Learning How to Light a Cigar
Learning how to light a cigar is one of the first things a beginner should master. Lighting your cigar incorrectly can ruin the entire smoke for you, and that’s no good–not when you consider that even a good cheap cigar these days will run you $6 or so. So this guide is for beginners.
You can use a variety of different tools for this purpose. Some people use matches, while others prefer lighters. You can spend a lot of money on a cigar-lighting tool, or you can be really cheap. In fact, if you smoke at your local tobacconists, they’ll usually just let you use the lighter there in the store. But you still need to understand the how of it.
Paper matches, the really cheap kind you find in bars, are usually a bad choice. The head is made of sulphur, which has a distinct (and noxious) odor and flavor. Light your stogie with a paper match, and you’ll be smoking a cigar that tastes like hell itself. So avoid paper matches.
If a paper match is your only choice, then be careful when you light up with it. If you can light your cigar without the flame touching the actual tobacco, you’ll minimize the amount of chemicals you inhale into the body of the cigar. Your first few puffs might taste a little bit “off,” but you can still enjoy your cigar. You’ll need more than one match to accomplish this feat, but if you’re patient and willing, you can do it. Still, lighting a cigar with a paper match is akin to playing poker with plastic chips instead of clay chips–it’s just not as enjoyable an experience.
Wooden matches, on the other hand, are an excellent choice. They don’t usually have the same chemical taste as the paper matches, and if you let the initially super-hot flame die down just a little bit, you can light up really well using a wooden match. Most good tobacconists sell long wooden matches that burn longer than standard sized matches–that means you can usually light up with a single match, rather than having to use several. You should still try to avoid having the flame come into direct contact with the stogie though. Hold your cigar close to the flame, but not in the flame, and when you draw on the cigar, it will light.
When it comes to lighters, you can divide them into two camps–those that use lighter fluid and those that use butane. You want to avoid lighters that use lighter fluid in the same way that you want to avoid paper matches. Lighter fluid is a chemical, and it has a distinctive taste and odor which will contaminate your cigar. If you’ve ever been to a cookout where the grillmaster didn’t let all the lighter fluid burn off of the charcoal before cooking the burgers, then you’ve experienced how unpleasant lighter fluid can taste. And most cigars last longer than a chargrilled burger, and they cost more, too, so you should be even more motivated to avoid having them taste like lighter fluid.
If you do use a cheap lighter with lighter fluid in it, use the same technique I suggested you use with matches. Light the cigar without letting it come into direct contact with the flame. That should minimize any odor or flavor related issues.
Butane-powered lighters, on the other hand, don’t have a flavor or odor. Butane is a gas, not a fluid, so it won’t contaminate your smoke with an unpleasant chemical flavor or odor. Butane lighters are my favorite option for lighting up, and they should be yours, too. You don’t have to worry about letting the actual flame touch the cigar when you’re using a butane lighter, but it’s still a good habit to stay into, since you might not always have a butane lighter available.
No matter what tool you use to light your cigar, the technique is more or less the same. You hold the cigar near, but not in, the flame, then you draw on the cigar in order to bring the heat from the flame toward it. You should rotate the cigar slowly while you do this, so that you light the entire cigar. If you get an even light, and the cigar has been constructed properly, it should burn evenly throughout your entire smoking experience with it.
Once it’s lit, you should let it rest for 30 to 60 seconds–don’t start puffing away like a madman. The more frequently you puff, the hotter it gets, and if it gets too hot, it affects the flavor of the smoke. In fact, you should let the cigar rest briefly between draws throughout your entire smoking session to keep the temperature of your smoke reasonable. If it gets too hot, it will taste acrid or bitter, no matter how good the its quality.
That pretty much covers how to light a cigar. It’s not nearly as hard as I made it sound, but it’s like anything else in life–it’s more enjoyable if you learn how to take your time and do it right.