How to Correct a Cigar with an Uneven Burn

An uneven burn can transform the simple pleasure of smoking a cigar into a frustrating experience. At Hiland’s Cigars, we know that a well-burned cigar is essential to truly savoring the complex flavors and aromas that premium tobacco has to offer. That’s why we believe it’s vital for every cigar enthusiast, whether you’re a seasoned aficionado or a newcomer, to understand how to correct an uneven burn. Though correcting an uneven burn on your cigar is imperative while smoking, it is also important to know why your cigar isn’t burning evenly so that you can avoid this disaster during the next smoking session. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the anatomy of uneven burns, their causes, and most importantly, step-by-step methods to fix them. By the end, you’ll be well-equipped to handle any uneven burns and get the most out of your cigar experience.

The Anatomy of a Faulty Cigar

In the world of cigars, an uneven burn is often referred to as “canoeing,” “tunneling,” or “running,” each term describing a different type of burn imperfection. When a cigar “canoes,” one side burns faster than the other, creating a boat-like shape. In “tunneling,” the inner core of the cigar burns faster than the outer wrapper, leaving a tunnel-like hole. A “run” is when a straight line of unburned tobacco forms, typically because of a vein in the leaf or a poorly constructed cigar. Understanding these terms is crucial for diagnosing the issue and taking corrective action.

Each type of uneven burn can impact your smoking experience in different ways. Canoeing often results in uneven flavor profiles and a difficult draw, while tunneling can make it hard to keep the cigar lit. Running, on the other hand, usually creates an irregular ash and can lead to an acrid taste.

While various factors contribute to uneven burns—such as humidity conditions, construction quality, and smoking technique—knowing the anatomy of the problem is the first step toward a solution. Armed with this knowledge, you can take appropriate measures to salvage your cigar experience.

Signs a Cigar Might not Burn Evenly

Recognizing the early indicators of an uneven burn can save your cigar-smoking experience from turning sour. Here are some telltale signs to watch out for:

  1. Asymmetrical Ash Formation: If you notice that the ash is forming unevenly, with one side becoming noticeably longer than the other, you’re likely dealing with a canoeing issue.
  2. Difficult Draw: When you find it increasingly hard to draw smoke from the cigar, it could be a symptom of tunneling. This happens when the inner filler burns faster than the wrapper, creating an obstruction.
  3. Rapid Heat Buildup: If one section of your cigar becomes too hot to touch compared to the other sections, it’s a clear indicator of an uneven burn. Hotspots can result in a bitter flavor profile.
  4. Flavor Inconsistency: An uneven burn can significantly affect the taste of the cigar. If you notice sporadic shifts in flavor—from sweet to bitter or from smooth to harsh—that’s often a sign that something’s amiss.
  5. Flickering Flame: In extreme cases of uneven burns, you may even see small flames emanating from one side of the cigar, indicating that one section is burning more intensely than the rest. This is a good sign your cigar is way too dry!
  6. Visible Run: A clear, straight line of unburned tobacco is a sign of a run, typically owing to a prominent vein in the tobacco leaf or poor construction of the cigar.
  7. Sputtering or Cracking Sound: While smoking, you might hear sputtering or cracking sounds. These are usually a result of uneven heating, leading to moisture in the tobacco leaf turning into steam and causing mini “explosions.”  Though this is rare, it’s likely your cigar vendor has  played a nasty trick on you, doesn’t maintain his/her cigars, is in a secret pact with the CIA, or all of the above.  The bottom line — if your cigar is cracking and sputtering, you need to put it out and replace it with the quickness.

Being alert to these signs enables you to take corrective action quickly, ensuring that your cigar-smoking experience remains as enjoyable as possible.

Preemptive Measures: Avoiding Asymmetrical Ash on Your Cigars:

Avoiding an uneven burn starts long before you light up your cigar. Here’s how to be proactive in ensuring an even burn:

  1. Quality Check: First and foremost, invest in quality cigars from trusted sources like Hiland’s Cigars. Inferior cigars are more prone to construction issues that can lead to an uneven burn.
  2. Proper Storage: Store your cigars in a well-maintained humidor at a consistent humidity level. Too much or too little moisture can disrupt the burn.
  3. Rotation: If you’ve stored your cigars for an extended period, consider rotating them in your humidor. This helps ensure that all parts of the cigar have uniform moisture levels.
  4. Cutting Technique: Use a sharp, clean cigar cutter to ensure a clean cut at the cap. An uneven or ragged cut can contribute to an uneven burn.
  5. Lighting: Use a butane torch lighter made for cigars or a wooden match for precise, even lighting. A poorly lit foot is one of the most common causes of an uneven burn. Hold the flame close to the foot and rotate the cigar to ensure it starts burning evenly.  You can check out our blog post on How to Light a Cigar.
  6. Initial Puffs: The first few puffs can set the tone for the rest of your smoking experience. Take slow, even draws to help establish an even burn from the outset.
  7. Temperature Control: Avoid smoking your cigar in windy conditions or areas with erratic temperature fluctuations, as these can contribute to an uneven burn.
  8. Ash Maintenance: Don’t be too eager to tap off the ash; a longer ash can actually help regulate the burn temperature. However, if it becomes too long, it may affect the air draw and contribute to an uneven burn.

By following these preemptive measures, you’ll significantly reduce the likelihood of experiencing an uneven burn, making your cigar-smoking session that much more enjoyable.

Step-by-Step Guide to Correcting an Uneven Burning Cigar:

Even the most seasoned cigar aficionados occasionally encounter uneven burns. The three most common types are canoeing, tunneling, and runners. Here’s a guide to correcting each:


Canoeing is when one side of the cigar burns faster than the other, leaving a canoe-like shape.

  1. Identify the Issue: First, determine which side is burning faster.
  2. Rotate the Cigar: Hold the faster-burning side on top so that the heat rises and allows the slower-burning side to catch up.
  3. Touch Up: If rotating doesn’t solve the issue, use your lighter to carefully touch up the unburnt side, making sure to avoid overheating the wrapper.


Tunneling is when the inner core burns faster than the outer wrapper, creating a tunnel-like effect.

  1. Identify the Issue: If you notice a harsh flavor and excess heat, you might be dealing with tunneling.
  2. Remove Ash: Carefully tap off any loose ash from the foot.
  3. Expose the Tunnel: Use your cutter to snip off the part of the cigar where the tunneling has occurred, making a fresh cut below it.
  4. Re-Light: Light the cigar as you would normally, taking care to achieve an even light across the newly cut foot.


Runners happen when a small portion of the wrapper burns significantly faster than the rest, often running up the side.

  1. Identify the Issue: Look for a thin line of burning tobacco running up the side of the cigar.
  2. Cool Down: Place the cigar in your ashtray for a minute to let the runner cool slightly.
  3. Touch Up: Use your lighter to carefully even out the unburnt tobacco, making sure not to overheat the wrapper.
  4. Apply Moisture: Very lightly moisten your finger and gently touch it to the runaway burn to slow it down, aiding the rest of the cigar to catch up.

Knowing how to correct these uneven burns can save a smoking experience that might otherwise go up in, well, smoke. The next time you encounter canoeing, tunneling, or runners, you’ll be well-equipped to handle them.

FAQs on Correcting Cigars with Atypical Burns:

1. Why does my cigar keep burning unevenly?
Uneven burns can be caused by various factors such as poor construction, improper lighting technique, or even wind if you’re smoking outdoors. Sometimes it’s just bad luck, but often it’s a preventable issue.
2. Can an uneven burn affect the flavor of my cigar?
Yes, an uneven burn can lead to one side of the cigar burning faster than the other, causing the tobacco to heat unevenly and result in a bitter or harsh taste.
3. How can I fix a cigar that has started to tunnel?
First, tap off any loose ash. Then, use a cigar cutter to carefully snip off the part where the tunneling has occurred, making a fresh cut below it. Light the cigar again, ensuring an even burn.
4. Will touching up the cigar too frequently ruin it?
Overcorrecting or excessively touching up the cigar can cause the wrapper to become too hot, potentially altering the flavor and burning qualities of the cigar. It’s important to be gentle and precise when touching up the burn.
5. What tools should I have on hand to correct an uneven burn?
A reliable butane lighter and a cigar cutter are essential tools for correcting an uneven burn. Some smokers also keep a small brush to clean off excess ash.
6. How do I prevent uneven burns in the first place?
Prevention starts with proper storage in a well-maintained humidor. Make sure to rotate your cigars periodically and ensure your humidor is at the right humidity level. Proper lighting technique is also crucial for preventing uneven burns.
7. Can an uneven burn be a sign of a poorly constructed cigar?
In some cases, yes. If you notice that cigars from the same box are consistently burning unevenly, it might indicate a construction issue, such as unevenly packed tobacco.
8. What do I do if my cigar is ‘canoeing’ even after I’ve touched it up?
If the problem persists, you may need to let the cigar go out and cut off the unevenly burned section before re-lighting it.
9. Does ash length have anything to do with an uneven burn?
Long ash can actually act as a wind barrier and help maintain an even burn. However, if the ash is too long, it can also cause the cigar to go out or result in a messy ashfall.
10. Is it worth trying to correct an uneven burn, or should I just let the cigar go?
Correcting an uneven burn can save a cigar and make for a much more enjoyable smoking experience. Unless the cigar is flawed beyond repair, it’s often worth the effort to correct the burn.

Now that you’re equipped with all the know-how to correct an uneven burn, why not put these tips into action? At Hiland’s Cigars, we offer a premium selection of quality cigars perfect for honing your cigar-smoking skills. With our fast shipping and unparalleled customer service, we’re here to elevate your smoking experience. And if you happen to encounter an uneven burn, you’ll know just how to handle it. We offer discounts on cigars every day!  Call to order, order online, or come in the shop to browse our extensive cigar inventory.

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