As with most things cigar-related, if you have a preferred method you should stick with that. If you want to light your cigar with a scented Christmas candle because it makes you festive, go for it. This article is not for you. If you want to learn how to light a cigar properly as well as what kinds of lighting implements are out there, read on.
Use The Right Fire
There are generally four acceptable cigar lighting implements: sulfur-free wooden matches, a butane micro-torch, a butane cool flame lighter, and cedar spills. Regular Zippo-style cigarette lighters, candles, paper matches, and everything else are likely to leave you with a bad taste in your mouth. They all contain chemicals that are thought to taint the cigar when you light it.
Toast The Foot
No matter which of the implements you use, gentle is the operative word. You don’t want to scorch the cigar or heat it too quickly. Start by gently toasting the foot by either rotating the cigar or the fire source to ensure an even toast. This is the foundation of your burn, joining the wrapper to the filler and binder for the ride. If you are using a torch, hold it at least an inch away from the actual flame. Wooden matches and cedar spills have a cooler flame so you can hold them a little closer, but you still don’t want to hold it in the direct flame for very long if at all.
Light The Cigar
This is where it is easy to get a little over zealous. You want to gently puff a few times until you have an even burn. Then you want to maintain that even burn by continuing to puff gently while allowing the cigar to rest between puffs. If the cigar becomes too hot, characterized by a malleable feel or a split ash, you may be smoking it too fast.
- Wooden Matches – most cigar shops will give these away with a purchase. Make sure you use wooden matches that are sulfur free – strike anywhere matches, even though they are made of wood, are not cigar matches. This flame is cooler than a micro torch, so adjust your method accordingly. Longer matches are often a lot easier to deal with.
- Cedar spills – these are often found in a box of cigars, but there are some companies that manufacture personalized cedar spills specifically for lighting a cigar. Many people prefer this method not only for the style, but also because the cooler flame is thought to be better for the cigar. Cedar spills have the additional benefit of burning longer than most wooden matches, and they can be easier to hold and maneuver. Commonwealth Cedar Spills manufactures personalized cedar spills right here in Louisville.
- Micro Torches – There are a ton of options here. Most commonly you will find single, double, or triple flame torches, but there are numerous configurations. Prometheus has recently debuted the 2016 Limited Edition Ultimo X, a triple flame that is tilted so all three flames meet in the middle. This means greater fire power concentrated in one area for better control of your light. In other words, this is the graduate level lighter. Prometheus, the God of Fire for those of you who aren’t up to snuff on your mythology, really has a handle on cigar lighting options. A $10 Jetline from your local shop will do you just fine- they are sturdy and refillable and you won’t get upset if you leave it somewhere. But if you want something a little more fancy check out Prometheus, Xikar, and Colibri – all nice options. A few notes about micro-torches:
- You can’t take them on a plane, even in your checked bag.
- Always use high-quality pure butane to refill your lighter. Poor butane can cause clogs and wreck your lighter.
- Many torches come with a warranty and are able to be serviced if there is a defect or malfunction. Keep those receipts!
- Cool or Soft Flame – some people prefer cool or soft flame cigar lighters. These are different from your typical Zippo-type lighter in that they use cleaner-burning butane. Many people prefer this type of lighter because it’s easier than matches or cedar spills and much gentler than a micro torch.
Bad Lights Happen
I will be the first to admit I have lit cigars improperly from time to time. If you are outside in the wind or the cold, you are more likely to get a bad light. If you use the wrong equipment you are more likely to get a bad light. If you smoke too fast, light too aggressively, knock off too much ash, etc, you will have a poor burn. Sometimes if there is tunneling or an uneven burn you can cut off the cigar and try to re-light it. Most of the time you are better off taking your time and carefully lighting your cigar, but if you get a bad burn it’s not the end of the world. Just try to learn from it.
Photos Courtesy of Maggie Kimberl