One of the most frequently asked questions about cigars and cigar storage is whether to remove the cellophane wrappers before placing them into the humidor. It is a question which draws surprisingly impassioned opinions from both sides of the fence. So what is the correct answer?
Proponents of removing the cellophane wrappers correctly claim that the cigars are able to breathe better, thus concentrating the benefits of home aging cigars into a shorter timeframe.
An additional benefit, they argue, is that removing cellophane wrappers promotes the development of plume, the crystallized tobacco oils that can form on the wrappers of cigars which age extensively and remain untouched. While plume doesn’t actually improve a cigar, it is definitely a coveted hallmark of a well-aged cigar.
Cellophane, often confused with plastic, is made of a plant material called cellulose. For this reason, proponents of leaving the cellophane wrappers on the cigars correctly counter that cellophane is breathable, so that any aging gains are soon equalized, especially if the cigars are to be aged over a long period of time.
Perhaps more importantly, leaving the cellophane wrappers intact also protects the wrappers from suffering minor damage – think tears, punctures, and other minor trauma, especially on more delicate wrappers like Connecticut Shade or Cameroon – as well as acting as a first layer of defense against tobacco beetles or mold.
So what’s the right thing to do?
As with many aspects of collecting, storing, and smoking cigars, it’s a matter of personal preference. There’s an undeniable tactile benefit to being able to smell and touch the wrappers you just won’t get otherwise. If you’re the type to keep a manifest of all cigars currently in inventory, rotate your collection faithfully, and don’t have any pilfering family members or neighbors, then by all means, un-cello your cigars.
If, on the other hand, you are more casual about it, or smoke cigars as you get them without regard for how long they’ve been aging, or you just don’t like the hassle of removing 20 cello wrappers every time you pick up a box or a bundle, then don’t.
Interestingly, we’ve had customers opt for the best of both worlds by cutting off the excess cellophane from the end, allowing for both an exposed foot (which accounts for most of the air and moisture exchange in a cigar) AND a protected wrapper.