Cigar 101: How To Smoke a Cigar

The complete HSS guide on how to smoke a cigar properly

When it comes to smoking a cigar, there’s a lot that needs to happen before you actually get to enjoy your stogie.

First, you’ve got to have the right equipment.

Then you’ve got to choose the perfect cigar.

Next, you’ve got to make sure you’ve cut it properly.

And finally, you have to go through the ritual of lighting it up.

Once you’ve done all of that, then you can actually start smoking your cigar. It may seem like a fairly simply process – inhale smoke into mouth, then exhale smoke out of mouth – but smoking a cigar properly is actually something of an art. And like any art, mastering it takes some practice, experience and will probably involve making more than a few mistakes along the way.

To help make the learning curve a little less steep for the new and beginning cigar smoker, we’ve put together this quick guide on how to smoke a cigar properly.

Ahead are tips as well as do’s and don’ts that will help make your cigar smoking experience more enjoyable, not to mention have you looking like a pro.

how to smoke cigar properly

| WEARING | Suitsupply blazer, Al Bazar shirt, Saks Fifth Avenue pants, Homero Ortega hat, Drake’s pocket square, Rolex watch | PHOTOGRAPHY | by Rob McIver Photo

Puff.

Once you’ve done the three puffs to light your cigar, reduce your puffing frequency to about one per minute. This will keep everything – temperature, burn, enjoyment – on an even keel.

One little trick I use to keep my cigar lit well and cool, is to puff out quickly before I take a pull in. It may just be a little habit or tick, but it’s something I’ve adopted that’s worked quite well for me.

Don’t inhale.

The biggest mistake new cigar smokers make is to inhale the cigar smoke into their lungs. Unless you’ve got an iron stomach or are totally immune to the effects of nicotine, you’re going to end up with a wicked case of nausea.

The proper way to smoke a cigar involves inhaling the smoke into your mouth, and then exhaling. Simple.

Take your time.

Smoking a cigar isn’t a race. And it isn’t about getting a fix. It’s about relaxing. It’s about enjoying the company of friends. It’s about savoring the taste and complexities of the handcrafted item you’re holding between your fingers. Slow down and enjoy that time.

how to smoke cigar properly

Removing the cigar band.

There’s a lot of debate in the cigar community about removing the band on a cigar. Should you do it? And, if you’re going to remove it, when should you remove it? Here’s what we say.

Keep the band on until you’ve smoked the cigar down about two-thirds of the way. At this point, the heat from the cherry will have the effect of loosening up the glue on the band, making it much easier to remove. You want this because it’s extremely easy to damage the cigar wrapper by removing a label with too much effort or force.

Some people think leaving the band on is superficial and only for folks who feel the need to advertise what cigar they’re smoking. That’s a load of bull. Ruin a nice cigar by trying too hard to remove a band and you’ll rethink that mentality.

When to ash the cigar.

Do not constantly ash your cigar. The ash will come off easily with a simple tap of your finger or the cigar on the ashtray when it’s ready.

I favor robustos and toros and usually find that I will have to ash the cigar about three to four times – usually just once per third of the cigar. Churchills and lanceros will obviously be ashed more often.

Just be mindful of how strong the ash is when it gets longer. There’s nothing worse than dropping some ash in your lap. We’ve all been there.

Dealing With Common Cigar Smoking Issues

Poor draw.

A poor draw can be a result of a couple of things. You may not have cut the cigar properly (in other words, enough), so the right amount of air is not getting through. Or, the cigar is rolled more tightly towards the cap.

The latter happens frequently with figurado and torpedo shaped cigars. This can sometimes – notice I don’t say often – be remedied by one of the following three work-arounds.

First, try rolling the tight end of the cigar between your thumb and index finger to loosen up the tobacco. If that doesn’t produce a better draw, poke the cut end of the cigar with a small sharp object, like the point of a pocket knife. Finally, try cutting a little more off with your cutter.

I’d say that two times out of 10 one of those fixes will work. However, in the event they don’t you’ve got two choices: deal with the slow or weak draw or put down the cigar and light up a different one.

Cigar doesn’t stay lit.

A cigar won’t stay lit if you don’t puff on it frequently enough – you’ve got to keep the tobacco burning! – or if it’s rolled poorly. If it’s the former, increase the frequency of your puff. If the latter, well, there’s nothing you can really do about that. You’ve got a dud in your hand.

how to smoke cigar properly

Cigar doesn’t burn evenly.

Even the finest cigars don’t have a razor sharp and even burn all the time. Small burn issues will usually work themselves out, while others take a little intervention to remedy.

One of the best things you can do to help ensure an even burn, is to rotate the cigar every so often between your fingers. What this does is give the entire wrapper the same exposure to the air – perhaps there’s a ceiling fan, air conditioner, or slight breeze – around you. If that doesn’t totally work, blow on the end of the cigar a little to help keep the burn moving along.

Some cigars will start to burn unevenly enough that they’ll need a touch up with your lighter or a match as you smoke. When do you know if it’s time do this? It’s kind of a matter of personal preference.

Personally, I don’t have a very high tolerance for an uneven burn, so I’m a little quicker on the draw – pun intended – when it comes to touching up and correcting an uneven burn. My threshold is about 3/4 to 1 inch of difference before I can’t take it any more.

Some people take the stance of, “if that’s the way it burns, then that’s the way it burns,” and do no touching up whatsoever. These are probably the same guys who keep their bowtie tied however the first try turns out. Hey, nothing wrong with that! It’s just a certain mindset.

In the cigar world, however, letting an uneven burn go too far can result in a phenomenon called “canoeing,” where the burn is so uneven that the cigar looks like a canoe dug out from a log.

Wrapper isn’t burning.

The other burn-related issue is when the wrapper doesn’t burn at all. This is called “tunneling” and is easily fixed by giving the end of the cigar a little more fire with a few quick puffs. Make sure to nip this one in the bud.

Smoke is very hot.

You’re smoking too fast. The hot smoke will also cause the cigar to taste bitter. Hopefully, it hasn’t gotten too far down. If it hasn’t, put the cigar down for a bit, then take your time between puffs. Remember, about one minute or so between puffs is a good barometer for a good cigar smoking rhythm.

Thanks for reading.

Stylishly Yours,

Brian Sacawa
He Spoke Style

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  • Luis Martinez

    Excellent article Brian. There is nothing in this world like taking the time to enjoy a cigar and a good drink. With friends or solo, it’s time well invested in yourself.