Most things involving cigars are made better with the knowledge of why certain methods are done certain ways. There are specific ways to cut cigars, proper ways to smoke them, and of course, proper or preferred ways of lighting them. This is not to say you can’t just grab any old lighter and smoke a cigar; you can, it’s just that if you are trying to be true to taste, this method will lead you astray (and to the ashtray).
If you are inclined to smoke your cigar and get the true, hand-rolled taste the way it was destined to be smoked, by all means take into account how you light your cigars. While there are many sources of flames – candles, matches, cedar strips, cigarette lighters, butane lighters, the stove, etc – there are very few that don’t affect the taste of the cigar. Being the fine gentleman (or woman) that you are, we know you will leave the stovetop for cooking of foods, not for the lighting of your smokes.
Why the Flame Source Matters
Cigar aficionados will tell you that using anything other than a butane lighter or cedar strip will alter the essence of your cigar. For example, a flame from a candle may provide a lasting heat source but the burning candle wax can add odd flavor to your cigar. The same goes with a cigarette lighter, the isobutene can affect the taste. Finally, most matches contain sulfur, which can also seep into the taste of your cigar and are objected by many a smoker.
We are not saying not to use a candle, a lighter or matches; we are just saying that you may be better off using them to light your spill, or the delightful piece of cedar that gives off a great, woody smell. If you must use matches, allow the sulfur to burn off before using them to light your cigar. Or if you truly enjoy lighting your cigar with matches, invest in extra-long, wooden sulfur-less matches that won’t affect the taste.
The Cool Flame: Cedar Spills
We are not talking about the Fantastic Four’s Human Torch here folks, we are talking about your heat source. The other reason smokers prefer a cedar spill over a lighter is the temperature of the flame. With a cedar spill, the flame is cooler than that of a lighter, butane or petrol. The reason this is a call for concern is because the cooler the flame, the cooler the smoke will be. It is comparable to eating a slice of scalding hot pizza; the taste suffers because the heat burns your palate. This same principle relates to the heat source and smoke of your cigar, cooler is better.
Remember when you went camping as a kid and gathered around the campfire to toast your marshmallows? You were careful not to submerge your tasty treat directly into the flame because one, you didn’t want your treat to taste like charcoal and two, you didn’t want to burn the roof off of your mouth. Similar principles apply to lighting a cigar, you don’t want to burn the cigar directly in the flame, you should light it above or near it.
While lighting, rotate the cigar slowly so that the perimeter becomes equally heated. When your cigar has a glowing ring all the way around the cigar’s tip, it is ready for smoking. Some smokers like to blow gently on the embers to create a smooth ash. You may also want to blow the first puff of the cigar out through the cigar to avoid any unsavory flavors. One outward puff will do, you are not a magic dragon.
What About Relighting?
When you come across the occasion where you have to let your cigar go out or your audience was so enthralled about your meeting with the Olsen twins and you forgot to puff for a few minutes, you may consider relighting your cigar. Although some purists will tell you to never relight a cigar, in most circles it’s generally acceptable.
Relighting your cigar will likely be much easier than it was to light initially as your cigar is still warm from your previous smoke. Lighting a cigar from the day before is the equivalent to drinking a warm leftover beer from the night before; it will be stale, have harsh flavors and your good buzz from the night before will taste like, well, warm stale beer from the night before.
Your turn. What would you add? Where do you think we’re off our rockers?