I subscribe to the Cigar.com newsletter and was reading the May 19th issue while awaiting repairs on two flat tires on the Smokeasy® mobile lounge. Below is from the "Q & A" section of the newsletter - I found the advice to be absolutely solid and just HAD to share with you. As someone who has been in the same predicament - receiving one very rare, special vintage cigar as a gift, which is clearly irreplaceable, but had some imperfections or construction issues - I knew that others would appreciate this advice. So, enjoy...
From The Cigar.com Newsletter (May 19, 2013 issue) - "Q & A: Patchwork?"
Q: My friend gave me a Cuban cigar that he claims was rolled in 1940. I'm happy, but the foot is slightly cracked, the head is slightly cracked, and there seems to be a small piece of tobacco missing from the wrapper. I really want to try this cigar but I'm worried about construction problems. What should I do?
A: You seem to be in quite a predicament. In the words of our cigar expert Joshua Smelko, "A Cuban from 1940? I'd just light it up, deal with the patchwork, and savor the experience." Unfortunately, you're dealing with an incredibly rare cigar that cannot be replaced. So if you want to experience the cigar in all its glory, you're going to have to touch it up a little bit. Keep in mind, we are assuming your cigar is still properly humidified and has been maintained properly in a humidor, despite the cracks.
For the cracked head, make sure you really get the tobacco moist with your mouth, then try to cut as much of the crack off as possible, even if it means cutting more of the head than you normally would. You should be able to correct the problem and make the cigar smokable. Be careful not to cut past the shoulder of the cigar to prevent the wrapper from coming undone.
For the cracked foot, remember, it'll burn away but it may burn unevenly, and that's bad. So toast the foot and get it really hot, and see how the cracked wrapper burns and how unevenly. Then lightly puff on the cigar, and after it's lit, take long, deliberate puffs rather than short, consistent puffs. The longer and slower you pull the smoke through the cigar, the easier it will be for the crack to correct itself and even out. You can help the process by taking a torch to any part of the cigar that's burning unevenly.
To fix a small hole or missing piece of wrapper, you can either apply some pectin to the hole and hope the glue holds through the heat (you can find pectin at your local grocery store, it's the same glue cigar rollers use when rolling) or, depending on how long your cigar is, you can take a cigar band and wrap it tightly around the hole, then tape the back or use pectin to glue the band back together (as they do in cigar factories). Now you have a makeshift tourniquet for your cigar.
This was an unbanded Nicaraguan gem received from a friend. The wrapper
near the head was cracked and likely beyond repair, and then completely fell
apart. But the cigar did not waver - it was a helluva smoke!
Keep in mind, we only recommend these ideas if you're dealing with a rare cigar that you can't replace but one you really, really want to burn. Unfortunately, there isn't much you can do to save a mature cigar that's been damaged over time.