The key to the perfect lighting of your cigar is to exercise patience. The enjoyment of a cigar is a relaxing, non-hurried process. You are not lighting the fuse to a stick of dynamite, but rather a premium hand-crafted cigar.
The most effective options for lighting your cigar is to use a standard butane flame lighter (my instrument of choice if ambient conditions allow for it), butane torch-style lighter (either single or multi-flame), cedar strip (called cedar spill) or long – sulfur free – cigar match. Never use a lighter that does not contain butane; a candle; or wax match to light your cigar, as these may impart odors that the cigar might absorb and affect the taste. The standard match book matches possess sulfur and should be avoided. If a standard stick match is your only available option, wait at least five seconds to allow the sulfur and wax to burn away from the head of the match before attempting to light your cigar.
When selecting the right lighting instrument, consider the prevailing conditions. Forget about lighting a cigar outside, where wind may be an issue, with cigar matches or cedar spills. Lighting a small cigar with thin ring gauge? Avoid torch lighters, or use them very carefully, as they will tend to scorch and burn the foot and not gently toast and light it effectively.
CIGAR LIGHTING INSTRUMENT OPTIONS
STANDARD FLAME BUTANE
MULTI-FLAME TORCH BUTANE
STANDARD CIGAR MATCH
THE PERFECT LIGHT
Hold the foot of the cigar (the open end) above the flame (approximately half an inch) at a 90 degree angle (refer to image A above). Avoid allowing the flame to touch the cigar as this can cause the cigar to overly char and burn and become too hot, too quickly. You are attempting to toast the rim of the cigar (wrapper leaf) and not the filler or binder. These will start to burn with a nice toast of the wrapper. Gently rotate the cigar over the flame until you see an evenly distributed char around the rim of the cigar (refer to image B above). Place the cigar to your lips and, with the flame still under the foot of the cigar, gently draw on the cigar until the flame jumps from the lighting instrument to the cigar (see image C above). While gently puffing, rotate the cigar above the flame to ensure that you have lit the entire rim of the foot of the cigar.
To further continue the cigar smoking ritual, you now might want to remove the cigar from your mouth, look at the newly lit foot, assess the evenness of the light and burn and then gently blow on it to further fuel the burn for a few seconds to create a bright orange glow. It is now time to enjoy your cigar. As a general rule, one should average one draw per 30-60 seconds. Draw too rapidly and your cigar will burn hot and lead to a bitter, harsh taste. Allow at least 60-90 minutes when preparing to enjoy a larger cigar. In the event the light extinguishes while smoking your cigar, gently tap out the ash and loose tobacco from the foot of the cigar on the edge of the ashtray and repeat the lighting process again. Typically, one can put down a cigar for no more than 30 minutes before attempting to re-light it before the cigar will become bitter and harsh tasting.
*Gary “Doc” Laden is the executive producer and co-host of the Smooth Draws Radio Show airing every Saturday from 10:00 AM until Noon EST on ESPN Radio 1230 The Fan 2 in Atlanta, Georgia USA and broadcast live, worldwide, streaming, at SmoothDraws.com.