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.