How to light your Cuban cigar - tools and techniques...

How to light your Cuban cigar - tools and techniques...

By Nick Hendry.


When beginning a journey of enjoyment with a Cuban Cigar, the first steps are the most important. They choose the direction the rest of the trip will take so it is vital they are taken with care and attention. The lighting of our cigar is perhaps the most vital moment – the wrong method can cause an uneven burn; the wrong device can impair the flavour. An aficionado must pay attention to both each time they light up so a stick that has taken expertise to create is not ruined, along with their well-earned moment of relaxation in its company.

Here on the EGM Blog we have discussed the proper method for lighting a cigar before. Three stages form the process, each as important as its predecessor as it is in the combination that perfect technique is found. Firstly, one must gently toast the edge of the foot, ensuring it is equally charred all round. This will guard against uneven burn, such as tunnelling or canoeing. This should be done gently: hold the cigar at a 45 degree angle just above the flame as bringing it too close could singe the tobacco all the way through and spoil the flavour. When you are happy all sides are fully lit, move the cigar around above the flame so the entire foot becomes evenly charred. Next, slowly start to draw from the cigar, keeping the foot just above the flame and rotating it gently to light the whole foot. Turn it round, check each part is properly lit, and enjoy.

Which tool, then, should we choose to complete this essential and intricate task? The answer, like many things in the cigar world, will depend largely on personal taste, but can also be informed by the circumstances of where and when we choose to smoke – outdoor cigars, for which we may have to consider the elements, may require a different tool than a cigar enjoyed in a lounge. Most cigar smokers will allow these factors to shape their choice from one of four popular options.

The soft flame lighter.

Possibly the most popular choice among experienced smokers is the soft flame butane lighter. It offers the perfect combination of convenience and elegance and, with a plethora of different options on the market, it will be easy for any cigar fan to find one that matches their taste completely. The softness of the flame allows us to gently light our cigar without overly scorching the tobacco, protecting the flavour of our favourite stick. This style of lighter will perform perfectly when indoors but can suffer at the hands of the wind when enjoying an al fresco smoke.

Lighting a Cuban cigar with a soft flame lighter

A soft gas flame can be an elegant and functional lighting method.

The jet flame lighter.

If the ability to fend off the wind is critical to your cigar experience a jet flame lighter could be your solution. These impressive tools will produce a torch of fire that can resist a fair old breeze and light your cigar with ease. They are perfect for cigars on the go, be it at the beach or on a stroll through the park, and will also give a degree of accuracy to the lighting process that becomes particularly useful when our stick needs a little extra help to burn evenly. Take care, though: the powerful flame can easily burn the tobacco too hot when brought too close to the foot. Hold the cigar just above the tip of the flame and the heat will be enough to light it perfectly.

Lighting a Cuban cigar with a jet flame lighter

Jet flame, or torch, lighters will resist the wind and ensure accuracy when lighting your cigar.

Long cigar matches.

Long cigar matches can be a beautiful way of lighting your cigar under the correct circumstances. They are suited primarily to indoor smoking, a slight breath of wind sometimes enough to extinguish, and can be tricky to use with accuracy and without singed fingertips. With a bit of practice, however, they can be a stylish and dramatic way to light your favourite stick and impress onlookers with your skill. Always be sure to let the head of the match burn away and the wooden stalk take light before bringing the foot to the flame, gently rotate the stick as you toast it and enjoy a classic lighting style.

Lighting a Cuban cigar with a match

A match is a classic and gentle way of lighting your cigar. Image from Twitter.

Cedar strips.

Cedar strips, usually obtained by breaking up the slim blanket of cedar which once covered the contents of a now empty cigar box, may well be the most difficult tools to use but are surely the most exquisite. The act of lighting the wood with a lighter or match to then use the wood for the cigar may seem elaborate, but the aromas of the cedar will mingle with those of the cigar to, according to many, further enhance the smoking experience. This, like matches, is a method most definitely suited to indoor smoking but one which will bring an added sense of luxury and tradition to the occasion.

Lighting a Cuban cigar with cedar strips

Cedar strips are the most traditional and elaborate method for lighting, perfectly demonstrated when EGM visited Annabel's in Mayfair.

There are, of course, some methods that may be considered but should not be allowed to sully your cigar. Never use a petrol flame, such as that of a Zippo lighter, as they will infuse your cigar with the aromas of the fuel and destroy the pleasure of the smoke. Likewise, no matter how frustrating it may be when we find ourselves with a glorious stick but no lighter, a candle should never be considered a substitute as the wax particles from its flame will be even worse for the experience. Rather, an astute smoker will ensure they always have their favoured lighting method close to hand, full of gas if required, and ready to spark their moment of luxury with their Habano.

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