Cigar Humidification

Will cracked wrappers repair themselves with the correct RH?

Q: I’m a fairly new smoker and have a 300 cigar humi. On my 2 top trays I have approx. 50 cigars that I removed from the cello for aging. I keep my RH level between 68-72 and I’m experiencing some splitting on about 10 wrappers. I calibrated my hygrometer about a month ago and had to adjust it a few clicks. The cracking cigars feel rather hard and stiff. Then, after a more extensive examination I think my problem is too much RH. Some of the cigars look bloated, like they are on steroids. I had a Rocky Patel 15 Anniv. in there that had a slight crack along its side. I smoked it to put it out of its misery and as I drew on it, the body started to expand and eventually opened that crack up. I tried to relight, and she just canoed on me because of the crack. If the wrappers are cracked will they repair themselves over time at the correct RH? At what RH will cracking begin if the cigar is too dry…60%?
– Steve M. in upstate New York

A: Hi Steve. I’m a little confused, because first you say the cigars felt dry, then you realized that you’re RH was to high and your cigars were “bloated,” so let’s go with that.

Too much moisture in your humidor will cause the cigars to swell and even burst on their own in some cases; mostly the cigars with the more delicate wrappers like Connecticut or Cameroon. The thicker sun-grown and maduro wrappers usually hold-up much better. You may want to take out the bloated cigars and “dry box” them by letting them settle in a factory-issue cigar box made from Spanish cedar for a day or two. Also, try to get your RH down to an average of 67-68%.

Now, with regard to wrappers “repairing” themselves: Once a wrapper has cracked – literally split, as it were – there’s no way it will ever repair itself. Tobacco leaf is like human skin in some ways, but even by adjusting the RH, the cells won’t regenerate. You can put a band-aid of sorts on the wrapper however. Take a piece of wrapper leaf from a stub or another cigar with a similarly colored leaf and, using some Gum Arabic or “roller’s glue,” you can “patch” the split. If the wrapper piece is very dry and brittle, you can add a little distilled water first to soften it up before applying the glue. You can also use honey as an adhesive, or pectin, which is used for making jelly. It may not be pretty when you’re done, but once the glue is dried the cigar will smoke better. If the crack is really big, it’s probably not worth the effort.

Finally, as far as when cigars will begin to crack from being too dry, I would say that if the air is very dry already and the RH is at around 62 or lower, that would be a recipe for the cigars drying and cracking.