How to Light a Cigar: Not as Simple as it Sounds

Introduction on How to Light a Cigar

Lighting a cigar is simple, right? Not so fast, bubba. Did you know there are a number of different methods to light a cigar? This article discusses four methods on how to light a cigar.

The Traditional Method

For the newbies out there, the traditional method is a simple as it gets. Cut the foot of the cigar with a cutter or punch. Then, use a wooden match or butane lighter to light the cigar.

Don’t use candles, your gas stove, or your cigarette smoking friend’s Zippo. These flame sources impart flavors into your cigar that you will not like. I once lit a cigar with a Zippo lighter and oh my god, I thought I was going to die. It was like smoking a cigar flavored with radioactive materials and pesticides.

Here’s how to light your cigar by toasting the foot first. Hold the cigar at a 45-degree angle over the flame. Rotate the cigar to light the entire circumference of the exposed tobacco. Do not let the flame touch the cigar. There is plenty of heat to light your cigar without dousing your cigar in the flame. If you hold the lighter or match too close to your cigar, you will singe your cigar and get some nasty flavors. This is called “toasting the foot” of your cigar. sounds odd, but the purpose of toasting is to ignite the outer layers of the tobacco that hold the cigar together. If you just held up a match and began to draw, only the inner tobacco, known as the filler, will ignite. If this happens, the cigar will burn unevenly and develop a poorly shaped ash.

Some people puff the cigar while lighting it and some people wait until the end of the cigar has red embers when you blow on the cigar. This is your choice.

After you think your cigar is lit, take a look at the foot and make sure the cigar is burning evenly. You can gently blow on the foot to ensure the cigar is completely lit. Once the cigar is lit, let it sit for a minute as the short delay will allow the freshly-lit cigar to stabilize.

The Cedar Spill Method

This method is not so much a method as it is an alternative lighting source. A spill is a slender piece of wood or twisted paper, for lighting candles, lamps, campfires, or fireplaces. Before more modern inventions such as lighters and chemical matchsticks, a cedar spill was the traditional method to light a cigar. Wood of various lengths, thickness, and species were torn into narrow strips and lit with whatever flame source was handy. Cigars were slowly roasted and toasted, allowing the oils and water within the tobacco leaves to slowly smolder, ignite, and reveal almost immediately the full flavor and aroma of the cigar. Today, cigar spills are made from Spanish cedar, the same stuff that lines your humidor.

To light your cigar, first, light the spill by holding the spill downward and the hold a match or lighter to the bottom of the spill. Hold the spill downward until the spill is completely lit. Next, toast the foot of the cigar using the Traditional Method documented above. Your spill will likely continue to burn. To extinguish your spill, simply hold it so the flame faces up and the rest of the spill faces the ground. The spill will slowly extinguish itself.

You can buy 25 cedar spills from Amazon for $15. If you want to spend a little more money, you can find more cedar spills at Commonwealth Cedar Spills.

The Winston Churchill Method

Sir Winston Churchill always kept hundreds of cigars in his Chartwell, UK residence.   He smoked around 10 cigars a day and didn’t die from lung cancer. Eat that FDA, NIH, and the rest of the U.S. Government agencies that love to infringe on our rights.

Churchill had a unique way of preparing his cigars for smoking.  Instead of using a cigar cutter Sir Winston moistened his cigars and pierced them with a match.

Churchill received cigar cutters over the years as gifts and kept one of them, a cigar piercer, attached to his watch chain. But he did not use any of the cutters he owned on his cigars. He preferred to moisten the end of the cigar and poke a hole through it with one of the extra-long wooden matches he had specially imported in large cartons from Canada or with his cigar piercer that was about the same shape as a wooden match. He would then blow through the cigar from the other end to make sure it would draw. Finally, he would light it, sometimes with the candle that he kept nearby in case the cigar went out. If you use this method, skip the candle part. Churchill was an expert cigar smoker but he didn’t have the luxury of a new fangled multiple jet lighter!

The Jacques Puisais Method

Smoking is normally a luxury and enjoyable experience. Jacques Puisais made it a scientific experience, called the “La Méthode de Jacques Puisais”, or “The Method of Jacques Puisais”.

Mr. Puisais, the director of the French Institute of Taste, developed his personal theory about the lighting of the cigar. In his studies, he determined that when the flame emits heat, there is a temperature gap between the head and the foot of the cigar that creates a vacuum that sucks in impurities from the source of the flame. From his view, if you light up a cigar after having cut or punched its head, part of the smoke and impurities end up in the middle of the cigar.

Enough of science class. So, what the heck is The Method of Jaques Puisais? Simple. Toast the foot of your cigar prior to cutting the head. Blow on the embers to ensure you completely light the cigar. Toast the foot more if needed.

The c.gar Method

I have my own method for lighting a cigar which we will affectionately call, “The c.gar Method”. Finally, I am famous! I use lighters, matches, and cedar spills interchangeably so your source of heat doesn’t matter with this method. My method is a combination or offshoot of both the Traditional Method and The Method of Jacques Puisais. I cut the cigar using a punch or cutter. I then place my thumb over the head of the cigar and toast the foot. I do this to minimize the impurities imparted by the flame by eliminating the vacuum effect identified by Puisais. Pretty simple but I find the first few puffs of my cigar to be a lot more pleasant.

Let us know what you think of the four methods or identify your favorite method of how to light a cigar by commenting on this post.

(Updated August 15th, 2017)




c.gar loves all things cigar-related. He typically falls in love with cigars that are discontinued shortly thereafter. His first cigar was a Swisher Sweet with a wood tip. Sadly, these are still in production.

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