Why are a majority of the cigars on the market today wrapped in cellophane and what, if anything, does that mean to you?
The primary reasons manufacturers go to the expense and trouble to wrap each cigar in it’s own cellophane cocoon is mostly based on protection of the cigar from damage. On the journey that cigar takes from the cellophane machine to your hand when you’re cutting and lighting, there are a huge number of hazard points where that cigar could be damaged if it were not for cellophane.
In the process of sorting and boxing the cigars, there are several opportunities for wrapper leaf damage as even the most skilled hands aren’t perfect 100% of the time.
Once shipped to the retailer, sealed boxes are fairly safe from individual cigar damage, but those that are in open display boxes may be handled numerous times by people that are less than careful. Cigars in an open box in a retailer’s walk-in self serve humidor are most prone to wrapper leaf damage at this point in their path to your personal humidor. This is why many retailers ask manufacturers to place cellophane on all the cigars they ship to them. I’ve seen as much as 25% of a box of fragile cigar wrappers damaged by careless customers.
At the retail level, cellophane also serves a very mechanical purpose. It gives the retailer a safe surface on which to place a price or barcode tag. While some uncellophaned cigars have room on the cigar’s band for a tag, many do not have ample room or a band at all.
In the case of cigars which you purchase from a liquor store or at a restaurant, the cellophane acts as barrier to prevent less than clean hands from coming into contact with your cigar. So, the cellophane protects you rather than the cigar in this case.
Once in your hands, a cellophaned cigar may make its way to your humidor for storage. While some people are very cautious when handling their cigars, others may welcome a little barrier to damage as they root around their humidor or grab a handful and quickly throw them in a travel case or other container for transport.
WHEN SHOULD YOU REMOVE THE CELLOPHANE?
This question is one of great controversy. Some say you should remove the cellophane as soon as you get your cigars home — both those in full boxes and singles you put in your humidor. Others say it doesn’t matter. And, then there are some that say never remove the cellophane until you’re ready to cut and light your cigar.
A full box of uncellophaned cigars is a beautiful sight to behold, but it opens each of those unwrapped cigar up to potential damage when you try to lift them out of their box — especially when it’s the first cigar removed from a tightly packed row, But, if you plan to age these cigars in their own box, unwrapping them may be a better option — as long as you’re careful in their handling.
When placing various cigar blends together in a single humidor, the removal of the cellophane leaves the cigars more open to the scents of the surrounding cigars. In many cases, this isn’t a problem, but for some, it’s an unwelcome result. Many appreciate the subtle flavors that come with a cigar aging without the influence of other cigars (leave them in cellophane in this case) or outside odors while others smoke through them too fast to worry about it (it doesn’t matter if they are wrapped or unwrapped in this case.)
One of the absolute worst things you can do with a cellophaned cigar is let it sit in warm direct sunlight. The moisture in the cigar will condense on the inside of the cellophane and make the wrapper leaf wet, ruining the cigar in the process.
So, in the end, the answer to the cellophane / non-cellophane question is “it depends.” It depends on you — how you handle your cigars, how you store your cigars and how you age your stored cigars. The cellophane is a tool and should be used by you in the best way possible to protect your cigars when they need protected and removed when it no longer is needed.