Lighting a cigar properly is the third step in the cigar smoking ritual.
As we continue our Cigar 101 series, it’s worth reiterating that there is a ritual aspect to smoking a cigar – or, at least, the steps one takes to get to the cigar smoking stage. And as with all rituals, there is a specific process you need to follow.
The first step is to choose a cigar. Next, is cutting the cigar. And after that, lighting the cigar, which is what we’re covering here.
Methods for Lighting a Cigar
Just like cutting a cigar, there are a few methods for lighting a cigar. Honestly, any kind of fire will do, but each kind of fire has its own unique traits. Here are several cigar lighting methods.
Match. Inexpensive and always around somewhere. If you’re going to light your cigar with a match, make sure it’s a longer match – if you use a short one, you’ll burn through a few – and that there is no kind of coating on the wood, which can adversely affect the cigar’s taste.
Matches work well indoors in cigar lounges, but can be frustrating to use outside, where the slightest gust of wind will interrupt your cigar lighting groove.
Torch Lighter. If you primarily do your cigar smoking outdoors, forget matches altogether and consider a torch lighter. Most are built to withstand wind gusts and will heat the foot of the cigar up extremely fast. You can find a solid performing torch lighter in the $10-20 range. I use an S.T. Dupont Slim 7.
Gas Lighter. Like a match in that it will not perform well in a windy environment. Some will tell you never to light a cigar with a gas lighter because the butane will adversely affect the taste of the tobacco. Personally, I’ve not experienced that and I like my S.T. Dupont Ligne 2 way too much to be swayed by that thinking.
Cedar Strip. For the cigar purist, a cedar strip is the ONLY way to light a cigar properly. No chemicals, no sulfur, no butane. All natural. If you’re in an environment where using a cedar strip is possible, by all means, do so. It’s old fashioned, but really helps you enjoy and appreciate the entire process.
Which method should you use?
How you choose to light a cigar is dependent on where you’re smoking – indoors or outdoors? – as well as your own personal preference. I’ve personally used all of the methods listed above in a variety of situations.
How To Light a Cigar
Now let’s go over the five steps for lighting a cigar.
1. Start your fire. Strike a match. Fire up your lighter. Or get your cedar strip burning.
2. Toast the foot. Perhaps the most important step of lighting a cigar. The goal here is to get the foot of the cigar hot but not actually lit. When done properly, the end of the cigar will look like it’s “toasted” – black but, again, not lit.
As you toast the foot of a cigar, do not let the flame actually touch the tobacco. Hold the flame below the foot of the cigar and let the heat travel up. Yes, this takes a bit longer, but is the only way to ensure you’ve toasted the foot properly. Lighting and smoking a cigar is not a race.
3. Take three long draws. I picked up the three puffs tip from my good friend Robert Seise of Davidoff. If you’ve toasted the foot of the cigar properly, three long draws is all you need to ensure the perfect light.
4. Check for an even light by blowing on the foot. If you watch the Cigar Aficionado Top 25 videos, you see Mott and Savona do this all the time. Gently blowing on the foot allows you to see if you’ve got the cigar lit evenly. I usually elide this step with the exhale of my third puff.
If, by chance, your cigar isn’t lit evenly yet, go ahead and add a little more heat to the portion that isn’t quite lit. Puff gently, recheck, and then move on to Step 5.
5. Enjoy your smoke. Enough said.
What if a cigar burns unevenly?
It’s common for a cigar to burn unevenly. This can be a result of a variety of things, including how moist (or dry) the cigar is, how the cigar is rolled, or the way the wind (or ceiling fan) is blowing.
If this happens, don’t worry. You can usually get a cigar back burning evenly by a small touch up with your flame where the wrapper is not burning.
In more extremely cases, a cigar will burn only on the top, while the bottom remains completely unlit. This is referred to as canoeing. Canoeing occurs if you’ve not lit the cigar properly, if you let an uneven burn get out of hand, or if you just have a bad cigar.
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Thanks for reading.
He Spoke Style