Cigars 101

Cigar Canoeing: A Burning Issue

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Canoeing Cigars – What it is & How to Prevent It

Do you want to know what strikes frustration in the minds of cigar smokers? Cigar canoeing. If you’re a new cigar smoker, the term might seem foreign to you. Plus, it may have already happened to one of your cigars. If you’re a fairly seasoned cigar smoker, you most definitely know about cigar canoeing. Nevertheless, let’s take a dive into the cause of this annoyance and how to fix a canoeing cigar.


Cigar Canoeing Defined

Cigar canoeing is when your cigar begins burning only on one side. The affected side looks similar to a hollowed-out canoe, while the opposite side of the cigar remains unharmed.

cigar advisor cigar canoeing: a burning issue - advanced cigar canoeing
Extreme Cigar Canoeing: One side of the wrapper has completely failed to burn.


Common Causes of Cigar Canoeing

The most common cause of canoeing is faulty rolling. In this case the filler and binder are making proper contact on one side of the wrapper, while the filler and/or binder on the other side is loose, causing a gap between the filler, binder and wrapper. The gap may not even be very deep or long. It only has to be enough to get one side of your cigar off to the races.

Drafts and breezes are another way a cigar can take a burn for the worse. Cigar smoking golfers can probably relate to this. I’ve had this happen during windy days on the patio and while driving with the driver window down. I’ve even had cigars burn unevenly just from sitting in the wrong spot in the lounge where the ventilation draft was blowing on me. If you plan on having a cigar on a breezy day, try to keep your back to the wind or find a spot that either reduces or blocks the wind altogether. You can also try turning it in your hand slowly as you smoke, a great prevention tip when sitting in the wind is unavoidable. Here are some tips on how to enjoy your cigar when smoking outside:



One other thing you can try is to smoke a cigar with a Maduro wrapper. Darker, thicker wrappers like Connecticut Broadleaf, San Andrés Morrón, and Ecuador Habano Maduro tend to hold-up better in uber-breezy situations.

Improper toasting and lighting can also contribute to cigar canoeing. Applying a proper light may not prevent canoeing down the line. If one part of the foot is burned more than another it can, in some but not all cases, lead to a full-blown canoeing incident.


How to Stop a Cigar From Canoeing

One method for fixing a canoeing cigar is to simply put it down as soon as you see it canoeing. (The early stage of canoeing is also called “flagging.”) After it goes out, tap the ash out of the foot and gently—meaning, don’t place the torch flame too close to the wrapper—burn off the excess tobacco on the unlit side until the foot is even again and re-light. It doesn’t always work, but it’s worth a try if you catch your cigar flagging early.

cigar advisor cigar canoeing: a burning issue - uneven burn
Early cigar canoeing is also called flagging.

Here’s another technique that’s sort of instinctive. I’m talking about the licking method. Maybe you’ve already tried this. You don’t literally lick the wrapper. Simply take a little saliva and apply it to the shorter, canoeing side of the wrapper just behind the ash. This should help slow down the flagging allowing the longer side to catch up. Again, if you catch it early it can save your smoking session.

Another remedy for cigar canoeing is to cut the cigar behind the source of the problem. Amputation is a bit radical but it may be the most effective way to stop a cigar from canoeing.

First, let the cigar go out. Next, cut the cigar about half an inch behind the shorter side of the burn. This will help you avoid charred tobacco which could be harsh when you re-light. Make sure you’ve got a really sharp cutter and one wide enough to accommodate the ring gauge of your cigar. The only other caveat I can offer is that if your wrapper is a bit dry, you could destroy what’s left of your cigar. Trust me on this. If you’re successful, re-light by toasting and lighting as you would a fresh cigar. It may take a bit longer due to oils in the tobacco, but you’ll be fine. Finally, this remedy may not be worth it if you’ve only got a couple of inches of cigar left behind the canoed section, so it’s your call.


Prevention Tips: How to Keep a Cigar from Canoeing

Keeping your humidor in top condition is one way to prevent cigar canoeing from the get-go. Proper temperature, humidity, and airflow are key to keeping your cigars factory fresh. Overloading your humidor can restrict the flow of air, which can cause some cigars to have an uneven amount of moisture. Such situations can cause one side of the cigar to burn unevenly and start carving out a canoe. Try to keep your cigar’s environment as stable as possible. Rotating your cigars from bottom to top occasionally will also help. You can also open your humidor for about 15 minutes once a week to give the box some fresh room air.

cigar advisor cigar canoeing: a burning issue - overhead view of a canoeing cigar
Overhead view of a canoeing cigar.

Here’s a tip that may save you the heartbreak of canoeing. When you shop for cigars at your local tobacconist, pick up the cigar you’re interested in and very gently squeeze the cigar from head to foot to check if the rolling is consistent. What you’re looking for is a spot along the cigar’s length that is a soft spot. If that’s the case, you should probably try another one from the box.

To be clear, some stores frown on this for obvious reasons. So, try to be as discreet and gentle with the cigar as possible. The last thing you want to do is feel-up every cigar in the box and ruin them for other customers. That said, you’ll find that most of the better-made, higher-priced brands rarely, if ever, have rolling issues.


The Cigar Canoeing Reality Check

So, here’s the deal. When a cigar begins to canoe or flag, the odds are in the cigar’s favor that it will continue to drive you nuts. Therefore, if you can’t resolve the issue after several attempts let it go and get another cigar. No self-respecting cigar smoker wants to toss a cigar, especially at today’s prices, but sometimes, as in business, you gotta take a loss.

Premium imported cigars are rolled by human beings working with a natural product with its own peculiarities. Not every cigar is going to be perfect. The best thing you can do is keep in mind what causes cigar canoeing and how to resolve it. Once again, keeping your humidor in good condition will help avoid some cigars with the potential for canoeing from doing so.


If you’ve had experiences with cigar canoeing, leave a comment telling us how you handled it.

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Gary Korb

Gary Korb

Executive Editor

Gary Korb has been writing and editing content for since its debut in 2008. An avid cigar smoker for over 30 years, he has worked on the marketing side of the premium cigar business as a Sr. Copywriter, blogger, and Executive Editor of Cigar Advisor. 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.

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