top of page

The Cigar: Toasted or Burnt?

Regardless what tool you use - wooden matches, cedar spills, butane lighters - lighting a cigar is a ritual, it's a process, it's not to be rushed and should be a momentous part of the entire smoking experience. Lighting the cigar should be relaxing and not troublesome; however, improper, rushed, or impatient lighting could potentially ruin your smoke.

The bravado I see on social media and in some cigar lounges with guys using damn-near industrial-sized torches and huge flames to light their cigars is absolutely ridiculous. It's not cool, it doesn't make you look cool...please knock it off!

**steps down off soapbox**

Again, lighting the cigar is a ritual that shouldn't be rushed, so some time should be dedicated to toasting the foot of the cigar for proper lighting. Toasting allows the wrapper, binder, and filler to ignite evenly. Just holding a light to the foot and starting to draw would only ignite some of the filler and the cigar would burn unevenly.

During the process of toasting, the tip of the flame should be held directly underneath the foot of the cigar - the actual flame should never touch the tobacco, which would do nothing but char the wrapper and filler. There is more there enough heat generated at or near the tip of the flame to toast the tobacco. As you toast the foot, rotate the cigar slowly to ensure even toasting - you'll know that you're toasting properly when you see slow ignition of the entire foot. But when you see the foot start to glow and some whiffs of smoke are created, that's when you start to draw slowly on the cigar, but then gently blow on the embers at the foot while rotating the cigar to ensure an even light.

I think Gordon Mott, Executive Editor of Cigar Aficionado magazine, has the best demonstration of the patience one should take when lighting a cigar. In fact, the video below shows Mott lighting his cigar with just 3 wooden matches, prior to cutting and drawing - demonstrating that it's really the toasting of the foot that essential to proper lighting.

Video courtesy of Cigar Aficionado online.

While I teach novices through my coaching sessions the methods of toasting (whether using a butane lighter, wooden matches, or cedar spills), I found this "3 matches" method to be fascinating. I tried it, I loved it! I even used this technique with a butane torch lighter; slowly toasting the foot with the torch before cutting and drawing - and it works very well.

Toasting + lighting = even burn and maximum flavor pleasure. Just as you never rush through your cigar, take your time and don't rush through lighting it...enjoy the ritual at the beginning and you'll most definitely enjoy the cigar, and the experience, much longer.

bottom of page