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Cigar 101

How to Fix an Uneven Cigar Burn

Shane K. K's picture

Shane K.

There are five main reasons why a cigar burns unevenly: the cigar was not lit correctly, the cigar is canoeing, the cigar is tunneling, the cigar is over-humidified, or the cigar is underfilled. Some of these factors are common cigar problems that are within your control; others are not. We’ll look at each cause below and outline what you can do to remedy or prevent a cigar from burning uneven in the first place. It’s tough to enjoy a cigar without an even burn. Know that it’s not uncommon for a premium cigar to exhibit an uneven burn for a minute or two when you first start smoking, but in most cases, a well-made cigar will self-correct as you smoke it.


Cigar Not Lit Correctly

How you light a cigar affects its taste. Some cigar lovers prefer a soft-flame lighter versus a torch lighter, while others stick with wooden matches or they’ll even rely on cedar spills to light their cigars. Whatever method you choose, it’s critical to light your cigar slowly by toasting the foot first, then puffing on your cigar as you rotate it over the flame. To ensure the foot of your cigar is fully lit, blow on the cherry at the end when you’re finished lighting it. You should observe a red-orange glow that evenly encompasses the whole foot. If dark spots persist, you can concentrate your flame over any lagging areas until they are burning at the same rate as the rest of the cigar.

Cigar Canoeing

When a cigar canoes, it burns out of sync and can make a big mess that’s embarrassing and uncomfortable to smoke. Most of the time, you can touch up the foot of a cigar with your lighter to correct an uneven burn. But if there are structural issues with your cigar, the tobaccos may continue to burn unevenly. One quick trick is to stop smoking for a bit. Let the cigar burn out, cut the entire foot off from just behind the ash, and relight it. If this doesn’t work, the cigar was not assembled correctly and may not be worth preserving.

Cigar Tunneling

Cigar tunneling occurs when the filler tobaccos in the center of a cigar burn faster than the wrapper leaf and binder, and your cigar begins to look like a tunnel or a tube. A cigar can start to tunnel if you’re not puffing on it frequently enough. It’s good to wait for thirty seconds or a minute in between draws, but you need to puff on a cigar consistently to ensure enough air and oxygen is passing through it to maintain continual combustion.

A cigar can also tunnel if it was dried out and you haven’t given it enough time to fully re-humidify, meaning the outer parts of the cigar, the wrapper and binder, are humidified, but the filler tobaccos in the center are still too dry. Re-humidifying dry cigars can take several weeks, so be patient.

Over-humidified Cigar

If you’re consistently storing your cigars over 75% humidity, there’s a good chance they will be over-humidified by the time you smoke them. Cigars that are too wet are challenging to light, and you can’t rely on them to burn straight. Maintain your humidity between 65% and 70% RH for the best results or consider dry-boxing your cigars for a day or so before you smoke them.

Rotating your cigars is also essential to ensure an equal amount of moisture reaches each one, on the top and bottom rows and in the center of the box. If the same cigars are always stored right next to your humidification source, there’s a greater chance they will absorb too much humidity and become saturated.

Cigar Is Underfilled or Overfilled

Occasionally, a cigar roller can neglect to put the correct amount of tobacco in a cigar. If too much tobacco is used, the cigar will be plugged, and you won’t get a good draw. If too little tobacco is used, oxygen will flow through the loose or soft spots in the cigar causing them to burn at an accelerated pace. You can loosen a plugged cigar which will fix the draw in some cases. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot you can do to fix an underfilled cigar other than continuing to relight it and hope it improves when you reach an area where the tobaccos have been assembled correctly.

Long-Filler Versus Short-Filler Cigars

Not all cigars burn the same, and this is especially true when we compare long-filler cigars with short-filler cigars. In a premium long-filler cigar, whole leaves of tobacco occupy the full length of the cigar’s shape, including the binder, filler, and wrapper leaf. In a short-filler or mixed-filler cigar, also called a Cuban-sandwich cigar, some of the leaves are whole, while others are smaller remnants or chopped-up leaves. These smaller components won’t burn at the same exact rate as the long-fillers, and you can wind up with a flaky ash or an uneven burn in a mixed-filler cigar. Inexpensive bundles are great additions to the coolerdor when you need affordable yard ‘gars or basic utility smokes, but don’t expect them to burn with the same consistency as traditional long-filler cigars.

Don’t Bite Your Cigar

You can cause an uneven burn by biting down or chomping on your cigar while you’re smoking it. Pinching the head of a cigar in your mouth restricts the airflow in one area and causes more oxygen to flow through another. If you’ve chomped down on your cigar and you’re left with a mushy mess in your mouth and an uneven burn, cut the head off and continue smoking without compressing the head.

Don’t Wet Your Cigar

If you dip your cigar in whiskey or wet it in any way before you smoke it, you can wind up with a crooked burn. It’s okay to spin a cigar around in your lips before and after you light it but leave it at that. Dipping it in your drink is a novel idea, but it won’t improve the flavor and can negatively impact the way your cigar burns.

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