How’s this? You’re hanging out with your compañeros, enjoying some cigars, drinks, snacks, etc., and you reach one of those moments when everyone goes silent. Here are my picks for the top 10 cigar smoking tricks you can do with your cigars to liven up the mood. Continue reading
Not too long ago, I wrote an article for CigarAdvisor.com about how I used an ordinary household condiment to repair a wrapper that was unfurling on my cigar. The way it happened was, I had mistakenly clipped the cap of my cigar a bit too low. I’ve seen some guys chop their cigars below the shoulders and the wrappers have remained intact. However, more often than not, over-cutting the cap will result in unraveling of the wrapper leaf, which is what happened in my case. Even more annoying is when this happens to a really fine (and not to mention, pricey), cigar. Continue reading
It happens, and fortunately it happens rarely; but when it does there are few things in life more irritating. I refer to the odd, plugged cigar. Nothing is more of a buzz kill than lighting-up one of your favorite cigars only to realize you’re probably going to need a shop-vac to get any smoke out of it. Since it’s more the exception than the rule, cigar smokers aren’t usually prepared to deal with a cigar that refuses to let go.
The question is, what do you do when it happens? Depending on where you are, like away from home, you may not have the necessary tools handy to deal with the situation. I’ve read a lot of emails in which the “victim” simply trashed the cigar. Even more upsetting is reading that the majority of the box or bundle was plugged.
Although it may be necessary in some cases, trashing a plugged cigar doesn’t have to be the only option. There are a number of products on the market to help you deal with cigars that don’t draw properly. My theory is, even if the tool doesn’t solve the problem, it’s always better to try than give up.
The most popular of un-plugging tools is the Drawpoker. Due to its size, you can’t just stuff it in your pocket and carry it around. However, it has a vise-like section that holds your cigar steady while the needle is inserted through the center of the cigar.
Another item that’s a bit more portable is the Maverick Quick Draw Cigar Awl. It’s little more than an ice pick that you can get at discount super store for about 97¢. It also comes with a smaller skewer-like awl for smaller cigars, which is a nice plus. One piece of advice: If you’re traveling by plane, leave it home or put it in your check-on, because TSA will snatch it up in less than a nanosecond.
Perhaps the most convenient cigar-unplugging solution is the Havana draw enhancer pen. Because it looks like and is the size of the average pen, you can slip it into your pocket and take it anywhere. What also makes this tool more effective is, unlike the two aforementioned devices, the needle has little serrations on it which literally slice through the tobacco leaves going in and coming out.
The one thing to be aware of when using any of these tools is you have to have a surgeon-like approach. Work slow and steady. Many a cigar that could have been saved has been toe-tagged DOA because the tool was inserted too quickly and either caused the cigar to expand and tear the wrapper, or it popped out through the side of the cigar. (Oops.)
I advise starting at the foot, and try to center the needle as best you can. Work it in slowly while turning it, and don’t push your luck. Get as far as you can, then remove it and try puffing. If it hasn’t improved that much try doing the same starting from the head. If the plug is in the middle, you could be out of luck, though the Drawpoker is designed to ream the entire length of the cigar.
There’s often no need to buy a tool at all for unplugging cigars. Sometimes all you need is a large paper clip or an ordinary toothpick. Believe it or not, while writing this article I had a plugged cigar and I used a mini screwdriver that I keep around for adjusting and bleeding my cigar lighters.
Cigar smokers are also very resourceful. If you follow the CigarAdvisor newsletter, some of the solutions offered by the readers in the Tips section range from using a small drill bit to a three-inch drywall screw. Just remember, the thinner, the better. Moreover, the advantage to the drill bit and the screw is, like the Draw Enhancer Pen, they also chew up some of the surrounding tobaccos.
One last piece of advice: Regardless of the tool you use to clear the plug, if you get even a little more relief from the draw, try to stay with it. You may find that eventually the cigar will burn past the affected area and clear up on its own.
When you light-up a cigar you probably don’t think very much about how you light it. Well, as a “professional cigar smoker,” this is one of the things I do think about, so I thought it might be fun to look at the different techniques people use to light their cigars.
Before I get into them, here are a couple of things to keep in mind with regard to flame. The blue portion of the flame is the hottest. This is why torch lighters are so effective for lighting cigars. Moreover, this uber-hot flame permits you to “toast” and light your cigars without scorching them. As described below, if you can help it, you really don’t want the flame touching the tobacco. That’s especially important in this case, because the blue flame is so hot, you can hold the torch several inches from the foot of the cigar and still get a really good light.
That brings us to the white part of the flame. This part of the flame is pretty damn hot, too. Want to find out? Hold your open hand palm down about 6 inches above the tip of a “soft” butane flame, or a match. You’ll feel the heat almost instantly. This is also why you needn’t touch the tobacco when using a regular butane lighter or match. If it can burn your skin from that distance, imagine what it can do to a razor thin wrapper leaf at close range.
And speaking of matches, if you prefer to use them over a lighter, use a long cedar wood match rather than book matches. They offer a nice aroma when lit, and give you more time to get the job done.
I think the reason so many cigar smokers just “go for it” is that they don’t have the patience to light a cigar in the traditional method, which I’ve summarized below.
Without repeating the whole sequence here, basically it’s a two-step process: Toast the foot entirely, blow on it until it glows all red, then holding the cigar in your mouth at about a 45-degree angle, apply the flame without actually touching the tobacco and puff, drawing the smoke slowly through the head.
The “Flame Thrower”
This is where the cigar smoker clips the cigar, puts flame right to the foot and puffs away. No toasting, just flick the ignition switch and go, usually with fire emanating from the foot like a dragster doing the quarter-mile.
The “Roll, Puff and Blow”
A little closer to the traditional method. The cigar is toasted, then the smoker rotates the cigar while applying flame to the foot and puffing. Once the smoke takes, turn the foot toward you and blow on it. This helps ensure that the entire foot gets lit evenly.
The “Overkill” method
This is similar to the above method except during the toasting process you blow on the foot to see how you’re doing. You notice some black, unlit areas still left on the foot. Normally, you would gently blow on the foot while rotating the cigar to allow these areas to catch. But using this method, the smoker keeps hitting the blackened areas of the foot with the torch flame until they glow like a branding iron. All this does is cause the tobacco to produce more tars, which may turn the cigar prematurely bitter.
The “Torch/Match Switch-A-Roo”
I kind of like this one, though it involves a little extra work. The cigar is first toasted with a torch lighter, followed by a cedar match (or a soft butane flame) to complete the process. The advantage of this is you get the best of both worlds. A cooler flame to toast the cigar followed by a white-hot flame to ensure the tobacco takes completely.
The “Three Matches” method
This is very cool. I saw Gordon Mott do this in a video a while back titled Three Matches. You need three long cedar matches for this one, and it takes a lot of patience.
Important: Do not clip the cigar first! I’ll explain why later.
Light the first match, hold it in close to and in front of the cigar and rotate the cigar as you toast it. Eventually the match will burn down. Be sure to knock-off the ash of the match as you go to keep it burning properly. Put it out and immediately move on to the second match, concentrating on the center portion of the foot as you continue to rotate the cigar. Again, this must be done very slowly. By the end of the third match, the foot should be pretty well lit and emanating a good amount of smoke. At this point, clip the head and draw on the cigar. That’s it!
The reason for not clipping the cigar first is, the gentleman who showed Mott how to do this felt that aromas and flavors coming from the flame source could pass through the cigar and affect the flavor of the tobacco. Personally, I don’t buy it, especially when torch lighters burn so clean. Moreover, Mott admits that he hardly ever uses this technique due to time constraints, but it’s fun to try when you do have the time.
Regardless of how they were taught to light a premium handmade, most cigar smokers eventually develop their own personal method for getting the job done. Sometimes I see someone lighting-up and I want to cringe, but in the end it’s really a matter of to each his own. Or, to look at it another way, when was the last time you corrected someone on how to light their cigar?
Finally, your own personal cigar lighting methods are welcome in the comments field.
Editor’s Note: This post was updated on June 5, 2012.
So there you are enjoying your cigar, and you realize it’s not burning properly. The cigar appears to be burning only on one side. This is called “canoeing” for the dugout canoe-like appearance your cigar has taken on.
There are a number of reasons cigars will canoe or just burn funny. First, it could be the way the cigar was lit. If you were in a hurry, chances are you didn’t get all of the foot. Well-made cigars will usually correct themselves after that first half-inch or so. Maybe you didn’t clip enough of the cap. The cigar may feel like it’s drawing well, but if it’s not drawing evenly, that can factor-in to a poor burn.
The cigar could also be improperly humidified. If some areas of the cigar are drier than others, the cigar will burn poorly.
Another reason could be the bunching. Sometimes the ligero (the slowest burning of the tobacco leaves) will be bunched off-center, or the binder will be “double-bunched” (folded over itself). Because the binder burns faster than the other leaves, your cigar will begin to canoe. You may notice that this canoed section is also quite hard when you try to “ash it” off. Usually, it’s the ligero and the wrapper leaf holding it together.
The most common method of fixing this is to burn the canoed section off with a torch lighter. I call this “the flame thrower option.” If you don’t mind getting your cigar cutter a little dirty, a better way to go would be to clip the excess leaf off at the ash.
Imperceptible holes in the wrapper can also cause a cigar to leak smoke. These holes have a negative effect on the burn because when you draw on your cigar you’re also drawing air through those little holes.
One way to test if your cigar is leaking is to place it in the ashtray saddle, or hold it with the unburned side facing you. Starting at the foot, take a torch lighter and hold the flame close to the wrapper, then work back toward where the canoed section meets the ash. As the leaf ignites, you may see tiny smoke trails emanating from the still unburned portion of the cigar. That may be where the problem lies. If this is the case, it means the smoke is not being properly contained and will prevent the cigar from burning “clean.”
If the holes are close to the ash, let the cigar continue to burn normally (so to speak). Once the burn gets past the holes the cigar should correct itself. If you see numerous smoke signals rising at various points along the remaining length of the cigar, you may just have to toss it.
Look for signs of holes or cracks in the wrapper during the toasting process, too. Since your eyes tend to be focused on toasting, you may not be paying attention to any wisps of smoke that appear along the body of the cigar. The holes may even be on the underside where you can’t see them.
You can also do this at various intervals during your smoke even if the cigar appears to be burning fine. After ashing, apply the torch flame to the center of the foot. That will force the smoke out through any holes, cracks, and even gaps that may exist between the seams of the roll. I wouldn’t recommend doing this too often, as it could turn your cigar bitter from overexposure to flame.
Finally, a poor burn is usually the exception to the rule. Most premium handmade cigars are pretty well sealed once they’re rolled. If you do have a burn issue, you now know at least one way of finding the source of the problem.