Cigar tunneling, a circumstance in which a cigar’s wrapper leaf doesn’t burn, causing a cave-like formation in the foot of the cigar, can be caused by several factors: The purpose of the binder leaf is to help all of the tobaccos burn at approximately the same rate. Therefore, if the wrapper is too moist, too thick, or too oily, it may not burn at the same rate as the filler and binder. (Maduro and Oscuro wrappers tend to be much oilier than most shade grown and other “natural” wrapper leaves.)
Why 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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- Make sure your humidor is consistent in terms of it’s temperature and humidity. (Remember to rotate your cigars every couple of months, too.)
- 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.