Let’s talk about some of the most common cigar burning problems: tunneling, canoeing, uneven burn line, burning too fast, and constantly going out. In this article, we’ll talk about what causes each of these burn problems as well what you can do about them once they’ve attempted to ruin your day!
Burn Problems Table of Contents:
Uneven Burn Line
What Causes a Cigar to Burn Unevenly: Realistically, this issue is very hard to pin down on any one particular cause. Anything from your humidor’s storage environment (humidity being too high or too low) to the fermentation of the wrapper leaf to the way you light the cigar can be the culprit.
What to Do: Most of the time, we’re just going to recommend touching it up with your lighter if it doesn't correct itself naturally. If you smoke premium cigars and notice this happening often, it would be prudent to take a look at your humidor and verify that it’s up to speed. Especially if you’re noticing that your cigars aren’t tasting like they should, it could mean that your humidor is either too wet (most likely) or too dry. Never rely on analog hygrometers, and always double check even the digital ones with at least a 12-hour salt test. And if you’re smoking cigars fresh off the truck when they arrive in the mail, you’ll notice significant improvement by letting them acclimate in your humidor for 10-14 days first.
Burning Too Fast
What Causes Cigars to Burn Too Fast: If you’re smoking premium cigars, this is most often caused by a slightly dry humidor. Drier tobacco will burn quicker than properly humidified tobacco. If you feel around the cigar and notice soft spots, it’s also possible that your cigar was underfilled and is smoking faster because there’s less tobacco overall.
What to Do: I like to shoot for 63-69% in my humidors depending on a few things. Some cigars smoke better in the 63% range, some smoke better in the 69% range, but the vast majority I try to keep around 65%. If you don’t notice spot spots in the cigar or a generally squishy demeanor, there’s a good chance that your cigar was a bit dry when you fired it up.
Constantly Going Out
What Causes Cigars to Constantly Go Out: More often than not, the cigar is holding too much moisture. Certain tobaccos naturally hold more moisture than others, and you may notice a trend over time. And sometimes you just happen to get a bad stogie.
What to Do: Dry boxing is one of the easiest ways to fix this but takes a little bit of time. It basically means to remove the cigars from a humidity source and let them release moisture before taking them for a stroll. Depending on the time you have, you may want to place them in a sealed plastic bag for a day or two or leave them on the counter for a few hours (depends on the relative humidity of your home). We’re constantly thinking about protecting our cigars, but they often smoke better with a little bit of dry boxing. If it’s something you notice in multiple cigars, also take a look at your humidor.
The cigar pictured above is just starting to canoe. I really wanted to get a picture of true cigar canoeing for you, but man! I spent all afternoon and couldn’t even force it to happen while trying with several cigars. To get an idea of what it would really look like, just imagine that the effects above are more exaggerated and the ash continued to burn lopsided in the same manner.
What Causes Cigars to Canoe: Most of the time, canoeing can be contributed to lighting the cigar improperly. Every now and then you can get a bad cigar that’ll run on its own, but this is much rarer than we’d like to believe. True canoeing happens disproportionately to new cigar enthusiasts.
What to Do: Focus on lighting the cigar from the outside in. I prefer the toast method, and just keep on toasting until I feel satisfied that my cigar is lit. Working around the edges first, I’ll get a good white ash going before slowly circling into the center. Once you have a nice white ash covering the entire foot, blow on it to make sure you didn’t miss a spot and voila! Your cigar is ready to be enjoyed. If you do happen to notice the cigar needing a touch up later on, don’t hesitate to use a little butane and correct it.
The cigar pictured above has developed a tunnel or air pocket that significantly reduces airflow, deteriorates the flavor, and can easily ruin a great cigar.
What Causes Cigars to Tunnel: A tunnel is what happens when a hole develops in the filler tobacco that creates an air pocket and wreaks havoc on draw, taste, and overall performance. Sometimes the air pocket runs so deep that you lose so much resistance that you effectively can’t pull on the cigar. It's true that different primings and seed varieties combust at different rates, but premium manufacturers take this into account in the blending process. I’ve had many discussions with different personalities in recent years, and it seems fair to say that this is one problem you can lay at the feet of an unlucky bunching when the cigar was being rolled. No amount of humidity checking, dry boxing, or cursing can prevent you from running into this unfortunate mishap. If this happens to you chronically, however, you might want to try the lighting technique mentioned above for canoeing.
What to Do: One of the most effective ways to correct the rare tunnel is to trash the afflicted cigar and grab another. If you’re adventurous, however, you can do one of two things: fight it with butane and hope your luck improves or use your cutter to cut above it and hopefully start fresh with a relight. If you go with the cutter method, please don’t forget to tap the ash first. I’ve had mixed success with either option, and my preference nowadays is just to try another cigar. And again, if your cigar tunnels frequently, check your lighting technique. Focus on lighting the cigar from the outside in instead of hitting the center first. You want the center of the cigar to burn slower than the outside.