How to Light a Cigar

How to Light a Cigar

Lighting a cigar correctly is as much an art as it is a science. The way you light your cigar can significantly affect its taste and your overall smoking experience. Remembering my own initial attempts, which were fraught with errors and imperfect burns, I’ve learned that mastering this initial step is crucial for any cigar enthusiast.

Selecting the Right Tools

To start, you'll need the right equipment. Choosing the appropriate tool is crucial as it directly impacts the quality of your cigar's light and, subsequently, its flavor.

Choosing Your Lighting Instrument

When it comes to lighting cigars, not all flames are created equal. You have several options:

  • Butane Lighters: These are highly recommended because they provide a clean, odorless flame, ensuring that no unwanted flavors are imparted to the cigar.
  • Wooden Matches: If you prefer a more traditional approach, long wooden matches can be a great choice. They burn longer than regular matches, giving you ample time to properly light the cigar.

Before you light up, it’s important to understand why the tool you choose matters. Each lighting tool has its nuances, which can enhance or detract from your cigar smoking experience.

The Proper Lighting Technique

Lighting a cigar is not as simple as lighting a candle. The process is a ritual that enhances the entire experience from the very first puff.

Toasting the Foot of the Cigar

Toasting is an essential step in lighting a cigar. This involves holding the flame near the foot of the cigar (the part you light) without actually touching it with the flame.

  1. Rotate the cigar above the flame to evenly warm the tobacco, which helps prevent an uneven burn.
  2. Continue rotating until the edges start to smolder, ensuring the foot is evenly toasted.

Toasting primes the cigar for lighting and can make a significant difference in how evenly and smoothly it burns.

Lighting the Cigar

After toasting, it’s time to light the cigar:

  1. Place the flame slightly away from the foot while gently drawing in air.
  2. Rotate the cigar slowly, ensuring the flame evenly ignites the foot.

It’s crucial to avoid direct contact between the flame and the cigar to prevent overheating, which can cause a harsh taste.

Clearing the Cigar of Smoke

After lighting your cigar, it's not uncommon to experience a build-up of harsh smoke from the initial lighting. This can affect the flavor, particularly in the first few draws. To ensure a purer taste, you might want to clear the cigar of this initial smoke.

  1. Gently Blow Out: After your cigar is fully lit, take a moment to gently blow out through the cigar instead of drawing in. This action pushes out any excess smoke that has accumulated during the lighting process.
  2. Take The First Puff : Now that the harsher smoke has been expelled, you’re now ready to take the first puff of your cigar.

This method is particularly useful for enhancing the taste of the cigar right from the start. By clearing out the initial harsh smoke, you ensure that your first draws are as clean and enjoyable as possible. Remember, this step is optional and based on personal preference. Some aficionados skip this step to experience the full natural flavor progression of the cigar from start to finish.

Achieving and Maintaining an Even Burn

Now that your cigar is lit, maintaining an even burn is key to enjoying your smoking session.

Monitoring the Burn

Keep an eye on the burn line. If you notice it starting to canoe — where one side burns faster than the other — you can correct it by rotating the cigar so the faster-burning side is facing down.

Addressing Common Issues

Should the cigar begin to burn unevenly or go out, it’s important to address these issues calmly. A gentle touch-up with your lighter can correct an uneven burn, while a complete re-light may be necessary if the cigar goes out.


Mastering the lighting of your cigar will enhance your smoking experience significantly. Like many things, it takes a little practice. The more you do it, the more intuitive it will become, turning each cigar into a perfect opportunity to relax and indulge. With each well-lit cigar, you’ll not only develop a greater appreciation for the craft but also refine your ability to detect subtle differences in flavor and aroma. Remember, the ritual of lighting a cigar sets the tone for your entire smoking session. By investing time in perfecting this art, you ensure that each cigar is not just smoked, but thoroughly enjoyed. So take your time, savor the process, and let each smoke be a journey of flavor, relaxation, and personal satisfaction.

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