How to Unplug a Cigar
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 unplug a cigar that doesn't draw properly. My theory is, even if the tool doesn't solve the problem, it's always better to try than give up.
One of the most popular un-plugging tools - and arguably, the best designed for fixing plugged cigars because of it's serrated edge - is the Havana Saver. It's a lot like an ice pick, but the needle is twisted to help slice through the tobacco leaves going in and coming out. And because it's smaller in size, it works just as well on 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.
The one thing to be aware of when using a tool like this to unplug a cigar 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 Havana Saver is designed to ream the entire length of the cigar.
There's often no need to buy a tool at all to unplug a cigar. 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 Cigar Advisor, 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 to unplug a cigar. Just remember, the thinner, the better. Moreover, the advantage to the drill bit and the screw is, like the Havana Saver, 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.