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 vs. 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 controversial arguments concerns how to properly light a cigar and whether you should use matches or a butane torch lighter.
Why Choose Matches
Your goal is to evenly light the wrapper and the filler. The filler is that tightly rolled tobacco just inside your wrapper. An evenly lit cigar is how you achieve an even burn and smooth smoke. If you cut your cigar poorly, that’s forgivable, but a poorly lit cigar only detracts from your 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 the famous director Roman Polanski taught him. Run a flame around the entire cigar edge. When the entire tip is lit, blow it out, and 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 cigar “foot” 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