What's more irritating than lighting up one of your favorite cigars and then come to the realization that you may burst an aneurysm attempting to puff enough smoke from it?
It does occur from time to time, although rare. And though annoying, it may be dealt with accordingly. The smoking experience is enhanced with a great cigar with an easy draw. A cigar with a difficult or challenging draw likely has a "plug" - an obstruction in the tobacco that prevents a cigar from drawing properly. This may occur when the filler tobacco is packed too tightly or bunched together improperly. After all, we are talking about premium cigars which are handrolled. Although the rolling technique may determine how easy or tight the draw may be, it's possible that a stem, a misplaced leaf, or a twisted bunch of filler may completely plug a cigar. A plugged cigar may smoke too hot, if at all, and negatively affect its flavor and aroma.
It is virtually impossible to avoid a plugged cigar; however, taking a few cold draws after clipping and before lighting may give you some indication on how easy or tight the draw will be once the cigar is lit. If found to be tight, perhaps clipping the cap of the cigar a little further may alleviate the problem - but need to be careful not to clip below the shoulder, as the wrapper will likely unravel and completely ruin the experience. So what does one do if the cigar is found to be plugged?
A tight cigar may be remedied by gently massaging it with the fingers to locate the tight spot and loosen the filler, taking caution to not apply too much force which may result in splitting the wrapper. If the plug is near the foot, it may be best to just light the cigar. If the plug is near the head, a toothpick or a paper clip may be carefully inserted into the head to gently loosen the filler. A draw poker can be purchased at a local tobacconist; however, these are not easy to travel with and quite cumbersome. The draw poker has a section that holds the cigar like a vise while the needle is inserted into the center of the cigar (see video below for a demonstration, courtesy of Thompson Cigar Inc.). It is designed to ream the entire length of the cigar. Whatever tool is used, it is important to start at the foot and patiently and gently work the tool through the center. If the draw is still tight after puffing, try the same at the head of the cigar. Even if you get just a little relief and the draw becomes slightly easier, hang in there - you may discover that the cigar will burn past the affected area and eventually smoke nicely.
The cigars that we enjoy are crafted by human hands and are inherently bound to have some imperfections. Aficionados accept this, and understand that plugged cigars are just a fact of life and may not be salvageable. If you encounter a plugged cigar that can't be salvaged, chalk it up as a loss, for there is another fine smoke with your name on it just waiting to be enjoyed!