What Causes a Cigar to Tunnel?

Gary KorbCigar 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.)

cigar tunnelingAnother cause of tunneling is when the wrapper is not neatly rolled around the bunch causing a gap between the wrapper and binder. It may not be noticeable to the naked eye, but all the wrapper needs is a minuscule bit of gap between it and the binder to cause tunneling.  There is also a condition called “double bunching.” If a cigar is properly rolled all the leaves will “fall into line” when its lit and you’ll get a nice clean ash. It’s a rare occurrence, but what happens is, during the bunching process the binder gets doubled back causing it to be too thick. Because there is now “more” combustible tobacco in the mix, the cigar will tunnel.

Finally, make sure you get a good even burn at the foot when lighting your cigars. The leaf at the center, normally the Ligero, burns slowest, so if the surrounding tobaccos burn properly you should get a well-formed cone or “cherry” when you tap off the ash.


Sometimes because the construction issues are inherent to the individual cigar, this problem can not be corrected. In those cases, you have to make the decision based on how severe the issue is, and how much you’re enjoying the cigar otherwise. You can either continue to smoke in spite of the issue, or just give up, toss it, and try another stick. Comment below and let us know how you make the call on whether to keep smoking or throw it away!


Gary Korb has been writing and editing content for CigarAdvisor.com 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. Danno says:

    This is a major problem with premium cigars. My biggest issue is that it seems to happen with specific makers, and that most of the box will tunnel. It is like trying to smoke a tobacco straw.

    One highly coveted brand is consistently underfilled. Gary’s reasons may also play into this, but I’ll be damned that a major manufacturer can’t consistently roll a proper cigar. I have NEVER had a Padron tunnel, and I have smoked literally thousands. Fuente, maybe two, at most, having smoked thousands as well.

    If Gary’s reasons are the case with the cigars I am referring to, then why haven’t the manufacturers tweaked the blend to facilitate a proper burn? What good is a certain flavor profile if you only experience it with 5 cigars out of a box of 20 or 25? The rest turn to crap from constant relights, or attempts to straighten the burn. I can look at the foot of these cigars, and sure as hell, the center is very loose, with the tobacco bunching getting tighter as you go out towards the wrapper.

    These cubanesque smokes are cuban like alright, in that the rolling sucks, and they either tunnel, or are plugged. Just like so many cuban cigars. To add insult to injury, one of these blenders used to roll great cigars with wonderful flavors. All that went out the window, quality suffered, flavor became mediocre, all for the chance to be a monster manufacturer. I stopped buying thise cigars years ago. Just too many headaches.

    Bumping the humidity down to about 60 can help a little, but then your long term storage is compromised as you lose oleoresins at a much faster pace than at higher humidity. So, Keep your stash at 67 or so and then a small, ready to smoke, supply at 60 for a minimum of 3 weeks before attempting to light up. Bah!

  2. santana says:


  3. Mongrel says:

    let’s face it, this is a common factor in cheap cigars (over priced cigars), and some green cigars. it’s the roll and age that matters! you can take cheap leaf and roll a good burner. if it’s done properly and aged well in a humi anything can burn well. brands like these aren’t sold with respect, they’re pushed.

  4. Ed Engelhardt says:

    A major problem? Wouldn’t consistency be a trait of any good company?
    I’m kind of new in the cigar world, so after trying a sampler pack of Java Corona. They were great, so I picked up a box of 24. OK, this is no joke. I have had about 7 cigars so far and each one does the same thing. The first inch and a half, they smoke fine. After that, these literally go out about every 30 seconds. So I keep re-lighting. That’s when the tunneling starts. After about 2 inches, the tunneling gets worse and worse to the point that after another half inch of smoking, there is about 3/4 of an inch of tunneling. That’s right, I measured the tunneling. 3/4 of an inch is a lot. So I cut the cigar and re-light it and the process starts all over again. It tunnels, and goes out in about 30 to 45 seconds.
    Did I get a bad batch? My humidity is 68% so I can’t imagine why the sampler Javas were fine and the boxed Javas are a waste. Can anyone shed some light and help me out with this? Between the cutting off the the outside to even it out, and the butane I use to keep re-lighting these, this just seems not worth it.

  5. Gary Korb says:

    ED: You are not the first person to whom this has happened. And I don’t just mean Java, but other cigars, too. The weirdest part is, the cigars, be they 5-packs, singles, or boxes, all come from the same factory and use approximately the same tobaccos. I say “approximately” because though the blend remains consistent, there may be some inconsistencies in the tobaccos themselves, not to mention that the cigars may also have been bunched and rolled by different workers at different times. When you factor in sorting and boxing etc., it’s always surprised me how so many cigars can be bad in the same box. I had canoeing problem with almost an entire box of excellent Nicaraguans (well, maybe the weren’t so excellent, after all), but the manufacturer has a glowing reputation. Turns out it was double bunching. I don’t want to tread into an area of cigar-making I’m not all that tuned-into, so maybe someone out there can better explain why this happens. One thing’s for sure, the customer usually won’t buy that particular cigar anymore, or even worse, stop buying anything made by that manufacturer. Storage could be an issue, even if your humidor is spot-on in every respect. I’m starting to think that perhaps the substance used to infuse the tobaccos doesn’t completely absorb into the leaf, so even after aging, shipping, sitting in a store or warehouse for so many days, weeks, etc., the leaf is still moist from the flavoring, and/or it’s getting into the binder. I’ll stop there, but this hypothesis may be worth considering.