We thought it might be worthwhile to write a wee blog on burn issues (not draw issues, that’s another blog in the future), what can cause them and how to fix them.
Cigars are not perfect and neither is the tobacco used or the people making them. Every leaf is unique, as is every roller and every step involved in cigar making, and therefore every cigar is unique. They just try to make them within limits regarding weight and draw.
If you’ve smoked a few cigars, it’s quite probable that you have encountered at least one of these burn issues. All burn issues can affect the taste because something isn’t right with the leaf/ cigar/ construction and any correction needed using a lighter or match would in some small way, affect the taste ever so slightly. In general, the majority of us wouldn’t taste the difference unless we scorched or burnt the tobacco by being a little overzealous with a lighter.
The most common examples of burn issues are:
(Picture from http://www.talkingtobacco.com)
Canoeing is a type of burn issue which makes the wrapper burn unevenly down one side of the cigar. There are several causes which include incorrect lighting, humidification, uneven thickness of the wrapper and wind or air conditioning. They are correctable in most cases if you catch them. Most canoes do stop at some point but if you don’t manage it, you could say goodbye to the cigar.
“Touching up” is the easiest way to manage a canoe and this is not something you will get arrested for. Using a lighter preferably, light the unlit wrapper part at the top and work your way down to where the wrapper meets the bottom of the unburnt wrapper. As the wrapper is thin, it will burn quickly alone so you can do this with the cigar in hand and not in your mouth, as it’s easier to see where you are burning.
If you catch a canoe before it gets bad, you can slow it down and even it out by licking your finger and moistening the wrapper below the fast burning point. You might need to use your lighter to touch up the burn and allow it to catch up.
Another way to handle a canoe if you catch it early, is to rotate the cigar whilst you smoke, so different parts of the foot are exposed to wind or air conditioning. It does happen quite often when you are out walking just due to wind direction. Indoor smoking can cause canoes because of the air conditioning/ extraction. Just change your seating position and/or rotate your cigar whilst you smoke.
We mentioned humidification as a possible cause for canoeing. It pays to rotate your stock on a regular basis as well as move the source of humidification around. Plenty of us now use Boveda packs, which we place directly on cigars and leave it. Move them around. If you leave it in one position, there is always the chance the contact side of the cigar receives more humidification that the rest of the cigar. This means the contact side will be a little bit more moist than the other part of the wrapper so will burn slower than the slightly drier sides. Recommendation - keep your humidification systems separate to your cigars and avoid direct contact if you can.
(Picture courtesy of www.holts.com)
Tunnelling is a construction issue whereby part of the filler of the cigar burns quicker than the outer filler, binder and wrapper. It looks like a hole in your cigar in the centre (usually) that goes deep into your cigar. It could be a missed out leaf or wrongly located leaf. The ligero leaf is the thicker, slower burning leaf of the filler, not all fillers contain ligero so it would be more down to construction mistake in these cases, so if the ligero is misplaced or missing then it is possible for tunnelling to happen. It has been said that it comes from very slow smoking. Again, the centre of the cigar tends to be the hottest point and if you are a very slow smoker, the centre can go out whilst the binder and wrapper continue to burn as they are thinner.
Again, using your lighter and focusing on the centre of your cigar can fix the heating issue. You can also allow the cigar to go out totally and then cut the cigar below the tunnelling burn. You do risk the chance of having to make several cuts and losing a fair bit of your cigar.
(picture from www.stogiefresh.info)
This is one of the rarer burner issues and this hasn’t been personally experienced. A runner as its name suggests is when the wrapper burns very fast and with a strange wonky burn line (burn lines tend to be fairly even). This is a leaf issue, as runners occur when a vein in the wrapper catches and burns down very rapidly, producing the strange burn line. It’s like burning tissue paper, a runner can happen fast.
Like a canoe burn, you can moisten your fingertip and wet the wrapper below the runner burn to slow it down.
(picture from https://i.imgur.com/rgFLldg.jpg)
This is the odd burn that makes your ash split into two like an exploding stick of dynamite in a Road Runner cartoon (ok, the majority of you might be too young to remember these cartoons) or the exploding cigar might be easier to visualise?
Over-humidification of the filler and a dry wrapper can be a cause of this. If you didn’t already know, cigars actually absorb moisture from the inside out. If a cigar becomes over humidified, the filler can expand faster than the wrapper and literally explode out of the cigar. Often seen at the foot of cigars but can happen along the body of your cigar anywhere.
Lower humidification level can help sort this issue out or dry boxing your cigars before smoking.
Another possible cause of ash splitting is fast smoking. By this we mean, rapid draws on the cigar. The filler overheats, expands rapidly and bursts through the wrapper.
Easy fix for this one, slow down! Not only can fast smokers cause exploding cigars, the over heating of the cigar can also change the flavour and cause more bitterness in the taste.
(picture from https://allthecatsjoinin20.wixsite.com)
Random holes can appear along the wrapper out of nowhere and these are construction issues. A channel within the cigar is accidentally created by the roller which allows the heat to travel down within the cigar and then exit via a hole in the wrapper lower down. You may even spot the hole forming as it starts with a black spot, like when you use a magnifying glass on a piece of paper.
You can try to manage a hole burn by catching the unlit wrapper with your lighter and burning it even down to the hole.
This list of burn issues isn’t exhaustive and the methods to deal with them are just suggestions. We hope you don’t encounter them but at least you know how to deal with them in some way.