When it comes to lighting up your favourite cigar the ritual of lighting it is just important as cutting the cigar. However, just like the different ways of cutting a cigar there are just as many ways, if not more, of lighting the stogie. I will outline the different methods of lighting a cigar as well as their pros and cons.
This is reminiscent of older days; the match is considered the classic form of lighting up a cigar. First, one would light up the match and slowly toast the foot of the cigar. You don’t want the flame to make contact with the foot of the cigar, but close enough to start to blacken it. This is will not light the cigar however. A second and usually a third match is needed to fully light the cigar and ensure an even burn. When selecting the right matches a cigar smoker does not choose the everyday household matches but proper cedar cigar matches. But why? Firstly, cigar matches do not have a phosphorous tip which is known to impart a foul flavour to the cigar. Secondly, the cedar is a clean and pure burn and also imparts a desired cedar flavour to cigars. This is also why cigars are stored in Spanish cedar humidors. There are a few cons however. Some smokers firstly don’t want to carry around a bunch of matches with them. Secondly, it requires a lot of patience to use multiple matches to get a proper light (but a cigar smokers should have lots of patience). Thirdly, lighting a cigar with matches outside is virtually impossible, as even a little breeze will extinguish the flame. Matches are a great old fashioned way of lighting up your stogie, but it has its inherent downfalls!
The Cedar Spills
This is an interesting way to light a cigar. When buying boxes of cigars they typically have a thin piece of spanish cedar which divides multiple layers of cigars. These thin piece of cedar are easily broken (they are very, very thin) and they can be lit with a lighter and then used to light the cigar. Whats great about this method is that since the pieces of cedar are quite long you never need to use multiple pieces to light the cigar. Also, there are no harmful chemicals on the cedar which will change the taste of the smoke. However, it has the same problems as the matches do when smoking outside. There is also the need to carry around a lighter or match to light the cedar. This is simply a nice way of lighting the cigar if you are indoors. There are also cedar spills available to buy which are specifically shaped and designed to light you cigar perfectly!
The Soft Flame Lighter
This is perhaps the most common form of lighter and they come in two main forms. The first is the most undesirable, that is the fuel lighter. These are the ‘Zippo’ type lighters which use liquid petroleum to create a flame. However, fuel lighters also impart a foul aroma to the cigar, as petroleum has a harsh solvent smell. The second type of soft flame lighter is the more desirable form, that is the butane lighter. Butane is a scentless gas, yes it smells like eggs in the can, however when burned it is scentless. This is what you see in Bic lighters. However, when it comes to cigars you should not use cheap butane lighters. A refillable lighter is preferable since you can fill it with refined butane. There a literally dozens of companies which manufacture great quality refillable soft flame butane lighters. These lighters however have the same problem as the former two methods, that is the wind factor.
The Jet Lighter
The jet lighter is the most pervasive method of lighting ones cigars to date. They are the most popular form and they are typically the most reliable. The jet lighter is a butane lighter which forces the butane out and ignites it in the form of a jet. They are basically wind proof and can be used in most weather conditions. They come in all shapes and sizes and do not impart any flavours. You can buy jet lighters that have single flames, duel flames and three flames (sometimes even more). The only real drawback with a jet lighter is its excessive consumption of butane, regular refills are necessary (the more flames, the more refills).
When it comes to lighting my cigar I use all of the above methods. However the occasion and outdoor conditions determine which I use. I almost exclusively carry my jet lighter with me because it is the best fallback method, if it isn’t your primary method. Remember, how you light you cigar will determine the quality of the burn as well as the flavour in some cases, because of this I recommend you use the proper method when the occasion calls for it. You don’t want to be caught outside with a breeze and only have a box of matches with you!
Let me know in the comment section below which method you prefer and why!
By: Steven Umbrello
Steven Umbrello is a student of philosophy and an avid cigar and pipe smoker. He has been smoking cigars and pipes for over five years and has made it his mission to learn as much about the industry as possible. He has attended some high profile cigar events and is a leading member of the Toronto Cigar Club. You can find more from Steven at his blog The Leather Library Blog.