Let us face it, not every cigar is going to be perfect. The more you smoke, the more likely you are to encounter some rogue cigars burning unevenly and making a mess. In this cigar guide, I will be showing you the top five cigar fixes for any burn issues and get you back to your smoke session.
While premium cigars are a handmade product and chiefly produced in exotic countries like Nicaragua, Honduras and Cuba - most issues are caused by factors at home. Cracks, uneven burns, and splits…well, they suck – and more often than not, all are the result of user error. The two biggest culprits are improper storage and sucking down your cigar faster than you should be.
If your cigar has cracks or a peeling wrapper, the likely root cause here is storage. As in, your humidor is too dry. Cracks can also come from physical damage, aka cigar abuse. If you are noticing these cracks and splits in your wrappers, take a little extra time to keep your humidor in appropriate condition. Take care of your cigars; you spent good money on them.
If you are seeing an uneven burn line, this can stem from something as simple as a strong gust of wind. But sometimes there is more to it: improper rotation and soft spots in construction can just as easily lead to an uneven burn. What can you do about it? Go slow and savour it – it is important to remember to keep your puffing pace around once per minute, especially if you are smoking one of those full-bodied ligero cigars.
The remedy to your issue is going to vary from case-to-case. To guide on this journey of cigar recovery, I have listed three diagnosed cigar issues with a prescribed fix for each; the peeling wrapper, uneven burn line, and tunnelling
WHEN YOU HAVE GOT A PEELING WRAPPER
Cigar Fix 1: Jam your cigar
If your wrapper is damaged, peeling apart or cracking, put some jam on it. No, not actual jam but pectin. Pectin is a natural plant product that is typically used for making jam or jelly. It is cheap, flavourless, and cigar safe. Run down to your local grocery store and pick up a box. If it works for your toast, why not a cigar?
Pectin comes dry. Mix the powder with a little water, apply conservatively to your cigar and allow ample time to dry.
In a pinch, you can use flavourless, odourless lip balm if your cigar raises some burn issues on the go. An old favourite of mine, though not as effective, is to apply a small amount of whiskey or beverage to the cigar and run a lit match lightly against the wrapper, sealing the crack.
Try applying a no-flavour, unscented lip balm to the wrapper, right along the tear. Rub the balm on gently, and in one direction.
WHEN YOUR CIGAR IS BURNING UNEVENLY
Cigar Fix 2: Set it down
When your cigar is unevenly burning itself straight to the garbage - the best thing you can do is set your cigar down. Place the faster-burning side down in your ashtray, effectively giving the top portion more air and hopefully allowing the top to catch up. Keep an even pace of 1 puff per minute and set it down between puffs. This is the most effective method as it requires no touch-ups. However, if your rogue cigar is still burning unevenly, there are other methods still to try.
Cigar Fix 3: The Slick
Alternatively, you can always try what I call the “slick and burn” method. This is ideal for when your cigar’s uneven burning is getting worst. First the slick: apply a small amount of saliva or your drink to your cigar on the faster burning side. This will slow the progression of the burn and allow the other tobacco time to catch up.
Cigar Fix 4: The Burn
As an alternative to the slick, the burn involves busting out your lighter or matches. Gently torch the top, slower burning side, and burn off the excess wrapper leaf. But do not just jam your triple flame torch in there at point-blank range - hold it at a distance that will not scorch your cigar. Remember, you want to shape the burn line back to normal – you are not cooking T-bone steak here.
Often, this bit of hanging tobacco will appear black, and very well could be a bit of ligero that found its way over to the side. This is a stronger, thicker leaf that can be tough to burn, hence the slow burn.
WHEN YOUR CIGAR IS TUNNELING
Cigar Fix 5: Clip it & start fresh
Tunnelling is what happens when the wrapper goes out or cools while the filler keeps going, burning a tunnel or hole in your cigar. To keep your cigar from looking like an anthracite mine, keep puffing consistently to prevent the wrapper from getting cool. Unfortunately, the only way to fix a tunnelling cigar is by torching the wrapper leaf. If it is a deep tunnel, but no more than 1 cm, you may want to consider clipping the end and re-lighting. If it is any longer than that, it is probably not worth saving – so just throw it out.
Remember, you will not always be able to fix your cigar. A time may come after your second or third touch-up where you need to trash it and start over again. Aside from these cigar fixes, the best thing you can do for your smokes is keep your humidor on the up and up. Keep your humidity in check, rotate your cigars, re-calibrate your hygrometer every 6 months, and do the pinch-test when in doubt.