How to Properly Light a Cigar
There are many rituals that work their way into the enjoyment of cigars. Some of these rituals can lead to very heated arguments. Like those arguments about where the best cigars come from (Cuba versus Nicaragua or the Dominican Republic etc.) As long as passions and cigars flare-up, you will find defenders of all arguments. One of the most contentious is the argument about how to properly light a cigar; matches or butane torch lighter.
The Case for Matches
The goal is to get the wrapper and the filler (the tightly rolled tobacco leaves inside the wrapper) evenly lit. That’s what leads to a smooth smoke and an even burn. A bad cut job on a cigar is forgivable. A poorly lit cigar will detract from the overall smoking experience. Proper wooden matches have been paired with cigars for as long as both have been around. These are not the flimsy felt matches with sulfur heads. Sulfur could lead to off-flavors in the cigar. Sturdy four-inch long matches made for cigars, provide a certain refinement and tradition that comes with properly toasting your prized trophy cigar.
Torch Lighters and the Perfect Flame
There is no arguing that unless weather conditions are perfect (i.e. no wind) you can’t beat a multi torch butane lighter. Butane burns off immediately when lit, eliminating the possibility of any off-flavors. They are also easy to share and pass along with fellow smokers. Like prized humidors, lighters themselves by the likes of S.T. Dupont can run into thousands of dollars. Often, they are status symbols in their own right. Butane lighters don’t need to be refilled as often. They also typically give off a more intense heat that gets your cigar lit quicker and cleaner.
The Professionals Weigh In
In the movie “Hellboy”, there is a scene where the main character struggles to light his cigar with a Zippo lighter. Jeffrey Tambor chastises him asking incredulously, “What are you doing?” He then explains you only use wooden matches, because it perfects the flavor. If that’s not definitive enough, none other than Hollywood icon Jack Nicholson has weighed in on the matter. He vouches by the technique that famed director Roman Polanski taught him. Run a flame around the entire edge of the cigar. When the entire tip is lit, blow out initially, then inhale. It’s the only way to lock in the flavor, and it makes a difference. We can’t argue with an icon like Jack Nicholson, but he hasn’t committed to the match versus lighter debate.
The Verdict Is In
Despite all of the evidence supporting both sides, there is no conclusive winner. The only common ground is the importance of technique. Properly toasting the “foot” of the cigar and rotating it in your mouth to ensure an even burn all the way around. While matches may exude an “old school cool”, the butane torch lighter is incredibly reliable, especially on a windy golf course. It’s also quite clear that much like the “chicken and the egg” debate, this won’t get resolved any time soon. What matters is the importance of sharing a great cigar among friends, and knowing how to properly light it to ensure that clean burn for maximum enjoyment!
Photo Credit: hespokestyle.com