Cigar Lighting - How to Light a Cigar


Butane with several cigar lighters on a humidor

One of the truly rewarding experiences a cigar enthusiast can have is the ritualistic lighting of the cigar. From the flaring of the flame to the plumes of fragrant smoke and those first hints of flavor, the process of lighting a cigar is an age old tradition that is not just for show, but a process of creating the best possible enjoyment of the tobaccos about to be consumed. Here are a couple quick tips on how to light a cigar to keep you toasting without frustration for hours:

Step 1: Choosing the Source of Fire

The first step after selecting a cigar is the choosing of the flame. Clean-burning butane lighters like the examples pictured to the right, or wood cigar matches are the preferred as they have little or no taste and therefore do not affect the finer nuances of the tobaccos. Lighters that operate on lighter fluid, such as Zippo lighters, are acceptable yet due to the petroleum-based fluid can often affect the taste of cigars. Most paper matches are treated with chemicals that can affect taste, so you'll likely want to avoid those if possible as well. Even though certain devices might enhance the experience more than others, when it comes down to it, use the best means available or simply what you are most comfortable with, always exercising safety and common sense. Once we have our source of flame, we are ready to move on!

Step 2: Toasting

Hold the cigar at roughly a 45-degree angle and with the foot of the cigar just above the flame. Never put the cigar directly into the flame, as the heat from the flame will do all the work necessary and keep the tobaccos from being overwhelmed by the fuel source. Gradually roll the cigar in a circular motion until the foot is toasted evenly throughout. You don't want to make direct contact with the flame as that will start to burn the tobacco too quickly. Most cigar fans believe cigars taste best with a slow, even toast rather than a quick burn. After all, you're paying good money for your sticks, don't you want to get the maximum amount of enjoyment out of them?

Step 3: Full Light

Once the cigar is properly toasted, we can now get on to the moment we have been waiting for. We will repeat the steps as with toasting, yet this time we will be directly drawing through the cigar. That is, you'll have your lips on the cigar and begin pulling air through the stick. Again, the cigar should not touch the flame, as we are simply drawing the rising heat from the flame to the cigar. Rotate the stick as you take slow easy draws until the cigar is visibly and evenly lit. Remember to take your time with the process. If you have time to smoke a cigar than there is no hurry, so soak up the colors of the flame, the aromas wafting through the air and the burst of flavor from those glorious first puffs. Sit back, savor and enjoy!

Should You Relight Your Cigar?

Using a Butane Lighter to Light a Cigar

There is much debate amongst aficionados as to if and how a cigar should be relit. There are times, whatever the reasons may be, when we simply can’t avoid relighting a cigar. The generally accepted way is to gently roll the cigar on the edge of the ashtray to remove the existing ash. Once this is accomplished simply repeat the steps you would normally take with a new un-smoked stick. Toasting the foot will burn off much of the tars and oils that harden when cooled, thereby removing the bitterness you might ordinarily encounter when directly relighting a cigar. The general rule of thumb is to never relight a cigar after an hour of its original lighting, as the tobaccos will become harsher and even sour after resting for lengthy spells. Sometimes we might need to go beyond an hour, especially if we are just not ready to part with the precious cigar. In this case, although not recommended, using a guillotine or scissors to trim off the burnt foot can help to create a somewhat more enjoyable smoke. Then repeat the toasting and lighting as is normal with a new cigar. Again this is not recommended, yet the bottom line is to do whatever brings you the most pleasure on your cigar smoking journey.

Connoisseur's Tip:

Spanish cedar is a well-known part of the cigar world, helping the aging process and protection of tobacco. It also makes for a fantastic enhancement to the cigar smoking experience itself. Using a strip of Spanish cedar from the sheets of cedar found in a box of cigars or from the cedar wrap of an individual cigar (such as A. Fuente Chateau series or a tubed cigar) to light the cigar will impart a titillating woody character to the smoke. Use the same steps as with the standard lighting procedure being extra cautious of course and enjoy the deliciously subtle flavors that are to follow as well as the prolific flames thrusting into the air!

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