If you've invested in a quality cigar for your enjoyment, the last thing you want to do is somehow harm the experience for yourself. Many people new to cigar smoking simply treat them like big cigarettes, and by lighting and smoking them incorrectly, they are never able to fully appreciate the cigar the way it is meant to be smoked. However, experienced cigar smokers know that cigar smoking is an art, and they know just what to do to get the very best smoking experience.
First, we are assuming that you know how to properly cut your cigar, a necessity before you light it. If you need a refresher, check out our blog entry How to Properly Cut a Cigar.
So, you are ready to light up. First be aware that lighting a cigar is meant to be a process and cannot be rushed. You must hold the cigar at about a 45-degree angle with the head upward and the foot (the end you light) down. Some prefer to hold a cigar horizontally for lighting, but the diagonal angle seems to distribute heat more effectively across the cigar's foot.
While holding the cigar, bring the flame close enough that the cigar begins to smoke. This usually happens as just the tip of the flame starts to barely touch the cigar. Keep the cigar out of the flame and pay attention to make sure it does not catch fire! You want a slow start to the burn, not an open flame. When you see smoke, don't move the flame any closer. Instead, start rotating the cigar so as to toast the entire foot. When the entire foot of the cigar is equally charred and you have a glowing red ring encircling the wrapper, you can take the flame away.
Now, test your light by puffing gently on the cigar, rotating it for an even burn. Repeat the process as you puff on the cigar until you achieve a perfect light. To check that the cigar is lit evenly, blow gently across the foot to make it glow.
Your chosen flame also makes a big difference in quality and flavor of your smoking experience. Most matches contain sulfur, which will alter the taste of the cigar, as will certain liquid and gas lighter fuels. Specialty cigar lighters use an odorless fuel and sometimes have more specialized flames to help with an even burn.
You can also go the traditional way and light your cigars with a cedar spill, which is a long piece of Spanish cedar wood. This is the same kind of wood used to line cigar boxes and humidors, and is chosen for the way the smell and texture complement the cigars. You can purchase cedar spills or simply cut or snap off a long piece of the cedar insert from a cigar box. Light the end and hold it at a downward angle so the flame can widen across the surface. Once mastered, this is the classiest and best-tasting way to light a cigar.