To cello or not to cello, that is the question! We see some cigars in our stores that are cello wrapped and others that are not. Cello wrap has and will always be a matter of great debate in the world of cigars, so let’s look at the pros and cons of cellophane wrap.
Without going into the chemical makeup and the process involved in creating cellophane, let’s just say that it is made of cellulose which is essentially the main component in the cell walls of plants. Cello wrap for cigars is designed to be a protective wrap for cigars and its physical makeup also allows it to breathe. The process of cello wrapping cigars began in the early 20th century by the Newman family and its purpose was to prevent physical damage to cigars when shipping long distance and to also aid in maintaining some moisture within the cigar. Cello does breathe but it does so quite slowly.
These days, one finds most cigars in stores to be cello wrapped. This is to prevent damage to the cigar due to customers constantly picking up cigars and over-handling them. We all know cigars may seem to be very solid but if you pick up an unwrapped cigar 30-50 times that delicate wrapper leaf will begin to show wear and tear and also begin to fall apart in some places. The wrapper also begins to pick up oils and dirt from hands that will also cause deterioration. However there are some manufacturers that do not cello cigars and their argument is that cello hinders the cigar from aging properly. We also find that some cigars (due to their shape) do not take to being cello wrapped. Figurados are an excellent example. My suggestion to those buying unwrapped cigars in a store is to handle very gently and look for cigars that are still in pristine condition.
So say now, you have your cello wrapped cigar in your house and you’re ready to store it in whatever humidor you have. Do you leave the cello wrap on or do you remove it before storing it away? Yes, yes you do. If you have a deep box style humidor, where cigars are stacked on top of each other and might be 8 cigars deep, I would leave the cello wrap on to protect it from physical damage from other cigars being piled on top. If the humidity tends to fluctuate in your humidor, like many home humidors do since they are small, I would also leave the cello on since it maintains humidity within the wrapper.
Cello wrap also tends to slow the aging or maturing process. It also delays the process that marries flavors, in order to mellow and age within the cigar. Many cigar purists feel the cello hampers these processes too much and they will remove the cello to allow the cigar to age properly. While this is true it can also pose a problem if your Liga Privada is lying unwrapped next to an Acid Extraordinary Larry which is also unwrapped. You come back to smoke them after a year of aging and you may find they both taste quite similar as the flavors marry together! Unless you can isolate unwrapped cigars together by label I would not unwrap them. And most of us do not have large humidor rooms at home to do so.
The end choice is always up to you, but I vote for leaving the cello on. Protection from damage, ability to hold some moisture, and the ability to resist cros- marrying flavors all outweigh the advantages of allowing the cigar to hopefully age perfectly. What I have heard of and have yet to try is to clip off the folded over end of the cello wrap to expose the foot of the cigar. It does allow better aging, it does still protect the cigar, and it still allows a little bit of moisture retention. So choose wisely and enjoy!
Steve Mungeer, ABC Fine Wine &Spirits, Category Manager: Premium Cigars and Craft Beers
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