This is probably the most asked question on cigar forums, especially from people just starting out in the hobby, or just finally starting to amass enough cigars to call a collection. “Should I leave the cellophane that my cigars come in on, or take it off?” You will hear different answers from different people, some insisting that their answer is the best for various reasons. The truth is, there is only one correct answer, and that is: It’s up to you. There is no right or wrong answer here, only personal preference. Each method of storage has its advantages and disadvantages, and I’ll take you through them, and you can make a decision for yourself.
Leaving it on
Many people choose to leave the cellophane on their cigars right up until they smoke them. One of the benefits of this route is protection. If you tend to reorganize your cigars a lot, or move them around or take them traveling, this may be the option for you. Cigars are far less likely to get damaged in transport if they are still in the cello. Another perk of leaving them in is freshness. If you like your cigars to retain that fresh aroma and spicy edge that comes from newness, keep it on. The cellophane is a permeable material so fresh air can still get to it, but it is a much slower process, so they will stay fresh longer. Many people also use the cellophane to take the opportunity to label their sticks. When they were purchased, from whom, whatever you want. Last but not least, and perhaps the most debatable benefit of leaving the cello on is “marrying”. Many believe that cigars of different origins left next to each other in a humidor will begin taking flavors and attributes from one another over time. For instance, if you left a mild connecticut cigar next to a pepper bomb, that mild cigar would, over time begin to become more peppery. I have personally never found this to be true, or at least not to an extent that it bothers me. But, if it’s something you are concerned about, and you think it would bother you should it happen, take it into consideration.
Taking it off
The biggest benefit from removing the cellophane is aging and resting. The fresh air can get to the cigar faster and release the chemicals quicker and allow the cigar to “marry” or allow the flavors of all the tobaccos used in that single cigar to meld together. This will also cut the resting time needed in your humidor to be ready to smoke ROTT (right off the truck). When talking about long-term aging, you will see the benefits a lot quicker with the cellophane removed because again, there is much more exchange of air when it doesn’t have to go through a layer of cellophane, allowing the aging process and further fermentation to happen faster. But remember, it still takes a few years to have a properly “aged” cigar.
Somewhere in between
Many people choose a path somewhere in between. One example would be cutting off the bottom of the cellophane wrapper so that the foot of the cigar is exposed. With this method, you still get the protection of having the cello around most of the cigar, and you get added airflow via the open foot. This is a quite reasonable compromise, obviously you don’t get quite the amount of protection or airflow, but a nice balance if you don’t want to give up one over the other. Another option some people choose is to leave the cigars how they come. Many manufacturers ship their cigars without cellophane at all, including all Habanos. The school of thought here is that the manufacturer knows what’s best for their particular cigar, and it will age and be protected as intended, whether it be in a coffin, in cellophane, or naked. Yet another compromise is to leave the cellophane on loose sticks in a humidor, but remove them from boxes. This way if your humidor goes through some shifting or reorganizing, they will remain protected, but your precious box purchases will benefit from quicker aging. You also have a nice selection at the ready to take traveling with extra protection, and you don’t have to worry about your cigars “marrying” because the boxes are all the same cigar, and the cellophane will slow this in the humidor.