All About Cigars

Handling Your Cigar

Lighting a cigar is not like lighting the tip of a cigarette or the wick of a candle – it takes longer. Light your cigar the same way you would toast a marshmallow over a campfire ? keep the cigar above or near the flame but don’t let them touch.

First, you must “toast” the Cigar’s foot. The purpose of toasting is to ignite the outer layers of the tobacco (that’s the binder and the wrapper) which hold the cigar together.

Hold the cigar at a 45-degree angle with the foot-end highest above the flame, but just out of touch with the flame itself. Rotate the cigar so that the foot lights all the way around. Do this only until you see a lightly burning ring forming around the tip of the cigar and then creeping towards the center of the foot.

You?ll observe that the outside wrapper and binder will have a white, ashen aspect after they’ve been properly toasted.

Next, it’s time to ignite the filler. Use a long wooden match, or better yet, a cigar lighter to create a larger flame area so that you can light the entire foot evenly. Place the cigar between you lips. Then, hold the match about a half-inch from the cigar (the flame is drawn in) and rotate the cigar as you draw in air. Burning a cigar directly in a flame makes it too hot. And, as with a marshmallow, you?ll want to rotate the cigar so all parts of its tip are equally heated. Be patient and keep at it until there?s a glowing ring all the way around the cigar?s tip. Once the cigar is lit, gently blow on the embers to create a smooth, completely rounded ash.

Then, raise the unlit end of the cigar to your mouth and take the first puff. The question is, which way to puff? Many aficionados blow the first puff out through the cigar in order to avoid unsavory flavors such as sulfur from matches or gasses from lighters. No one, of course, should ever apply more than one outward puff.

Some purists think that it’s shameful to ever have to relight a cigar. Realistically, even the best cigars will go out on those occasions when the conversation becomes so absorbing that you forget to take a puff for a couple of minutes. It’s no worse to have to relight a cigar than it is to have to fish a bit of cork out of a fine glass of wine. It will generally take you less time to relight an already-warm cigar than it does to light one for the first time. Do not, however, intentionally let your cigar die out and then relight it the next day. This will lead to stale, harsh flavors that will ruin your fine memories of the first few puffs.

If you have to relight a cigar several times, you may have a badly rolled cigar. Premium cigars are made by hand, not by machine, and they are made from organic materials that retain much of their natural, irregular structure and character. Despite dedicated quality control efforts, a substandard cigar occasionally makes its way to the market. Don’t hesitate to bring a badly rolled cigar back to your tobacconist. Most will happily replace it.

Never light a cigar with a flame from a source that will alter the essence of your cigar. Using a candle, for example, is a tempt­ingly theatrical gesture, but the burning candle wax can add an odd flavor to your cigar. So can the fluid from an isobutene cigarette lighter. Many smokers also object to the sulfur used in most match tips.
If you insist on using a candle or a fluid lighter, use it to light a strip of cedar, called a spill, and use that to light the cigar. If you insist on matches, try to get extra-long, wooden sulfurless ones. If you can’t find them and are using regular, short matches, be pre­pared to use a number of them, Be sure to let the sulfur burn off before starting the lighting process and try lighting two at a time, so you get a broader flame.

Cigar lighters are the easiest way to get an even light. What makes a lighter a cigar lighter? A cigar lighter uses odorless gas, and often “fatter” flame, or even two adjacent flame sources, and adjustable flame heights.

Cigar lighters come in a wide range of designs and materials, so it will be easy to find one that’s an appropriate accessory for your sense of style. Your first requirement should, of course, be perfor­mance. A good lighter, like a good pen, should fit your hand. The cap should open easily, and swing back so the whole flame is avail­able for lighting.

Congratulations! You’ve successfully lighted your cigar!

Etiquette Note: A man should never light another man’s cigar. Why? Because, as you may have noticed by now, lighting a cigar is a highly intricate and even a very personal experience. In fact, a man should only light a woman’s cigar if it is a small, quick-lighting cigarillo-type or a panatela. A woman should never light a man’s cigar (thus defeating the entire machismo and swaggering arrogance of the event, but of course). But can a woman light another woman’s cigar? The jury’s still out on that one.

When lighting the cigar, try to get out of any wind or drafty areas.

Whatever method you use, don’t allow the cigar to catch on fire like a torch. If allowed to bum in this manner it can char the wrapper prematurely.
Do not hold your cigar like a cigarette (unless you’re European). Hold it between your second and third fingers.

Let your ash get approximately three-quarters of an inch long (two centimeters) before you flick it. A long ash is actually essential to a pleasant cigar-smoking experience. The ash helps to reduce the temperature of the burning tobacco
(creates an air block), thereby cooling the smoke that you inhale and slowing the burning of the cigar. These factors combine to improve the taste and lengthen your enjoyment of the cigar.

The ash is a good measure of a quality cigar – the whiter and longer the better. However, if you are not knocking the ash of your cigar properly, you can do serious damage to cigar and wrapper. The proper method is to gently touch the ash to the bottom of the ashtray. Tapping the cigar on the edge of the ashtray or with your finger will cause the wrapper to break and unravel. The wrapper is very fragile and must be handled with care.

Should the cigar band remain on or be taken off? If you’re in the UK, you absolutely must take the cigar band off. It is considered improper to smoke a cigar with the band on in the U.K. It has been compared to wearing clothing with the price tags still on!

In the U.S., it appears to be a matter of personal choice. If you’re going to remove it, some say it is best to do so after lighting the cigar since the warmth will tend to soften things up and make removal less likely to damage the wrapper. You can also leave it on, but if you smoke the cigar down far enough you will eventually be forced to remove it or smoke the band too! In any case, if and when you remove the band, be careful not to damage the wrapper. This can cause the cigar to draw improperly and/or unravel.

Taking the band off is optional but considered polite. Keeping the band on can be perceived as showing off.