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Cigar 101

Why Do Some Cigars Burn Hotter?

J. Bennett Alexander Alexander's picture

J. Bennett Alexander

If you are a regular cigar smoker, you’ve certainly noticed that a cigar changes in flavor the longer you smoke it. And, if you’re not careful, the cigar can also get hot as you get to the end. Why do some cigars burn hotter?

The Flavor Develops

A cigar will naturally become hotter and more powerful the longer you smoke it because the tars and oils build up near the head of the cigar. Some of my friends tend to abandon their cigars halfway down. They cite that the flavor is becoming sour or too strong. Okay, but you’ve paid a pretty good amount for a premium cigar and you want your money’s worth.

If your cigar is burning too hot, much of it probably has to do with the way you smoke it. Occasionally, a cigar that burns hot hasn’t been made very well. How to keep a cigar from burning too hot? Keep reading!

The Way You Cut It

Let’s start near the beginning. You’ve picked out your cigar and you’re about to cut it. How big a cut you make can affect the draw of the smoke into your mouth and that can affect the temperature of the cigar. The smaller the cut, generally, the less smoke you’re going to pull through the cigar and this allows the oils and tars in the tobacco to gather and increase in heat before they burn and turn into smoke. Make the cut larger. If you are fond of the V-cut, and your cigar burns too hot, try a straight cut. This will increase the opening in the head of your cigar and draw more smoke, assuming the cigar is otherwise well constructed.

The Way You Puff It

I have a friend who is not a frequent cigar smoker. When we get together, he will smoke so fast that he’s finished with his cigar before mine is half done. He has noted more than once that his cigar gets hot and a bit bitter as he smokes it. He is, as mentioned, aiding in tar buildup. I tell him to slow down, take a puff only every 30 seconds. Some say to wait a full minute between puffs. In any case, my own experience is that smoking a cigar slowly makes for a cool smoke.

How strongly you puff on your cigar can also affect the temperature and flavor. Draw too strongly, and you’re likely to raise the heat level. If the cigar is made properly, and if you’ve cut it enough, you should need only to puff gently to generate enough flavorful smoke into your mouth.

Bad Construction

Sometimes, though I’ve found this to be rare, a cigar will burn too hot because it’s not properly filled with tobacco. Too little tobacco or filler that is too loosely packed can allow air to flow through the tube too quickly and accelerate the burn. It’s the equivalent of puffing too fast or too strongly. Make sure your cigar is properly constructed. It should be firmly wrapped, with no dips in the line of the cigar, but it should also give just a bit when you roll it between your thumb and forefinger.

A cigar that is plugged is likely to start out burning hot. You can try making a larger cut, maybe with a cigar punch cutter; or, very carefully, poke a hole through the cut you’ve made at the head of the cigar using a match (not highly recommended, though I’ve done it often) or a draw poker. This is a sharp pin that can break up a knot inside the filler and loosen up the draw. A draw poker is also known as a Cuban cigar repair kit.

Size Matters

So does shape. A cigar with a small ring gauge, like a Petit Corona could burn hot. I tend to cut them more than I would, say, a Corona Gorda or Toro. I want to make sure the draw will be good.

A Figurado naturally tapers at the head and, if you haven’t cut it open enough, this can be a choke point for the smoke. Still, a Torpedo or Pyramid are much wider in diameter as you move to the foot of the cigar, which has more tobacco that tends to burn more slowly, allowing for the cigar to cool.

Perhaps this is obvious, but the length of a cigar can also affect the temperature. This, as well as the ring gauge, can affect how much tar and oil will build up as you smoke. Smoking a longer shape like a Churchill or a Double Corona delays the intensification you can encounter in a Robusto or a Rothschild – because the heat is further away from your palate when you initially light up. If you’re finding your Corona a bit warm, try moving to a wider ring gauge like a Robusto or Toro.


Purging your cigar means gently blowing through the cigar with the intention of cooling it down. In my experience, it’s not something that always works, but it can help redistribute the tar and oil. Some say it even works on half-smoked, day-old cigars. Um, no. Just don’t smoke those.

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