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How to Know if You’re Smoking Too Fast

How to Know if You’re Smoking Too Fast

Howdy folks! This week, I wanted to explore some symptoms of smoking your cigars too fast.  If you know the symptoms, you’ll know how to avoid this common mistake that many of us make.  And, if you have any other ways of noticing that you're smoking too fast please drop a comment below!

Taste

The most obvious symptom of smoking too fast is also one of the main reasons we preach against it: the taste is dreadful! If you’re smoking a properly cared for cigar that’s putting out bitter notes like it’s getting paid to do it, chances are that you’re smoking it too fast.  This condition will exhibit bitter, acrid notes that are just as unpleasant as it sounds.  Remember, heat is a necessary evil when it comes to cigars… you need just enough to be able to keep it lit, but any more than that is a losing risk/reward scenario. 

The Fix: Slow it down and enjoy the moment.  If you’re engaging in conversation and find that you’re getting lost in the excitement and puffing away, let your cigar rest in the ash tray a bit between puffs. I find that keeping it in my hand can be a recipe for disaster when I get carried away.

Split Wrappers

If you’re noticing your wrappers splitting on you, there’s a good chance that you’re smoking too fast.  It’s important to note that it could also be a drastic change in ambient humidity versus your storage environment, but this can be somewhat alleviated by smoking slower as well.  What happens is that your cigar begins to heat up and expand, putting outward pressure on the wrapper.  And if your cigar is wet due to storage or ambient humidity (smoking in the rain) it will exacerbate the issue. 

The Fix: In addition to slowing down, my favorite fix for this is just to leave your cigars on the counter for a period of time before firing them up.  This will allow your cigar to acclimate to your ambient humidity and has worked wonders for me smoking in both arid and tropical environments.  The amount of time necessary for acclimation will depend on how different your storage environment is from your smoking environment. 

Duration of Smoking Experience

Another way you can diagnose your smoking time is to consider the average duration of your cigar experience.  You can compare this with anecdotal knowledge from previous experiences with the same cigar or take a look at average smoking times below.  This isn’t a steadfast rule, however, as certain cigars will act as the exception.  Box-pressed vitolas generally smoke a little faster due to being underfilled to allow the mold to give them their shape when pressed.  And ligero-heavy blends tend to smoke slower.

  • Robusto: 45-60 mins
  • Toro: 60-90 mins
  • Churchill: 90-120 mins

The Fix: We all know someone that smokes their cigars faster than you’d imagine possible and still loves every second of it – kudos to them! But, if you want to get more out of your cigar and notice that you’re smoking significantly faster than the times above, it might be worth dialing it back a little and see the benefits for yourself.  

Cigar is Hot to the Touch

I first heard this second hand from a friend that attended an event with Steve Saka and it makes a ton of sense.  He says that you should be able to hold your cigar roughly an inch above the burn line.  If it’s too hot for your fingers, the most likely culprit is that you’re smoking too fast.

The Fix: Slow ‘er down!  Also, focus on getting a good light the first time around.  Every time we apply flame to the cigar for touchups and relights we’re playing with fire (ha!) on the taste buds.

Tunneling

Alright, most of the time I’ll place tunneling in the ‘getting a bad roll with a handmade product’ category. Sometimes, however, we can be the cause.  I notice this more with newer cigar enthusiasts that take quick puffs and constantly have to relight their cigars.  The cause, as we learned a couple weeks ago with Marko Bilic of the Cigar Smoking World Championship, is that shallow puffs cause the filler tobacco to stay ignited without being hot enough to burn the binder and wrapper leaves.  It’s actually a technique that the World Champions employ when they need to stop the wrapper from burning but still need additional smoke time to be crowned the victor. 

This symptom isn't 100% tied to smoking too fast, but I’ve noticed that it usually encourages people to smoke faster (to keep it lit) and relight their cigars more often (when it inevitably goes out.)  This is a triple threat combination, making for an awful cigar experience.  

The Fix: Take deeper puffs – but do not inhale.  When we say deeper, we’re talking about smoking a cigar like you would suck on a straw without the smoking going down your throat.  What you’re looking for is a satisfying draw with ample smoke that you can actually exhale.

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