Tubo Cigars... Is There Any Difference?

Nate Simonds

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A few years ago, a well-meaning wife returned home from a trip to Mexico with a tubo that supposedly contained an “authentic Cuban,” which she had purchased from a street vendor. While we can save the “authentic Cuban” conversation for another day, she was surprised when she saw me take the cigar out of the tube and place it in my humidor for storage. But before I get into the reasons why, let’s rewind a little and get a bit of backstory on what tubos are, why they are made, and how they differ from traditional cabinet style cigars.

The tubo (which is Spanish for “tube”) was invented in 1933 by Waldo Bradden, the former president of the H. Upmann factory in Cuba. Upmann recognized that the extended range of distribution of cigars increased the risk of damage, and he felt this required a workable solution. This is how the tubo came about. By adding an extra layer of protection, this limited the amount of waste due to damage and also had the byproduct of extending the time it took cigars to dry out if not properly stored.

Now, this tends to cause some confusion with people who feel that as long as their cigars are kept stored in a tubo, they won’t need additional humidification. While tubos do restrict airflow, which helps longevity by limiting the loss of humidity over time, they don’t have active humidification like standard humidors do. This essentially gives you a false sense of security, which is part of the reason we don’t always recommend our customers purchase tubos as they’ll require the same amount of care as cigars stored cabinet style, without tubos.

Additional drawbacks of tubos are that they’re often more expensive than a normal box of cigars, and they generate more packaging waste. There’s also the risk when buying a tubo from a low-quality retailer that didn’t store them properly. In these cases, the contained cigar might have dried out. Because you can’t examine the cigar before you buy, you really wouldn’t find this out until after the money has exchanged hands, and maybe weeks or months down the line when you open it to smoke it.

This isn’t to say tubos are bad. Looking at online reviews, there seems to be no major difference in scores between tubo cigars versus cabinet stored cigars. As we mentioned, tubos do provide some level of protection against damage, similar to what a two or three-finger case might provide. And if you don’t own a travel humidor or cigar case, packing a tubo for your next road trip or round of golf in the afternoon with your buddies is extremely convenient and makes a lot of sense. Tubos also allow for more extensive branding from the manufacturer. This helps them catch consumers’ eyes in places like restaurants and golf courses. Some manufacturers even include extra pieces of cedar in their tubos to infuse them with a prominent cedar aroma.

When storing tubo cigars at home for the long term, there are mixed opinions on what the best practice is. Some experts feel that doing so is bad because tubos limit the amount of oxygen your cigar gets, which as a result slows the development of flavors as the cigar ages. Other experts believe that storing a cigar in the tubo is good because it limits the evaporation of oils and seals in the aroma of the cigar.

Our recommendation? Experiment and see which style you like better—but just make sure they’re humidified. Pick up a couple of cigars in both tubo and cabinet style, and set them aside to age. Then smoke one of each every six months and see if you can tell a difference, and which you prefer. Think of it this way: there are a lot less rewarding ways to spend your time. But in short, no, there's no difference between regular cigars and tubo cigars. Enjoy!

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