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Cigar 101

How to Get an Even Burn on a Cigar

Shane K. K's picture

Shane K.

It’s an annoying moment when you notice your cigar is burning unevenly. No one wants to suffer through a cigar plagued with problems. You spent your hard-earned cash on an attractive smoke. You were just starting to enjoy the taste and aroma when your cigar exhibits a messy uneven burn. A handful of factors can cause a cigar to burn unevenly. Some are the result of lower-quality cigar-making, but others are within your control. Here are some helpful hints for how to get an even burn on your cigar.

Cut Your Cigar Correctly

Every great cigar begins with a perfect cut and light. Cut your cigar with a clean precise motion above the cap. Don’t cut too deeply or the wrapper can begin to unravel. A messy cut won’t guarantee your cigar will burn unevenly, but a clean cut gets you started on the right foot and goes a long way towards maximizing your enjoyment of a cigar.

Rotate Your Cigar When Lighting It

An uneven burn on a cigar often begins with an uneven light. Hold your flame a few inches away from the foot of your cigar when you’re lighting it. Don’t blast the end up-close with a high-performance torch. Most importantly, rotate your cigar over the flame as your lighting it. Some call this “turn and burn.”

Turn the cigar in roughly 25% increments as you draw on it over the flame. After your cigar is lit, inspect the cherry at the end. Gently blow on it. You should observe a consistent red-orange cherry at the foot. If it appears any areas are lagging, hit those spots up with your torch. The goal is to get your cigar’s tobaccos to burn at an even pace.

Perform Lighting Touch-Ups Precisely

It’s not uncommon for premium cigars to display an uneven burn when you’re first lighting up. Cigars that are well made will often self-correct within a few minutes. If an uneven burn persists while you’re smoking, touch up the areas that aren’t burning fast enough with your torch.

You can also gently press the side of your cigar’s foot that’s burning unevenly into the ashtray. A touch of pressure can loosen the leaves on the inside and provoke air to move through them more freely when you draw on the cigar.

Although an uneven burn can be embarrassing if you’re smoking in public or with your buddies, it’s not a good idea to incinerate the entire portion of the cigar that’s burning uneven in an attempt to fix it quickly. Be patient and draw on the cigar as you’re touching the burn up. Tap the stray ashes into the ashtray. Hit the areas with your torch that need it most with laser-like precision to avoid making a big mess.

Puff Your Cigar at an Even Pace

When one side of your cigar burns at an accelerated pace, your cigar is canoeing. It’s called “canoeing” because a seam of ash often develops on the barrel of the cigar, like a canoer paddling down a river. Puffing too aggressively can exacerbate the condition. Touch up the areas that are burning too slow with a torch lighter, but be gradual and use your lighter precisely. In some cases, canoeing is caused by an air pocket or an inconsistent distribution of binder or filler tobaccos inside the cigar. If you are unable to remedy a canoeing cigar, consider returning it to the retailer if you believe it was rolled incorrectly.

Tunneling occurs when the binder isn’t burning correctly. As a result, the wrapper doesn’t burn at the same rate as the filler tobaccos, which begin to form a tunnel through the cigar by burning faster than the binder and wrapper leaf. Tunneling can also take place if you don’t draw on your cigar with enough frequency. Try relighting your cigar around the edges. If tunneling is happening due to improper construction, you may also want to return the cigar to the retailer.

Don’t Chomp Down on Your Cigar

When you’re smoking a cigar, avoid chomping down the end. You can constrict the draw or concentrate the airflow unevenly. When air evenly passes through your cigar as your draw on it, it’s easy to maintain an even burn.

Light Your Cigar Under Shelter if You’re Smoking Outside

Outside is an excellent place to enjoy a premium cigar, especially if you’re on the golf course or at the beach. Outside can also present a volatile environment for keeping your cigar lit and maintaining a nice ash. When you’re lighting (or relighting) a cigar outside, do so in a sheltered area if possible. Most of us are stuck cupping our hands around the end of the cigar to conceal the flame from the elements. Starting off with an even burn, though, is the best way to encourage an even finish to your cigar. Try to light up when you’re out of the breeze.

Don’t Whack Your Cigar Against the Ashtray

It’s common for the ash on a premium cigar to stay intact for a few inches or more. It’s a sign the cigar is made well. However, when you’re ready to part with the ash on your cigar, do not whack it against the ashtray. You can crack the wrapper and interfere with the integrity of a cigar’s construction, which will compromise the draw. Gently tap your cigar over the ashtray to shed the ash.

Store Your Cigars at the Correct Humidity

A cigar that’s too moist won’t burn evenly. Because cigars are like sponges, they can soak up a lot of moisture. It’s critical to keep an eye on your humidor and maintain a consistent humidity level. For most climates, 70% relative humidity is ideal. Don’t fall victim to the “more-is-better” philosophy. Over-humidifying a cigar can be just as detrimental as letting it dry out. If you think your humidor is saturated with too much moisture, remove the humidification source for a few days and crack the lid to allow the humidity to gradually dissipate.

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