If you ask the manufacturers who wrap their cigars in cellophane why they do so, they give the following answers: it offers better protection against damage to the wrapper (storage, restacking, handling); they dry out less quickly if the humidor stops working or if you are travelling away from home; there is less loss of aroma to the surrounding air, and consequently the cigar keeps its “nose” for longer.
In truth you rarely find damage to the wrapper of a cigar which has been wrapped in cellophane, so this argument stands, especially when dealing with very delicate wrappers. Furthermore, when you consider how cigars are handled in some restaurants, then the cellophane wrapping is far from inappropriate. Also and particularly when, for presentation purposes, the cigars are stored in open boxes and come into permanent contact with the air (in the cupboard or walk-in humidor) the argument about reducing loss of bouquet is correct.
If you put a cigar wrapped in cellophane into a dry environment, it will dry out just as an unwrapped cigar does – more slowly, admittedly, but it will dry out. The truth is that the cellophane is not hermetically sealed, you can even smell the cigar through the cellophane. So if moisture can escape through cellophane it can also get in. This means that air humidity is not a reason for unwrapping your cigar.
On the other hand, we have to ask why cabinet boxes of 50 containing unwrapped cigars are so popular, particularly among those who smoke Cuban cigars. In this case they particularly want to “marry” cigars of the same type over a period of time, something which works better in cabinet boxes than in the classic two-layer boxes of 25 or 10. Wrapping the cigars in cellophane would be pointless.
My conclusion and recommendation: If it is your intention to store the cigars in order to age them over a long period allowing secondary and tertiary aromas to develop, then I would remove the cellophane wrapper. If you are not bothered by the plastic appearance of the cellophane, then leave the cigars wrapped. Everyone else should unwrap them. In my opinion this is a question on which one can remain fairly relaxed.
This article was published in the Cigar Journal Summer Edition 2011. Read more