As an avid cigar aficionado, I always find myself searching for different tools or techniques that enhance my smoking experience. The right tools are not necessarily the most expensive, but ones that work effectively and fit your budget. To that end, I've tried and tested many different lighters, cutters and other cigar paraphernalia to determine the best that suit my needs. Buy the best you can afford, and you'll be sure to enjoy the experience that much more.
When it comes to spending money, your humidor might be the best place to spend it. They are your incubators for aging, and protectors of your most coveted sticks. They are a joy to look at not only because of their outward appearance, but the beauty contained within. And the intoxicating aroma of cedar and tobacco can make you weak at the knees.
Recently, I stumbled across an artisanal humidor maker based in St. Louis - Gryphon Humidors. They have a small-batch offering of beautifully designed humidors that are functional, and manufactured to the highest standard. We spoke with Mike, founder of Gryphon to learn more about what makes their products special.
1. What is your role at the company?
I am the founder, builder, and marketing man. I also manage and execute the R&D side of things, and everything else that falls in between. I founded Gryphon Humidors in 2011.
2. What is an important aspect to consider when looking for a humidor, aside from cost?
That's a tough question. Quick answer would be a good quality seal and making sure the humidor has quality kiln-dried Spanish Cedar inside, which most humidors have I would think. Those are the musts. Aside from that, it's really whatever you're looking for. Some just want something cheap to do the job and that's it. Some want to go for most storage for the buck. Others want high-quality. Some want unique gifts for someone. So, aside from cost, a good seal and good quality SC (Spanish Cedar), it's really up to the individual.
3. What part of the construction allows for the most hermetic seal possible?
99 times out of 100, humidors will do a staggered edge for the seal, meaning, one side of the seal sticks up a bit, the other side is recessed a bit. This is pretty common. Some travel humidors will use a rubber seal and when you compress the lid it compresses the rubber creating an airtight seal. Depending on the humidor, I mostly do the staggered edge seal. The difference between a Gryphon and a glass top from China in terms of seal, is the fact that China-made humidors are mostly just solid Spanish Cedar that have a lip on the inside of the lid so when it closes, it slides on the inside edge of the base of the humidor. This is fine and dandy except most of the time, the planks they cut are just pinned in place and can swell/shrink over time, thus potentially leaving gaps in the seal. Even with a little gap here or there, you'd never really know, it's just the fact that it's that's a little dis-concerning.
4. What construction details differentiate Gryphon to other makers out there?
Every Gryphon Humidor is made from solid premium hardwood and lined with 1/4" Spanish Cedar, and desktop models feature a 3/8" solid granite base. They are built this way for a few reasons: Desktop models are made of 3/4" solid hardwood, which tends to not fluctuate nearly as much as Spanish Cedar, ensuring the humidor stays rigid and true. They are lined with 1/4" kiln-dried Spanish Cedar that is glued in place, again reducing the chances of swelling/contracting. Where the humidor opens, the Spanish Cedar lining has a 1/4" offset. Doing it this way vs. just offsetting a piece of SC in the lid like a China-made humidor means there are now 3 edges that make up the seal, not just 2. The 3/8" solid granite bottoms not only add some good weight to the humidors, but the primary reason is to help control temperature a bit. Kept in the same environment, granite will be much cooler to the touch than a piece of SC.
Another differentiator is the fact that we don't use any nails/screws/pins to hold anything together, except for hardware like hinges. Every piece of wood is glued and clamped. This gives the humidors a more smooth/clean look instead of seeing little nail heads, plugs from screws, or potentially a discoloration from wood filler that didn't stain properly. Which leads me to my next differentiator: All Gryphon Humidors are clear coated with a high-quality polyurethane instead of just an oil finish (or no finish). Under the polyurethane is the natural vibrant colors of the wood. NO STAIN.
If someone want's a dark humidor, then we use a dark wood. Yellow, Orange, Red, etc. We use a species that naturally has that color. I believe in having the natural characteristics of the wood shining through instead of seeing a stained version of it.
5. In terms of offering a bespoke service for humidors, what other options are available to customers aside from wood species and model chosen?
Customers can have anything they would want laser engraved inside or out. As for customization inside, if someone want's more or less dividers, a place for a Boveda pack, etc. We'll do it. It's not advertised so to speak, but if someone desperately needs something to that effect, we can do it. Laser engraving is an easy one and is always offered. I'll work with the customer to find the best location for their engraving so it meshes well with the piece and doesn't take away from anything.
6. How involved is the customer during the building process?
So, every so often when a humidor gets to a "stopping point" so to speak, I'll snap some photos and send them to the customer. This allows them to see their humidor being built in a few different steps and almost lets them feel like they were there. "Trade secrets" are not disclosed, but various stages of the humidor's progress are documented and shown. This also gives the customer a feeling of trust, that we're a business built on morals and ethics. We're not a "fly-by-night" company, we're here to stay.
7. Are you able to accommodate a different humidification system such as Oasis into the Gryphon models?
Not as of now. Most active systems are relatively large and made for accommodating a good number of cigars, more-so than say The Lancelot. Now having said that, we do have another model, The Excalibur, that is in the early phases and will hopefully be debuting by the end of the year. This model might have the ability to house an active system, but no guarantees on that one yet.
8. How often is a recharge of the humidification required in the current line of Gryphon humidors?
Really, it's a matter of how often you are in and out of the humidor. On average though I would say once you get it seasoned and in a place it's going to stay in the house, it would more than likely be good for a few weeks to a month. Every house is different though, and it depends on how many cigars are in the humidor, what season it is (winter is more dry than say summer), temperature, etc. I recommend after the humidor is seasoned and stocked, keep an eye on things and check it say once a week (or whenever you open it to get a smoke out if it's more often than once a week.) You'll get to know your humidor and when it needs to be recharged.
9. In the travel humidors, is there enough room to place a boveda pack?
If you have massive RG smokes in the travel humidor and you've already taken out the first layer of HD foam in the lid, there probably won't be enough room. That primarily goes for The Camelot. The Galahad which is the 8 ct. big brother has a little more play because of the center divider having 1/2" HD foam on the bottom of it. Normally what we recommend is getting one of those Drymistat tubes and dropping it in. The downside is that it does take up one of your slots for a cigar. If you're going on a weekend trip with The Camelot, you don't really need a humidification device in there as there's probably enough humidity just in the cigars to keep things good. Now if it was a week trip with The Galahad, you'd probably want something in there, but like I was saying before, you could probably toss in one of the small Boveda packs and be fine. Unless you're going somewhere tropical or something, where chances are the humidity outside is more than what you'd need in the humidor.
10. Is there any testing of the humidor (and its humidification) that needs to be done, or has that already taken place during the R&D phase?
When a humidor is completed, basic testing on hinges, opening/closing, seals is performed but as far as individually testing humidification, there really isn't a need. If the seals are all good, it'll hold humidity. In the early stages, each model was tested for durability, ability to hold humidity as well as how well they function and how easy they are to use. Once they "passed", they then went into production. That's primarily why The Excalibur desktop humidor is still in the design phase. There was a design, and it was a pretty awesome design, but after we really thought about it, about how the every day person would access it, there were a few things that we looked at and said "meh, I wouldn't want to have to do that to get to cigars on the bottom, seems like a pain", so we went back to the drawing board.
11. Are any total custom projects possible with Gryphon? Have any been done before?
That's a VERY good question. I have gotten requests for custom one-off builds and have turned them down. The reason for that is because I'm trying to build a "brand" with only totally unique, never before seen designs available (primarily for desktop models). It has crossed my mind to start doing these custom builds, but if I'd ever decide to do that, I might make a different entity just to make sure there is clear "brand" distinction.
12. Have there been any famous buyers for Gryphon humidors?
So far, no one famous yet. Still waiting for that moment to happen, but if it doesn't, it doesn't. On a side note, I would love to team up with a cigar maker like Pete Johnson or Jon Huber or someone like that and do some custom boxes/humidors in a limited edition fashion to house a limited run of cigars. There was a small period of time that there was a possibility of doing some custom boxes for Padilla, but that all fell through.
13. Any special requirements for seasoning a Gryphon humidor?
Nope. Nothing out of the ordinary. Wet it down and let it sit, just like you would normally season a humidor.
14. Do you ship worldwide?
You bet! We are located in St. Louis, MO, but have shipped all over the world. Besides the 50 states, some of the places we've shipped to are Australia, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, London and Malaysia.
15. Anything else unique or special you'd like to share with us about Gryphon?
A Gryphon Humidor is more than just a humidor. It's an experience. It's a work of art—not only to keep your cigars in, but to proudly put on display, knowing that it was specially built just for you. And while there might be a similar one out there, there isn't an exact duplicate. It's a family heirloom, something that can be passed down generation to generation. Each and every humidor is built with premium materials, handcrafted by a cigar aficionado, for cigar aficionados.
16. What are some possibilities for the future, something avid cigar aficionado’s can look forward to seeing from Gryphon?
Well let's see. There WILL be another desktop model released, The Excalibur, that will hold 125-135 cigars. Once the design gets locked down, a prototype or two will be made for R&D purposes, then it will be released. Something else on the list is a hardwood cigar case, something that will hold 2-3 cigars and be as compact as possible, but no designs have been figured out yet for that one. We are also planning on a line of limited edition accessories, the first being The Cube, that will debut hopefully in Q3. There will be one limited edition accessory run produced per year, in limited quantities. The Cube will be a limited run of 25-30, all individually numbered.
Also on the docket is doing batch runs of unique, one of a kind travel humidors that will be the same models currently available (The Camelot and The Galahad), but with super crazy wood patterns. As of now, this will be called "The Artisan Series." That name may change before they are released though. The idea will be to batch-run a collection of say Camelots, all with this specific "theme" so to speak, and when they are gone they are gone, possibly never to be recreated.