Bad Cigar? Don’t Rush to Blame the Factory

Gary KorbWhy is it when we have a problem with our cigars the first thing we want to do is blame the manufacturer? Bad cigar or not, It’s unbelievable, the number of Customer Service emails I’ve seen, which include claims against a factory, based on a customer’s belief that the cigars didn’t taste as good as the box before, or they were too dry, or too moist, or the factory must have changed the blend; and so it must be the factory’s fault.

Sure, factories make mistakes – even the best of them. They mislabel Natural boxes as Maduro, or Coronas as Robusto; they ship cigars that are under-fermented, or the “odd bad box” (as I refer to them), with cigars that were rolled too tightly, too loosely, or just improperly. After all, they make a LOT of cigars, and the factories are supervised, and cigars are rolled by human beings (I’m talking premium handmades, not machine-mades) so it’s not too surprising that things go wrong every so often. However, this is the exception and not the rule. If you’re an experienced cigar smoker, you know this by now.

Perhaps some of the psychology behind this blame game stems from the fact that most better cigars average close to $100 a box and a lot of customers just expect every stick to be perfect. I can’t speak for cases in which the cigars were rolled poorly, mislabeled, or under-fermented, but there are cases in which the fault for the bad cigar actually lies with the consumer.

Many of the questions I’m asked have to do with proper humidification. This tells me that even though a lot of cigar smokers tend to follow the rules with regard to keeping their temperature and humidity at the proper levels, many are still not sure, or are unable to control their conditions consistently. To be fair, any number of factors having nothing to do with the smoker could contribute to storage problems.

bad cigar

The burn quality of the cigar can make the difference between a good cigar and a bad cigar

Even I’ve been tripped-up by this. I had a box of cigars I bought from a very well-respected manufacturer. No matter how many I smoked, they kept “exploding” on me. Once I got through the first inch, they would crack open. I have patience for one or two, but by the time you get through half the box you begin to wonder, “Who the hell made these?” As it turns out, my hygrometer was off, and even though the cigars felt OK before lighting, they just had too much moisture in them. There are other factors like extra-juicy ligero that can cause this, so I wrote to the factory.

At this point, let me interject that when you complain to the factory, I’ve rarely found a manufacturer that didn’t do everything possible to find the source of the problem. Moreover, in some cases they’ll go around the retailer and just send you a complimentary box. After all, they really do want you to be satisfied, lest we not forget that a lot of pride goes into the making of premium cigars. I’ve even seen some factories bend over backwards to help out a customer, and even then, the customer wasn’t satisfied. Well, when it comes to some people, all you can say is “go figure.”

There are also some retailers who don’t properly store the cigars they keep in stock. You certainly can’t blame the factory for that. But not unlike the manufacturers, most retailers will do everything in their power to make good on a “bad” sale.

The point is, before you jump to conclusions about who’s at fault when you get that odd bad box, cigar sampler, or even a single bad cigar, consider the possibility that the fault is yours. Here are a few pointers that may help before you find yourself smoking through your ears rather than your mouth:

  1. If you order from an online cigar store, give the cigars a few days or even a week to settle in your humidor. You’d be surprised what a difference this makes in a lot of cases.
  2. If you buy from a brick & mortar store, try to check out the conditions in which they keep their cigars. Maybe they’re not doing their job.
  3. Make sure your humidor is consistent in terms of it’s temperature and humidity. (Remember to rotate your cigars every couple of months, too.)
  4. If you tend to smoke a lot of the same blend, don’t be surprised if they taste a little different every so often. Unless the factory announces a specific blend change, the blend never varies in terms of its leaf type content, and that includes the pre-bunching weight of the tobaccos. Just realize that tobaccos will vary from harvest to harvest, and if the factory is doing its job, the smoke, if not entirely consistent, should be in the ballpark 99% of the time.


Gary Korb has been writing and editing content for since its debut in 2008. An avid cigar smoker for over 30 years, during the past 12 years he has worked on the marketing side of the premium cigar business as a Sr. Copywriter, blogger, and cigar reviewer. A graduate of the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, prior to his career in the cigar business, Gary worked in the music and video industry as a marketer and a publicist.


  1. Henry says:

    Do recommend taking the cigars out of the cellophane wrapper to store them in the humidor?

  2. Gary Korb says:

    Actually, I do. Almost all of my cigars are stored “au natural.” Only in certain cases, where the cigar is either very expensive and/or I know it has a very delicate wrapper leaf do I leave them in the cellos. Sometimes, even in those cases I clip the cello at the base of the foot to allow some extra air in there.

  3. Tom Marshall says:

    I took a buddy of mine with me to play golf at Sage Valley Golf club in Graniteville, SC a couple of months ago. I have loved Cuba Aliados cigars for years and I took a few with me out to the course. I was enjoying one and offered one to my friend. Mine smoked well and his “exploded” as you put it. I don’t know. Maybe he was just rough on the wrapper? I was embarrassed that I’d given it to him. I had told him what an incredible smoke it was and yada yada, and then to have the cigar basically unravel. Ouch.

  4. Terry Souers says:

    I met a guy at a cigar event who complained that all the cigars he smoked from a certain box tasted quite harsh. He cursed the manufacturer for selling inferior cigars and vowed to never purchase another one from this manufacturer. The more we talked, the more it became evident that he was smoking his cigars way too quickly. The “harsh” cigars were toros and he was blowing through them in 20-30 minutes! Smoking cigars is about many things… taste, aroma AND slowing down. If you only have 20-30 minutes, try a petite corona… and stop blaming the manufacturer.

  5. Gary Korb says:

    Hi Terry,
    Correctamundo! I have noted this in other posts. You should try to hit on your cigar no more than once or twice a minute. I know a fellow who smokes through Toros in half the time it would normally take, too. The guy’s a chimney, and I often wonder whether he’s smoking more out of habit than for enjoyment. As you pointed out: Slow down!

  6. David Scott says:


    Just an addendum about cigars in cello in a humidor. It depends on if you have only one kind of cigar in your humidor. If you have even just two different brands (bands) then keep them wrapped. Otherwise, the flavors will blend, and I ruined several Partagas limited edition that way. And after all, the cello certainly isn’t “air tight” and they still get plenty of humidity in a properly maintained humidor.