Cigars 101

How to Fix 5 Common Cigar Burn Issues

Reading Time: 6 minutes

COMMON CIGAR BURNING ISSUES & HOW TO FIX THEM

Whether you’re a smoking newbie, or an accomplished aficionado, cigar burn issues are a common problem we all face. If you’re looking at this article right now, chances are you recently came across a burning problem yourself. Maybe your cigar is only burning down one side. Maybe the burn line isn’t straight like it normally is. Maybe a weird random burn hole appeared in the middle of your cigar (yep, this does happen).

cigar advisor 5 most common burn issues - mousehole burn
A harmless mousehole burn that results from a channel of drier tobacco inside the cigar.

From construction issues, to wind, the conditions inside your humidor, and even how fast you’re smoking—there are a range of reasons why your cigar’s gotten out of hand.

In this article, we’ll talk about why and when common cigar burning issues occur, and more importantly, what you can do to fix—or even prevent—them altogether. Here are five of the biggest repeat burning-offenders:

1. Uneven Burn

The grandaddy of all burn issues. Simply put, it means that your cigar isn’t burning straight and the burn line may look wavy or jagged. Uneven burns typically resolve on their own, though they sometimes evolve into other burning issues that we’ll cover later.

cigar advisor 5 most common burn issues - uneven burn

What causes a cigar to burn unevenly?

There are three primary suspects of uneven burns. Improper lighting, humidification issues, and wind.

How to fix an uneven cigar burn:

When it comes to lighting, make sure you evenly toast and light the foot of your cigar. Ensure that all of it (including all of the wrapper’s outer edge) is glowing orange. Check out our detailed guide on how to properly light your cigar if you need help!

Wind is wind. And you can’t really fix it, but if it’s consistently blowing against one side of your cigar, that side will burn faster—like blowing on kindling embers when you’re starting a fire. Slowly turn the cigar in your hand (the same way you would when lighting it) so that it blows more evenly across the cigar.

How weather can affect your cigar’s burn:

 

 

2. Canoeing

One of the more common burning issues, canoeing occurs when a cigar only burns down one side. This gives the unburned portion the appearance of a canoe, hence the name.

cigar advisor 5 most common burn issues - canoeing cigar

What causes cigar canoeing?

While the same issues that cause uneven burn can cause canoeing, it’s most commonly a symptom of humidification issues—namely not rotating cigars in your humidor often enough.

Dig deeper into canoeing and other burning issues.

How to fix a canoeing cigar:

Most canoeing issues can be rectified by turning the cigar in your hand to promote even airflow. If you’re in windy conditions, put the unburned side into the wind until it evens up.

cigar advisor 5 most common burn issues - uneven burn starting to canoe
This is an uneven burn that’s progressing into a full-blown canoeing issue.

In extreme cases, you can try to set the cigar down until it goes out, knock the ashes off, and recut it slightly above the burn line. But not all cigars handle a relight well, so only use this as a last-ditch effort.

 

3. Tunneling

Have you ever had a cigar burning the inner filler while the outer wrapper and binder remains untouched? They’ll actually burrow holes that look like tunnels going deep into the heart of your stick.

cigar advisor 5 most common burn issues - tunneling cigar

What causes cigar tunneling?

Tunneling occurs when the inside of a cigar is drier than the outside. Moreover, it’s an indication that you’ve got too much humidity in your humidor, or that you haven’t given the cigar enough time to acclimate to the conditions inside of it…especially if you’re rehydrating a dry cigar.

Tunneling can also occur when smoking too slowly or from inadequately lighting the edges of the cigar.

Fun fact: Sometimes tunneling can lead to a ‘mousehole burn’ as shown in the intro. Fire takes the path of least resistance, and sometimes there’s a channel of drier tobacco leading right to the surface of the wrapper, behind the burn line. These usually aren’t a huge deal, but they’re interesting to see, and pretty rare.

Get a more in-depth look at cigar tunneling.

See Pullo’s video on mousehole burns:

 

How to fix a tunneling cigar:

First, the bad news. A cigar tunneling due to humidity issues will keep tunneling and probably require several relights (what we refer to as touch-ups).  You have to decide whether it’s worth it to you to keep at it. Fixing tunneling due to humidification is chalked up to prevention for the next time. Check the hygrometer in your humidor and make sure it’s between 63 and 70% relative humidity. If it isn’t, check out our handy guide on maintaining proper humidity in your humidor.

Furthermore, make sure the foot of your cigar is fully lit, and if that doesn’t help, try puffing on it a little more often. But not too often or you’ll end up with…

 

 

4. Coning

Coning occurs when you ash your cigar, but the core of the ashes stay in place, giving them a cone-like appearance. It’s important to note that coning isn’t always bad. Let’s talk about why.

cigar advisor 5 most common burn issues - cone ash

What causes cigar coning?

There are only two reasons a cigar is coning. One is that you’re smoking it too fast. Most of the air as you draw is hitting the outer edges of your cigar, and those edges burn faster. Smoke too fast, and this will continue to progress until the ash resembles more of a pencil tip than the long traditional ‘stack of nickels’ ashes we’re used to seeing.

The second cause is higher priming tobaccos in the core of the cigar. Tobaccos all burn at different rates, so cigarmakers will compensate for slower burning tobaccos in the core by using a more combustible leaf in the outer filler and binder. Since those tobaccos burn faster, the shape of the ash becomes pointed while the slower-burning fillers catch up.

How to fix a coning cigar:

You can only fix coning that’s formed from your smoking speed. Slow down a little and take more time between puffs. We recommend 30-60 seconds, but you can go even slower than that if needed. Even up to a few minutes is fine. If slowing down doesn’t fix the issue, it probably doesn’t have anything to do with you. I’ve smoked many a fine cigar with coned ashes that tasted just as good as their cylindrical cousins.

 

 

5. My Cigar Won’t Stay Lit

Lighting. Over. And over. Endlessly. We’ve all been there. No matter what you do, the cigar keeps going out on you. What did you ever do to deserve such scorn?

What causes a cigar to keep going out?

The most likely reason that your cigar isn’t staying lit is because it’s over-humidified, especially if you’ve just picked it up from a store. But much like the other burning issues we’ve talked about, improper lighting and smoking speed can be factors, too.

How to fix a cigar that won’t stay lit:

Give your cigar some time to rest. If it keeps going out on you, set it down for 15 minutes and see if it acclimates to wherever it is that you’re smoking it. That way, you’ll have better luck with a relight.

cigar advisor 5 most common burn issues - john pullo lighting a cigar
If you have to keep lighting over and over, it may be over-humidified.

Equally important, check to make sure you’ve lit your cigar properly the first time (and second time, and so on). You’d be surprised by how many times you’ll casually bogart your light. Especially when you’re talking to your buddies…or knocking back a few cold ones. We’ve all been there.

If a cigar’s over-humidification is too great, there’s not much you can do besides put it out…or soldier on and suffer. My advice—grab another stick that’s acclimated the way you like it in your humidor and enjoy that instead.

Do you have a burn issue we haven’t mentioned? Or a fix we didn’t think of? Leave us a comment and let us know!

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Jared Gulick

Jared Gulick

Features Editor, Jared Gulick, is a Certified Tobacconist, nerd of all things science, musician and serial abuser of the Oxford comma. He made his way to the Famous Smoke Shop retail store in 2018 and joined the Advisors when it was discovered that he could locate the shift key. Prior to his work in the cigar industry, he was a recording studio engineer, songwriter, and a journalism major at Northampton Community College.

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