Excerpt from Men: 10 Essential Skills by RVR - Light & Smoke a Cigar by Frank Seltzer
It’s all about an even burn.
Much has been written on the correct procedure for lighting
a cigar. In reality, it is pretty simple—cut, light, and
smoke. You don’t need to over think it. However, you can develop
a ritual, if you want. Pretty much anything goes as long
as you enjoy the process.
So to begin, the question is: what cigar should you smoke?
That is a tough call since there are so many to choose from.
Hint: The darker the wrapper often the stronger the
cigar. The exception to this is Maduro-wrapped cigars.
These wrappers are usually very dark but the cigars are
not that strong. “Maduro” simply means ripe. The
wrappers take longer to cure and age, and they often
have a slight sweetness to them.
Part of the fun of cigars is admiring the construction. By
the time it reaches you, over two hundred people worked on
that one cigar—in the fields growing the tobacco, in the barns
aging it, in the fermentation rooms curing it, and finally to the
roller’s table. It is a lot of work; cigars are an art form.
Speaking of art, look at the cigar band. Much thought
went into designing the band, be it simple or complex—although,
you really cannot judge a cigar by its band. Some
men save the band so they can easily remember which cigar
You may want to remove the cigar band before lighting the
cigar. The reason I remove the band is because if it is a very
good cigar, I may want to smoke it down past the band and it
is easier to remove it now than when the hot end of the cigar
Other cigars come wrapped in cedar. Be sure to remove
that as well. Some cigar smokers say the only proper way to light
a cigar is off a cedar strip. Hmm. How can I put this diplomatically?
The next step is to cut or punch a hole in the cap.
I recommend you use a cigar cutter. You can borrow
one or purchase one for a couple of bucks at the store where
you got your cigar. You don’t need anything fancy, just sharp
so it doesn’t crush the tobacco. Cut the cigar right where the
top of the cigar begins to go round for the top. It is between
1∕16 to 1∕8 of an inch from the end. (For cigars with a pointed
tip, cut about 1∕4 inch from the top.)
I recommend you use a butane lighter. Butane is fairly
odorless and does not impart any taste to the cigar. Matches
and Zippos work, but be sure to give them a second to burn
off some of the smell or use them to light the cedar strips which
have virtually no odor.
Put the cigar in your mouth and bring the flame close to
the foot. Puff on the cigar, drawing the flame into it. When
you get the flame into the cigar you will see the flame jump up
after the puff. This is normal. As you do this, also rotate the
cigar so you can get an even burn.
The key to enjoying a cigar is to focus on the ritual and let
the world’s cares drop away. Often you are with others where
the conversation is fun, and sometimes there are even adult
beverages present. The key is: don’t rush it. Take a puff maybe
once a minute—you don’t have to actually time your puffs.
If you smoke too fast, you will overheat the tobacco and cause an
uneven burn and the cigar may get a bit hot and harsh on you.
If you smoke too slowly, the cigar will keep going out, forcing
you to re-light it.
Just relax and enjoy the flavors and the experience.