Smoking Kills

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Cigar Burn Issues & What To Do

Today we will look at the common (well, hopefully not that common for you) Cigar Burn Issues and some ideas on What To Do about them, and attempt to preserve some of your rather expensive luxury cigar...

Now cigars are a really unique product, given that the majority we enjoy are all hand-rolled and with nothing more than fermented and aged tobaccos. So, with this in mind you will hopefully be a little tolerant as to when your luxury cigar doesn't burn 100% every time.

The term was coined "stacking dimes" when a cigar just burns perfectly and layer upon layer rests against each other and it just looks like "stacking dimes". These are the moments we truly savor.

Now I often smoke in my cigar cave with a couple of friends and sometimes it is just an odds game, one of us will have an issue or issues with a cigar. It is what it is.

Most issues I believe come from poor storage/humidity issues, other times it can be the environment - you take a cigar from your 20c room/humidor and step outside to 10c and light the cigar; its potentially going to have issues.

And sometimes the tobacco had an issue or the roller just had a bad day; it happens - but we can try to correct most issues thankfully...

The following is based on my nearly daily cigar-enjoyment; if it has happened, I've had it happen to me...

This is probably the most common "big" issue I face when smoking cigars, a tunnel forms, the cigar has a definite soft spot (or bigger than a spot) and it can quickly ruin a cigar; the easiest fix is to squeeze or pinch the cigar; it is generally easy to feel the very obvious "soft-spot" and gently squeeze it. This soon halts the tunnel spread and also brings the cigar back to a smokeable and enjoyable place.

Now, some experts suggest CUTTING the section of your cigar clean off and trying again; others say to use a lighter and keep correcting it.

In my humble opinion both of those options do not work nearly as effectively as pinching/squeezing the cigar and letting it correct itself - this has worked in the vast majority of circumstances when I have had this issue.

This is NOT how I personally would recommend fixing a cigar tunnel issue; unless of course it got totally out of hand.

What causes tunnelling - the two common thoughts are during the rolling stage; a buncher hasn't correctly bunched all the tobacco and a small cavity exists and those when lit, the flame/fire can move more rapidly through this section of tobacco; secondly when a cigar is over-rested; tobacco may burn at quicker or slower speeds (not a major issue with me).

Now, the image for the "splitting" here differs from what I think of splitting; in my world it is when the wrapper "ruptures" - but we can discuss both.

Ash splitting (as pictured) to this degree I wouldn't be too concerned; I've seen all types and forms of flakey ash and ash that splits over the years; this is I guess "exaggerated" in the picture.

The reality is we are striving to "stack dimes" when smoking a great cigar; but as we are dealing with a 100% natural piece of fermented and aged tobacco leaf; all sorts of strange things can happen.

Wrapper splitting (as above and below) is what I am really thinking of when someone utters "my cigar split"...

Above, well this is from punch-cutting; it happens and it sucks; my suggestion is always to "roll" the cigar between your lips first, using a little saliva to moisten the head (cap) of the cigar - most of the time this protects it from splitting the cap with a traditional guillotine cut or punch cut. Also, always ALWAYS use a sharp cutter, guillotine, punch or V-cut - a blunt cutter is going to destroy your  luxury cigar in about 2 seconds...

And the wrapper splitting here IS an issue - we had one today actually where a cigar had split (worse than this), but you could also feel an obvious stem inside the cigar; my theory was the once dry stem had absorbed moisture, swelled and ruptured the cigar (and it was a rather expensive cigar I might add)...  let's not start the debate on stems in cigars today; let us leave that for another Sunday.

Anyway, wrapper splitting/rupturing can commonly be from both being TOO DRY or TOO MOIST... ironic right...  essentially a dry cigar has no give, no elasticity and splits easily (lit or not) and a wet/moist/over-humidified cigar will split (rupture is more appropriate) like Sigourney Weaver in Alien when lit because the moisture being rapidly released out of the tobacco due to the burning process expands... and cracks your cigar open.

So yes, correct humidification is (naturally) the best course of action here; remember if your humidor is a bit high in humidity you can "dry box" your cigars for a few days before smoking them (remove from the humidor, place in a sealed Tupperware container or cigar case WITHOUT any additionally humidity - let some of that excess moisture slowly release out).

Okay, this is another one where I disagree with most of the BLOG-posts online about the issue; in my humble opinion canoeing generally happens due to a wrapper issue; either the wrapper is slightly thicker in a patch (happens when leaves rub against each other) or again, dry vs moist area on the wrapper.

Yes, a combination of a soft or weak patch of the bunch under the binder could also be an issue here; but the majority of the time I find it is the wrapper causing an issue.  Again, maybe a cigar from a humidor/box that hasn't been rotated may be an issue; but I have opened humidors and boxes that have been untouched for several years and they have no more a canoeing issue than others...

The fix, rotate the cigar while smoking; if its not too exaggerated, put the non-burning bit of wrapper to the bottom and it mostly corrects itself; worse case; give it a "haircut" as we say - zap the non-burning bit of the wrapper with your butane torch.

Similar to canoeing but to a smaller degree; again; this can be a wrapper issue (thick patch, vein or humidity issue). Again, it is annoying, but it is not the end of the world and does not require you to cut an inch off your luxury cigar.

The fix, again rotate the non-burning bit of the wrapper to the bottom and be prepared to give it a "haircut" - zap it with your butane torch.

Both canoeing and running cigars can generally be easily fixed with rotation and/or giving them a "haircut"...

Mousehole Burn:
Now this is an interesting one, unlike the example at the top of the page and photo below; I have had mousehole burns sometimes a good inch or more away from the burn line.

The most common agreed cause is a rolling issue; an incorrectly bunched bunch with a perfect tunnel in the bunch that allows a quick rapid burn that races down the cigar and pops out on the wrapper.

Remedy - pinching/squeezing most often works if it is further down than shown as you'll close in that un-packed tunnel/tube and it'll fix itself up. If it is close to the burn line like shown, it'll soon self-correct when the burn line catches up to it.

Again, nothing to majorly loose sleep over.


And really, Is It a Burn Issue at all?
Often a wavy cigar burn, or slight canoeing is just annoying or perhaps us overthinking things, wanting that perfect passionado moment where we are stacking dimes.

Please remember - a simple cigar is something to be enjoyed, to give us time to relax and celebrate life's wins and losses...  often best shared with a friend and equally just to lift your spirits if smoking in solitude, reflecting...

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