A few months back, Jerry, Brian, and I were talking about some of the things we would like to do in the future with Stogie Review. Most of the discussion was aimed at reorganizing and the creation of new pages. While we talked, Brian mentioned doing some kind of Frequently Asked Questions page to help cut down our email load. We all liked the idea but weren’t crazy about how much time and effort would have to put into the page to get it started, not to mention the ongoing effort of keeping this page current.
We eventually let the idea go and talked about possibly writing up an article every now and again on particular topics. The idea was to respond to some of the standard emails with a link to a page explaining the things that were asked. This too wound up being put on the back burner to take care of more pressing issues.
After a few hours of after-work yard work, I just didn’t feel up to recording a full blown cigar review. I did however feel like doing some sort of video. I thought about doing a Short Ashes video but cast the idea aside after thinking about how long its been since I’ve done a video with a written article to go with it.
On a whim I decided to select a topic that we get questions about often and do a video on the subject. With the decision being so sudden, I didn’t have a name for the segment or even known exactly what I wanted the end result to be.
The final product is what I have for you today. It includes an article discussing one of the more common questions we receive through the contact form along with a video.
C’mon baby, light my fire!
The purpose of this article is to discuss with you a little about lighting your cigars. The intent is not to talk about the actual technique of lighting cigars, but instead to talk a little about the different methods available. The article was inspired by the many questions we have received asking us “What is the best way to light a cigar?“.
Matches are more, or less, the same across the board. They each have a tip with a variety of compounds. When friction is applied to these compounds a chemical reaction creates heat which in turn creates fire. The fire continues to burn as it consumes the fuel, in the shape of paper or wood.
The big difference comes in the way of the fuel. As cigar smokers we always hear that we should avoid paper matches and stick to only wooden stick matches if a lighter isn’t handy.
The chemicals in these matches are used to bond the paper and make the “stick” or handle of the match. The wooden variety is typically made up of a small piece of white pine or aspen and does not require any sort of additives to make it hold its shape.
While I am no match expert, I would tend to think that there is absolutely no difference between a cigar match and the boxes of wooden matches available at a hardware store, with the exception that cigar matches tend to be much longer than these utility types.
So why would you want to use a match over a lighter? I prefer them from time to time because they seem to slow me down and put me in that relaxed mind set from the very beginning. The soft flame of the match makes lighting your cigar a little easier in the sense that the wrapper will not scorch as fast as a jet flame would.
When using this type of light, it is suggested that you strike the match and allow it to burn for a couple of seconds. This will allow the sulfur on the match tip to burn off and not become drawn into your cigar as it is lit.
Toasting the foot is not required but some enjoy the relaxing ritual of lighting the cigar without puffing on it during lighting. This method generally takes about three long matches to complete.
So why wouldn’t you want to use a match over a lighter? That question can be answered easily enough with another question, Have you ever tried to light a cigar with a match, outside on a windy day?
In addition to the problems caused by a breeze, matches are often too short to light a cigar in one shot. Depending on the size of the match, it can sometimes take a half dozen short stick matches to get a large ring gauge cigar burning properly. By the same token, small ring gauge cigars are generally a breeze to light with a single match, or sometimes two.
Along similar lines as a match, there is also another method of lighting your cigar which involves a soft flame and a piece of wood. This is known as lighting your cigar with a Spanish Cedar Spill. In this case, a spill is a fancy name for a slender piece of wood which is set aflame by a lighter or match, then used to light your cigar.
The lighting process works in the same manner as a match, with the exception that time isn’t needed for the sulfer tip to burn away. It is said that this method has a cleaner taste on the initial light and imparts a bit of a cedar tone. The cedar flavor matches the flavor that aging the cigars within cedar boxes would.
This method of lighting has the similar pros and cons as using a match. While I have never used this method myself, you can see Jerry use this method while lighting the Vasco da Gama cigar. This review is a bit dated but should make the danger of using a flaming piece of wood, to light your cigar, very apparent.
The Single Flame:
This is probably, hands down, the most common way of lighting cigars. Single flame torch lighters can range from a couple of dollars at your local walmart to hundreds for special edition ST Dupont torches. With this style of lighter being so widely available, the fuel is also widely available and relatively inexpensive.
The trick to the fuel is forcing yourself to pass up on buying that jumbo container of Ronson fuel for $1.99 and waiting until you are able to visit a quality tobacconist. At your local tobacconist you will be able to find what is called Triple Refined Butane. This is the most common and should cost only a few dollars for a can which will last much longer than you would initially think.
As with any product, there is also something that is supposed to be new and improved. In this department you have your Quadruple and Quintuple Refined Butane. This means that unlike your triple refined butane, which is filtered three times, this is filtered four and five times to remove impurities.
The difference between this product and your inexpensive Ronson product is that it is much cleaner.The most common ailment of jet flame lighters is a dirty or clogged jet. This comes in the form of impurities in the fuel getting stuck within the jet or ashes or other debris falling into the jet during lighting.
I find that this style lighter feels very precise. Because of the narrow heat source, it is easy to touch up an ailing burn line or avoid scorching your cigar on the initial light. This same narrow heat source can also make lighting a large ring gauge cigar time consuming.
Multiple Flame Lighters:
Just as butane has new and improved products, so do torch lighters. These bigger and badder lighters sport multiple flames and provide a broader heat source. This makes lighting your mammoth sixty-six ring cigar a little faster but can lead to scorching when lighting that petite corona you have been eying up all day.
Models with multiple jets have the same problems as their single flame siblings, they can easily become clogged. The number of jets only multiplies this potential problem as one or all of the jets could become clogged along the way. If, or when, this problem does arise, it is suggested that you use a can of compressed air to try and blow out any obstruction from the jet in question.
If your standard torch lighters were children, table torches would be their daddy. Just as you would think from reading the name, these products are designed not be kept in your pocket, but set atop your table. Table lighters come in all varieties and offer anything from a wide single jet to a series of finer jets.
This type of lighter is normally what you find available for public use at your local cigar shop. They are ideal because often times they hold a tremendous amount of fuel and make quick work of lighting cigars. They are also less likely to grow legs and walk away, never to be seen again, due to their large size.
More often than not, you will see these lighters used in haste and result in badly scorched wrappers. It can sometimes be difficult to use this type of lighter if you aren’t accustomed to the large flame they produce. With a little practice and the forethought to hold the lighter far away from the foot of the cigar, they are fast working and very effective.
So what do I use? I use all of the above, with the exception of the Cedar Spill. In different circumstances one type of light is preferred over the other and I don’t feel as though I should be locked just one type. As you smoke cigars more and more, you will see where the situation may be improved by using one method over another.
If you found this post looking for advice on buying a lighter for yourself, I’m sorry but that is another discussion for another time. So, What is the best way to light my cigar? That is easy, the best way to light your cigar is by using the method you are most proficient with. If you are uncomfortable with one way over another, grab yourself a cigar that isn’t terribly important to you and throw caution to the wind and give one of the other methods a try.
I can promise you that at some point you are going to forget your lighter and be forced to use something different. Better to be more prepared when that time comes then using a particular style of lighting, for the very first time.
14 thoughts on “A Discussion of Lighting Your Cigar”
Nice analysis of all the options Walt!
I’d break my lighting habits down as follows:
Inside- matches or a regular butane lighter
outside- torch lighter
The only problem I have is that my torch lighter doesn’t seem to last for more than a few cigars. This becomes a problem when sharing with non-regular smoking friends. When I know I will be sharing, or having a long day (golfing etc.) I bring a back-up lighter or two.
VERY helpful, Walt. Thanks! I have several single-flame torch lighters of various configurations but have often wondered about the suposed advantages of multi-flame lighters. Thanks for the info!
Here is the lighter I want and the one I have been eyeing for a couple years now.
If you have never held it, try it out. It is very nice, solid and the way it lights is really cool. The only reason I havent pulled the trigger is because I seem to have bad luck with lighters. They do NOT last long at all. I clean them, purge them, fill them with triple refined and I still have issues.
I like this direction. I have a double flame torch and so far haven’t had any probs with clogging.
The difference between a cigar match and kitchen matches isn’t the length (although a longer length certainly is better for lighting cigars), but rather the presence of sulfur or not. When ordering matches for the cigar shop I used to work for, the catalog defined cigar matches as those without sulfur.
Also, one trick I like to use when lighting with shorter matches or if I’m lighting a thicker cigar, is to strike 2 matches a once to give a broader flame.
For lighters, I like a soft butane flame. It gives a match like flame, but the ease of a torch. Only problem is it isn’t much good on a windy day, just like a match.
I got a Pen torch from deal extreme after my $20 Tiger Lighter never refilled after it ran out of fuel from the box. $5 shipped and it is indestructible. It has a standard flame as well as a torch setting and is great if you smoke a pipe as well. I’d like to get a nice single flame torch someday, but it definitely won’t be a Tiger.
Walt: The S.T. Dupont X-Tend (I’ve got one) can be filled without using a special nozzle. It’s the other Duponts that need a special nozzle.
Well thanx to Mr Walt’s recommendation , I bought a Creme Brulee lighter at my local Bed Bath and Beyond and have never looked back! I have a Xikar Incline in my pocket that is a single flame but only use it when I am out and about. If you have the chance to buy a Creme Brulee lighter – DO IT! Fuel lasts AGES and it lights up pretty darn quick. You do have to be careful not to get it too close, but other than that, it is a dream!
I also have a dual flame in my living room and at my computer for use, but they basically sit there for a backup in case the creme brulee fails or runs out of butane.
1 thing I do hate about the creme brulee lighter is that it has a safety switch. You have to flick the lever down to light the torch. I wish I could find one without that feature as it is a pain in the rear if it doesnt light the first time you flick. It also has a steady on switch, but that is on the left side of the lighter and not very convenient to flick on.
Thank you Walt for this post; very helpful!
Incredible job Walt!!
great video/article, bro…this will definitely be a great help to anyone just starting out in this wonderful hobby of ours.
I usually go with a torch for lighting my cigars, simply because I tend to smoke outdoors a lot, and the soft flame lighters and matches don’t cut it in the wind. Occasionally, I will use the other methods you mentioned (I haven’t tried the cedar spill either), but the torch is by far the easiest choice.
Anyways, enough of me babbling on…keep up the great work, man!
Nice job, Walt. I’m a match fan personally, but I will whip out my single flame occasionally. I have a piece of cedar sitting around from an order that I may have to cut into some strips next time I’m home.
Xikar Exce. single flame works great for me–I purge on low before refilling–but it runs out after 4-7 cigars, and has no fuel gauge.
I prefer in no-wind conditions using a bic (or matches), as it results in a cooler, more consistent light. With the flame always under the cigar, I toast the edges until they’re lit (white ash), then puff gently about 4x rotating each time by about 90 degrees, then I let it sit for 1 or 2 minutes before puffing again … works every time, but I can’t do it in wind, and it takes a long time.
Xikar outdoors, I’m not perfect yet, and I don’t puff while lighting like most (I always scorch the cigar). Just toast more (10 seconds, then another 5-10 seconds), take a few puffs, and it’s good to go. Tastes a bit funny initially, so I’m going to try gently blowing out initially.
P.S. The Zippo blue did not work well for me; it wouldn’t always light. And, choose a lighter whose ignition is well away from the flame so the ignition doesn’t heat up and roast your finger.
I got a Newport mini gold butane torch, its my favorite lighter. Thanks for sharing all these tips. Its very helpful.