Tar and Cigars: A Match Made In Hell

Stogie Talk31 Comments on Tar and Cigars: A Match Made In Hell

Tar and Cigars: A Match Made In Hell

Tar and Cigars - 1

Last week when Jerry and I sat down to record episode 36 of Your Questions, My Answers (YQMA) we both lit up a Por Larranaga that we received courtesy of Rich from the Fan Forums. About an inch and a half into the cigar I started to notice some tar droplets on the cut head.

Being that I am no rookie to seeing tar on a cigar, I wasn’t nearly as creeped out as I was the first time I came across the issue. Solving the problem was pretty simple, all I had to do was re-cut the head of my cigar. For whatever reason, when a tar buildup occurs and leaches out of the head of a cigar, a quick re-cut removes it once and for all.

When I re-cut my Por Larranaga, I simply grabbed my Cigar Scissors and shaved the head. I removed just enough tobacco to remove the tar and expose some clean filler tobacco. After that, the cigar smoked just fine and I was free from any addition tar problems.

Tar and Cigars - 2

Some time ago I had my first experience with tar after taking on a cigar punch as my standard form of cutter. The round hole just seemed to make the tar collect at the head and ooze out. Sometimes the tar comes on suddenly and you may not even see it develop until it is too late. If you get a little on the tip of your tongue or on the lips, it will taste very foul and begin to burn a bit (much like the capsaicin within a hot pepper)

As I gradually moved away from the plug cutter and used a guillotine, I still came across the problem from time to time. I found that if I cut too shallow and leave a small flap over the filler of the cigar, the tar has a tendency to appear before I am finished with the smoke. My experience has shown me that the restriction in the flow of smoke tends to bring on this problem from time to time.

Wanted to be more educated on this issue, I shot off an email to a manufacturer or two. The response was a little underwhelming as they did not really seem to know the answer. In one instance the cause was blamed on the plug cutter and there was no real answer as to why I experienced this problem with a guillotine.

I decided that this was a dead issue and I was very unlikely to get a good answer to the problem. I was exhausted from searching Google and wasn’t getting the answer I was looking for from the manufacturers I spoke with.

Tar and Cigars - 4

A long stretch of time went by and I had a minor tar issue come up once again. I thought I may be waiting my tine contacting another manufacturer but gave it a shot anyway. The response I received was leaps and bounds better than before. The email still didn’t contain an answer, but it did say that they would contact the factory and find out what causes this problem.

Not wanting to get my hopes up, I thanked them for taking the time to help me out and went back to searching Google. About a week later I received the answer I had been looking for and it all made perfect sense.

“This grotesque syrup is somewhat of an enigma. We assume that it is sap left inside the stem of the leaf which doesn’t evaporate during fermentation. It is extremely rare, but by far one of the most pungent and foul substances of the world. It has been my experience that cutting below the ooze usually ends the matter.”

Due to the difficulty I had finding an answer to this problem, my email to this manufacturer stated that all information would be kept anonymous. Whether this manufacturer would have a problem with taking credit for this answer is unknown, but to stick with my statement of anonymity in my original email, the name has been withheld. I would like to say that this manufacturer is considered a friend of Stogie Review due to their willingness to answer any and all questions without sugar coating or otherwise skirting the question at hand. I routinely smoke their cigars and appreciate the time taken to get an answer from the factory.


Have you ever run into this problem and found a different answer?





enjoying cigars since 2005

31 thoughts on “Tar and Cigars: A Match Made In Hell

  1. dude… I am completely grossed out now… 😛

    but useful!

    I have yet *knock on wood* to experience this….
    hopefully I never will.

    I’m going to go vomit now….

  2. I’ve never seen it, and I’ve smoked a lot of cigars. If the cause is sap left in stems, then the cut, punch or guillotine, has nothing to do with it. Also, if the “tar” is a result of sap in stems, then cutting below it is unlikely to fix it because the sap was also below where the “tar” collected. I would question whether what you are seeing as “tar” build-up isn’t a combination of sap and a “wet” smoker who is getting the dried sap wet and enabling it to extract from the stems. I’m a seriously “dry” smoker and I have never seen any “tar”. Having seen your photos, I’m going to be an even drier smoker from now on.

  3. Ace,
    The quote is the best answer I’ve gotten so far.

    I’m a dry smoker, those pictures didn’t come from me over wetting my cigar. Cutting below the ooze has always stopped it from happening further.

    Since the leaves are placed into a cigar with the tips down towards the foot, the larger vein would be at the head. The explanation makes sense to me.

  4. Ace, I can say that I am not a “wet” smoker and in fact I rarely have any type of moisture on the cap of my cigar. However, I have experienced (once) the tar on the end of my cigar. I never thought of it much, but the one time it happened was when I used the punch on my lighter because I had not brought my cutter. The tar that I experienced was not nearly as plentiful as the tar in Walt’s pictures but it was there.

    The reason I thought my tar problem occurred was that the cigar had a tighter draw and it would not stay lit. Therefore, I had to relight several times. I attributed the tar to the possible overheating of the tobacco and the fact that more effort was needed to draw the smoke through the cigar.

  5. After smoking for six or so years I have yet to get noticeable tar build up like that. My cigars get kept at 65% now but used to be stored at 70 and sometimes higher. When I smoke I sometimes can be a bit of a wet smoker especially if I do not have an ashtray handy.

    So all three of those pics are from the same cigar right? It almost looks like there was some plastic that melted in there…eww.

  6. Adam,
    The pictures come from three different cigars over a period of about two and a half years. I’ve had a tar build up happen top me with about six cigars , give or take, ver the same time periode.

    It isn’t a common problem but it happens from time to time, for no apparent reason. Like the explanation from the manufacturer says, you really don’t know when it will happen. Given enough time I would guess everyone will go through this type of experience at least once.

    -Walt

  7. Walt,
    I gotta say that the first pic is the worst case of tar I have ever seen. I too am a “dry” cigar smoker and have experienced a tar issue on one occasion. It was in a cigar that I have smoked on numerous occasions and never had an issue before or since. And just as you described a quick clip of the head to remove the excess tar and the rest of the cigar smoked beautifully.

  8. I’ve only had the “tar” buildup once on a Te Amo corona. Small ring gauge and while I try and be a dry cigar smoker, this one did in fact get wet. I was drinking beer at the time and think my mouth was too moist when drawing. That being said, it was totally bitter and friggin nasty!!!! I’m not sure I can get in the mood to smoke the other Te Amo I have??? I ended up wiping the “tar” off on a napkin but I wish I’d learned about re-cutting the cigar. I”ll watch for it next time.

    1. I am a super dry smoker, guillotine user and have had this tar build up issue maybe 5 or more times and have always ended up tossing the stick (some with a tear seeing as they were $6 plus sticks). Tonight I lit up a cigar fresh from the manufacturer and sure enough I got that horrid taste again. I looked at the end and sure enough there was the bubbly black goo I’ve come to hate. So I fired up google and found this fine site, tried the recut technique and sure enough it worked like a charm. Thank you so much for putting in the time and effort not only to give a reason for this issue but to give me a remedy.

  9. Hi Walt,

    first off, I am a regular, if silent, reader of SR and it is one of the best cigar oriented sites on the Web.
    My opinion on the issue is what you have observed, inadequate cut on the cigar, some obstruction on the path of the smoke, but sometimes everything looks okay and tobacco still produces tar. This IMO signals underfermented tobacco. This may or may not be something “sloppy” on manufacturers part, but simply a couple days longer fermentation would clear the issue, as not enough oil has dissipated from tobacco. This is why I always try to observe this phenomenon with the cigars I am reviewing. Bottom line, if everything else feel and looks fine, tobacco has been a tiny bit rushed to cigar production. Keep up the great work

  10. I am a “dry” smoker too. I have had this happen on a very few. Boy, thats certainly not the way you want a cigar to start out! I sometimes have to walk away a bit because the taste turns me. But once I get rid of the taste and cut past the tar, it usually turns out to be a decent smoke. The manufacturer’s answer makes sense to me. My second least favorite thing is large stems…they will turn me on a cigar almost as fast as tar. I usually figure its a 50-50 chance to pull out the offending stems…the cigar is gonna suck with them in and if you get them out without wrecking the cigar, then it will usually be fine for the rest of it.

  11. If I ever had this problem, I might even dare to put out my cigar and cut it open, and examine each layer of tobacco to see what’s going on. Might find some clues, who knows.

  12. I have seen this on the head of my unlit and uncut H. Upmann #2 torpedo cigar. Just this morning I noticed a dime-sized wetspot on my humidor wall. The cigar in question touching the wall had a brown syrupy liquid on the tip of its head. My first guess was that too much glue must have been used. I wiped it off, but when I squeezed the tip, more came out like a popped pimple. So my second guess was that it’s some sort of sap. I googled “cigar sap*” and came upon this article. I gave away the cigar just 30 minutes ago to a coworker that needs more stogies to fill his humidor LoL.

  13. I just had my first experience with this… It really put me off and it was one of my favorite cigars. Is this problem specific to the one manufacturer in your instance?

    1. No, I’ve seen it happen on a variety of cigars. Brand doesn’t seem to make a difference, it can happen to the best of them. The best solution seems to be re-clipping the cigar below the tar-line.

      -Walt

  14. I had this experience with a 5 Vegas Relic last night. I tried clipping more, and it did help, but the tar just kept coming back. After several clips I finally ditched the cigar after the first third. A shame because it started out pretty darn tasty. I received the cigar the day before, so being ROTT it could have been a little wet. However, I’ve had the tar issue with a few cigars, some well aged and others ROTT. It does seem to happen more often with Perfectos…which leads me to believe a small draw hole (such as with a punch cutter) would be a causing factor. Also, the cigars in question have all had a tight draw, which can lead to harder pulls and overheating.

  15. This occurred to me with a Cohiba Maduro Secretos that I smoked very young. If your humidor is kept at 70 rh or higher, and you age them less than 6 months, this can occur. It is a rarety, but a necessary experience. I have since, brought the rh down to 67 and give my most valued cigars a good two years. I also have a second humidor in which I keep already aged and well kept cigars purchased locally that I can pick from day to day without tempting to open my prized bunch. I’m going to make a shirt that says “Tar Happens”.

  16. Interesting discussion. This never happened to me until sometime into the Cigar Boom, say mid 1990’s. As that dark period of cigar history came to a close, the tar issue seems to more or less have dried up as well. Though, apparently not entirely. I’ve never completely figured it out. But I agree with what some of the posts here are saying. From my experience it seems like you need two things; a cigar that is filled with leaf that has not been properly aged and/or de-stemmed, and a cut at the head that is on the smallish side. Cutting into a fresh part of the filler sometimes resolves the issue, but not always. Perhaps there is some quantity of “sap” still left in the veins that quickly “boils” to the end of the stem. Not really sure.

    In my experience it doesn’t matter if you smoke “wet” or “dry”. A good cigar should not have any tar, period. Gar tar doesn’t happen unless you have a faulty cigar. Same with the issue of humidity in the humidor. If you over humidify your smokes you’ll have problems, but you won’t cause them to have tar.

    If it happens again, I’m thinking I will do an autopsy on the cigar to see if there are any clues to be discovered inside.

    Oh, and if you do get it on the tongue, which always happens to me, lick or wipe your tongue with a paper towel. Nearly all of the tar will transfer to the towel. But the flavor, unfortunately will linger…

  17. Those pictures are disgusting! Especially the first – if I saw that in one of my cigars I might think that I had cut into a mass of cigar beetles!! GROSS! And like Jon W, I might want to cut it all open to see what was going on.

  18. Well, it happened to me, with a La Gloria Cubana Serie N! Totally gross! It tasted bitter and nasty, and completely ruined the cigar – had to toss it after only 1/3-1/2 way in!

  19. I have encountered this recently, the first time being in Afghanistan. Due to it happening on deployment I figured it was somehow related to the shipping or less than desirable storage. However I noticed it again tonight at my local Moose Lodge and immediately found this post. I have always been a dry smoker so tried the re-cut idea. This worked well since I am a notorious short cutter out of fear of getting too close to the end of the cap. I am almost done with the smoke (Rocky Patel Royal Vintage) and it has not come back yet. Thanks for the article, this was extremely helpful.

  20. i have had this happen recently with two cigars. The first being a Partagas 1845 Robusto. The next cigar was one i just smoked on the way home today after work and was a Don Lino Africa. both delicious and fantastic tasting cigars (in my opinion). I do believe that i had cut off too little with my guillotine cutter and so it collected. This onset happened quiet quickly after about 4-5 puffs when i noticed it. I honestly smoked through it because i couldn’t see in the dark to make another cut and i hadn’t thought of it till later. I also tend to cut short because i have had a couple experiences where i cut too far in and the cap unraveled potentially ruining my smoke.

    One other theory i had was in regard to the conditions in which i keep my cigars stored. I have yet to purchase a proper humidor for storage of my smokes and at the time keep them in sealed ziploc bags. One has a humipack with 67% rh, and the other bag has a Drymistat crystal tube which i’ve read is around 70% rh.
    I just have to break down and get a humidor and really take care of and maintain it well. I have been very apprehensive about purchasing one because the volume of cigars i have had on had changes frequently. Now it looks I’ve started to keep on hand at least 20+ sticks. I almost purchased a humidor that only would accommodate 25 smokes, so i didn’t pull the trigger on that.
    Now i’m looking to pick up something that fits at least 50 sticks. I want to age them and really experience the flavor and joy that comes from having stored my smokes in a regulated humidor.

    Does anyone have any recommendations for a quality humidor that fits up to 50 smokes but won’t break the bank for me? Please just leave a reply on here to this post.

    Hope all are well. Keep smokin!

  21. I too have encountered this problem. It usually happens to me when I feel like “slumming” and having a cheaper brand of cigar like a swisher sweet but I’ve had it with good cigars as well. I found the solution of the recut through trial and error myself as I have dealt with a lot of tarred cigars. Another method would be to slowly roll the cigar to loosen it a bit. This helps to prevent the problem from roccuring then you siply wipe the head on a paper towel or whatever is handy to get rid of the build up. This works well if you ant to keep the cigar intact or don’t have a cutter handy.

  22. Just happened to me with a 5 Vegas Gold churchill. Had to recut three times but was still a good smoke. My hygrometer seems to be on the fritz, I was wondering if too much rh could cause this.

  23. Like many equipment faults we search for a simple single major answer, whereas the answer is more often a compilation of several small things. The answer to the cigar/tar problem is a combination thus; a slightly under-cured tobacco to start, a tight draw or smaller concentrated hole, a somewhat damp curing or humidor storage, a heavy or stout puffer, and what is sometimes the straw that breaks the camels back- unnoticed excess blowing / backward breathing into the cigar which wets it through & thoroughly with very humid breath (enhanced by a bodily reaction to the hot smoke creating somewhat elevated saliva & lung moisture). This all combines to create a liquefying of the normally inert (vapor only) tar and simultaneous capillary action (liquid in a small tube or space) and the heavy/ strong puffer diligently sucks it out to the end. Slower gentler puffing of a suspected cigar, try not to breath into it as much, especially if drinking (wetter mouth) should yield improved results.

  24. I have never had such an experience either with puros nor habanos. The analysis given by DAVID B., sounds very reasonable. Researching on the web I found this on “bracing”. It may help someone.
    //cigarchic.wordpress.com/category/vocabulary/

  25. Unfortunately, this happens to me quite frequently. I think the problem (for me) is being a heavy puffer. I tend to “chug” cigars because I like a large volume of smoke. It happens with even the best cigars. A tight draw will exacerbate the problem because I hit them all the harder to get the smoke I want. Need to slow my roll. Maybe why I favor an Espinosa Laranja or Herrera Esteli because they draw so well, producing voluminous clouds of smoke. And I am a very dry smoker, so that isn’t a factor for me.

  26. As a (mainly) pipe smoker, I have a different perspective. I don’t think what you’re looking at is so much tar as it is what we pipe smokers refer to as “dottle.”. Pipes get burdened with this thin, bitter substance from two sources: overly humid or wet tobacco, and/or too fast a cadence, causing the pipe to smoke too hot.

    Two things happen here: the moisture from the wet tobacco isn’t having enough of an opportunity to dissipate, and since combustion, itself, creates water as a biproduct, more moisture is being created as you smoke. A smaller hole, like from a punch, allows for a collection point. Thus, cutting a larger opening would both remove the collected fluid, and allow for a more open draw, thus allowing more room for moisture dissipation.

    Or, I could be full of S#it…

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