPS using overnight shipping. They used a sensor to determine how often a package was dropped with a force of 6 g’s or greater, equivalent to a fall of 2.5 feet. USPS scored the highest with an average of only .5 drops when using overnight shipping. We expect the average to increase in correlation with the amount of travel time. Likewise, Fedex and UPS recorded an average of 3.1 and 2 drops respectively.
They also recorded the amount of “flips” that their packages experienced, and USPS was flipped an average of 12.5 times in an overnight trip.
The Bottom Line
We strongly believe putting your cigars in your hands faster results in a better experience, both in satisfaction and when you light up the cigar that you’ve been waiting on. Each additional day that your cigars are in transit is a day that your cigars are at risk.
There is no question in our minds that priority mail (or first class for more local areas) is the absolute minimum shipping speed that should be used when transporting cigars.
A Better Way
We offer free, priority / first class shipping with every purchase because you deserve it. In fact, if you’re shopping elsewhere, we strongly encourage you to upgrade to the fastest shipping method available to mitigate the risks associated with transportation.
We also ensure that every package is first paired with a complimentary boveda pack to help stabilize your cigars during transit, wrapped with plastic wrap to reduce cigar-on-cigar casualties, and then carefully enclosed with a ridiculous amount of bubble wrap.
How Long Should I Wait Before Smoking My Cigars?
While smoking your cigars right off the truck (ROTT) seems reasonable, the reality is that we need to let our cigars rest in the humidor to acclimate to the desired smoking conditions. Smoking them too soon after receiving your shipment almost always results in disappointment.
The answer is dependent on the frequency and intensity of stress placed on the cigar, but we’ve found that 10-14 days in your humidor is usually enough rest for the ideal experience.