Cigars 101

Should I Remove Cellophane from Cigars?

It’s the undisputed heavyweight champion of cigar storage questions that we receive from cigar enthusiasts: whether to remove the cellophane from cigars before placing them in a humidor. Yes, there is a debate – which we’ll get into shortly – and both sides of the cello on/cello off dispute are passionate about their feelings on the matter. The reality is that the answer lies in-between…but before deciding whether you should leave the cellos on or off your cigars in a humidor, we should first define what cellophane is – because understanding cello will help to eliminate at least one myth about it.

What is Cellophane?

Cellophane is not plastic. It’s made from a byproduct of plant cell walls and vegetable fibers called cellulose. While it is waterproof, it’s also semi-permeable and allows water vapor to pass through it – so leaving your cigar’s cello on will not prevent it from receiving the humidity it needs to stay fresh. Confusing cellophane for plastic has led to many of the negative opinions you may have heard about cellophaned cigars…so at least we can check that one off, right out of the gate. Here’s more:

Cello On or Cello Off?

Are there justifiable reasons to keep it? There sure are. Or should you throw it away? You can do that, too. To help you decide, let’s explore the benefits of both worlds…

Benefits of Taking the Cello Off

While it doesn’t prevent humidity from reaching your smokes entirely, cellophane decreases the amount of moisture that your cigars do receive. Rehydrating cigars that are cellophaned takes a longer period of time, and that can play a role if you’re trying to fast-track the rejuvenation of a neglected stick. Additionally, cigars that are out of their cello sleeves will age faster than their cello-clad counterparts. If you’re the type of enthusiast who lets cigars sit for months or years before enjoyment, removing the cello might be right up your alley.

Another benefit of cellophane removal is the promotion of plume development. Plume is another hotly-debated topic in the cigar world – and it’s less common than the discussion might lead you to believe. Plume (also called “bloom”) is the result of the leaf’s naturally-occurring oils and sugars making their way to the surface of the cigar’s wrapper and crystallizing. If it happens, it’s only after years of aging; and while not every cigar ends up with this phenomenon, cellophane can hinder the process both physically as well as your ability to notice it visually. Plume advocates say it’s a sign that your cigar is in optimal condition for smoking.

Visual matters take me to the next benefit of cello removal. Let’s just be honest with ourselves: glistening cellos are not as aesthetically appealing as the cigar’s natural leaf wrappers themselves. There’s something about a naked cigar in a humidor that is inviting, whereas the plasticky look of cellophane is more industrial and generic. I suppose this could come down to subjectivity, but nobody ends up smoking the cello.

Last but certainly not least, without the cellophane, you can feel the texture of your cigar and smell its aroma unimpeded. You can roll the cigar between your fingers and listen for crackling that may indicate it is too dry, or more accurately feel if there are soft or hard spots down its length.

Benefits of Keeping The Cello On

Cellophane sleeves act as a layer of protection around the cigar that can help prevent it from damage, especially on the foot. It also protects your premium from dust and dirt that may find its way into your humidor through various means. If you’ve ever dropped a cigar on a hard surface that was not in its sleeve, it’s likely the cigar experienced a crack or tear in the wrapper – this is especially common with more delicate leaves such as Connecticut Shade or Cameroon. That makes the cello great for traveling, helping to protect your cigars from the unexpected bump, bounce or drop.

One of my favorite go-to reasons for keeping the cigar in its cello is that it acts as an automatic indicator for a well-aged cigar. Frequent a cigar lounge long enough, and you’ll probably hear the term yellow cello. Cigars that rest for a considerable period release their oils and sugars to the surface as they age; in turn, this process stains the cellophane a distinct yellow or orange tint. When held up to a light, you’ll notice this coloring mostly in the corners of the cellophane near the head when it’s just beginning to crop up, or the entire length of the sleeve when it’s been occurring for some time. When you see this effect, you know that your cigar is primed for your enjoyment.

If you’re a germophobe like me, one of the best kept secrets of cellophane is its ability to protect your cigars from the who-knows-where-they’ve-been-hands of every Tom, Dick, and Harry that marches through the doors of your local shop. I prefer to have my cigars unspoiled, thank you, but that’s just me.

The final benefit of cellophane is that it creates a microclimate that surrounds your cigar. The slower evaporation of humidity means that you can leave a cigar out of your humidor for longer when traveling without drying it out.

Is There a Best of Both Worlds?

Actually, there is! Some smokers will cut the tail of the cellophane, the portion that’s folded over behind the cigar (sometimes with a UPC code). They’ll trim it down to the cigar’s foot, allowing the protective benefits of the cellophane to remain while also opening the cigar to more of the humidor’s humidity.

What’s The Verdict?

The final hurdle is taste. Some say that cigars fare better with age if the cello is left on while others claim it’s the other way around. Who’s right?

No one.

Taste is subjective to the individual enjoying the cigar. Your unique perspective is all that matters, not someone else’s. After all, their opinion isn’t going to smoke your cigar. That being said, my parting gift to you is to do what you feel is best. There are no noteworthy, or at least tangible, adverse effects caused by either practice.