Any aficionado will know that some cigars come with a cellophane wrapper and this has created one of the longest debates of all time - do you keep it on or remove it?
Firstly what is it?
Cellophane was created in 1912 by Swiss chemist Jacques Brandenberger and true cellophane is a natural substance made of cellulose, the main component in the cell wall of a plant.
The brand name “cellophane” (a combination of the words “cellulose” and “diaphane,” meaning “transparent cellulose”) refers to the material’s singular qualities.
Machines make tubes of cellophane and workers in cigar factory's slip individual cigars within the tubes.
In its untreated form, cellulose film is waterproof, but semi-permeable, allowing water vapor to pass through. It generates a kind of microclimate for individual cigars, allowing them to breathe and to age – a benefit that petroleum-based plastics can’t offer.
Why is this done?
The oldest conversation I can remember was with Gael Decourtivron of La Luna Cigars (my old cigar friends right now will be smiling and remembering these amazing cigars from the early 2000's) - he explained that simply the cellophane was introduced because of the traditional blue collar work who would visit his cigar retailer (brick & mortar store as they are more commonly referred to) and pickup his daily cigar(s) and walk home.
The concept is simple, in North America (USA) you could simply purchase a single cigar, walk home and enjoy it after work - but to protect the fragile wrapper on the cigar, many manufacturers spent the extra time and labour to put the precious cigar inside a cellular tube.
Should I keep it on or take it off?
Here I have a couple of simple thoughts; if you take your cigars to a friends home or to the bar often; then leave the cellophane on for that layer of protection.
If you predominantly enjoy your cigars at home, then feel free to remove them from the cellophane.
Now the exception to these basic concepts are - the cellophane is 100% natural, so leaving it on will cause no long-term issues; in fact I often leave the cellophane on because it can become a marker of age.
Often, the older the cigar the more "stained" the cellophane will become from the oils of the wrapper tobacco. Vikki has a very keen eye and whenever she opens a box and spots that the cellophane has gone yellow or brown she brings the box to me in case I wish to "sample" the goods, I am lucky to have such great staff I know.
You see every shipment from every factory is different, we can get cigars that have recently been rolled; but we also quite often get boxes that the cigars have clearly been aging for a good year or two - it really is a lottery.
But having staff with a keen eye ensure I don't miss out if something extra-aged arrives into our humidor.
The last thing to consider is that Cellophane-wrapped cigars age more slowly than unwrapped cigars; particularly old cigars (older than 15-20 years) that have been stored in cellophane taste better than those that have been aged without packaging.
So, bearing this in mind, it’s up to the passionado to decide whether or not to store and/or age cigars in their cellophane packaging.
Cuban cigars don't have cellophane on them, why?
Since 1992 Cuba has not wrapped cigars in cellophane, purely because it is not a commodity they have ready access to (such is life in a communist controlled country).
The last word
In addition to the protection of the cigar, individual packaging that can be affixed with bar codes and labels allows retailers to better manage their inventory, says César Gadea of Padrón Cigars. Like many premium cigar producers, Padrón manufactures its own cellophane wrappers out of prepared cellophane film. Factory workers carefully enfold the cigars by hand in cellophane packaging that has been produced on-site according to vitola. Machine-made cigars are packaged in cellophane during the automated production process.
Cellophane’s many unique and positive qualities make it almost unthinkable to use any other material to package premium cigars. Cigar producers can rest assured that their cigars are well-protected and will arrive to the consumer undamaged and fresh. Cellophane wrappers also offer passionados the option of aging their cigars to enjoy many years later. Not bad for an unremarkable “plastic” wrapper!