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How to Smoke a Cigar: Etiquette, Types, and Accessories

Chris, Chief Editor

Updated Jan 24, 2024

Human experts evaluate all our content

Smoking a cigar is a blend of rituals, flavors, and cigar accessories that culminate in a luxurious and relaxing experience. Unlike cigarettes, you do not inhale cigar smoke as the smoke is stronger, thicker, and hotter. How to smoke a cigar with proper cigar etiquette is summarized in the simple steps below.

  • Using a quality cigar cutter, precisely cut at the cigar’s shoulder where the cap’s curvature ends.
  • Light it evenly with a cigar lighter or wooden match, ensuring the edges ignite for sealing the wrapper and a consistent burn.
  • Hold the cigar between your index finger and thumb, drawing the smoke into your mouth without inhaling.
  • Savor the complex flavors in your mouth briefly before slowly exhaling.
  • Ash the cigar by gently tapping it against an ashtray after the ash develops an inch in length.
  • When finished, allow the cigar to extinguish naturally by leaving it in the cigar ashtray.

Choose a quality cigar wisely, considering the type, size, and brand to enhance your smoking experience. Cuban cigars are renowned for their quality and rich flavors, Nicaraguan cigars are bold and robust, and Dominican cigars are known for their smooth and mild characteristics.

The size of a cigar, measured by length and ring gauge, influences the duration and intensity of the smoking experience. Notable sizes include the balanced Corona, compact Robusto, and the luxurious Double Corona. Brands like Cohiba and Arturo Fuente are celebrated for their exquisite craftsmanship and complex flavors, while Montecristo and Romeo y Julieta offer a mild cigar blend. Cigar subscriptions deliver a curated selection of premium cigars, inviting first cigar smokers to explore diverse flavors and brands.

Cigar accessories enhance the entire cigar experience, starting with humidors for preserving freshness in both traditional and modern designs. For the refined traveler, portable humidors are invaluable, while quality lighters guarantee a superior smoking session. Guillotine and V-cutters provide precision cuts, and a variety of cigar cases offer stylish protection. Each premium cigar accessory has its place for the cigar aficionado, making them excellent gifts for high-valued men.

how to smoke a cigar

Do You Inhale Cigar Smoke?

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No, you do not inhale cigar smoke. The essence of enjoying a cigar lies in savoring the smoke in the mouth, allowing the complex flavors and aromas to be fully appreciated. Direct inhalation is avoided, as cigar smoke’s rich and intense nature is overpowering and diminishes the tasting experience. The focus is on the palate, where the intricate notes of the aged and fermented tobacco are unveiled.

How Much Nicotine is in a Cigar?

The nicotine content in a typical cigar is substantial, often exceeding that found in a cigarette. A standard cigar contains 100 to 200 milligrams of nicotine, while a cigarette averages 8 milligrams, according to Edwin Lin MD, Hematology Oncology at PIH Health organization.

This significant difference is attributed to the size and tobacco content in cigars. The tobacco is aged and fermented without any fillers or chemicals, contributing to the nicotine content. However, the absorption rate in the body is different due to the common practice of not inhaling cigar smoke, contrasting with cigarette smoking, where inhalation is the norm.

How Old Do You Have to Be to Smoke a Cigar?

The legal age to purchase and smoke a cigar varies by country and sometimes even within regions of a country. In the United States, the legal age is 21, following the amendment of the law in December 2019. This law applies to all tobacco products, including cigars, cigarettes, and e-cigarettes. In other countries, the legal age ranges from 18 to 21.

Be aware of the legal age restrictions in your specific location to comply with the law. These regulations are in place to safeguard the health and well-being of young adults and limit their access to tobacco products.

How to Enjoy and Puff a Cigar?

Enjoying a cigar involves a precise technique known as puffing. The refined process of how to enjoy a cigar properly is listed below.

  • Drawing the Smoke: Take a slow, deliberate puff to draw the smoke into your mouth. The objective is to fill the mouth with smoke, not to inhale it into the lungs.
  • Savoring the Flavor: Let the smoke linger in your mouth for a few moments. This pause lets the palate absorb and identify the cigar’s distinct flavors and aromas.
  • Exhaling the Smoke: Release the smoke smoothly and slowly. This measured approach ensures a full experience of the cigar’s flavor profile. Some seasoned smokers let the smoke pass through the nose to engage additional senses.
  • Pacing Your Puffs: Maintain a rhythm of taking a puff every 30 seconds to one minute. This pace ensures the cigar burns evenly and maintains the optimal temperature without going out.

Each step ensures the smoker fully experiences and appreciates the nuanced flavors and aromas of the cigar.

How to Cut a Cigar?

To cut a cigar, locate the shoulder where the cap’s curve transitions to the straight body of the cigar. Hold the cigar steadily and position a sharp cutter right before this identified point. Cut off the cap with a clean, swift motion, preferably above an ashtray.

The risk of an improper cut, especially one made past the shoulder, is unraveling the cigar while smoking. This ruins the entire cigar experience, with bits and pieces of residue entering your mouth.

Not only is this unprofessional and a bad look, but it also wastes an otherwise expensive cigar. This was my exact experience when smoking my first few cigars.

How to Light a Cigar?

To light a cigar, select a torch lighter or wooden matches and hold the cigar at a 45-degree angle.

Gently apply the flame to the foot without direct contact, and rotate the cigar to ensure the edges ignite evenly. Moving the flame in circles around the edges achieves the same effect without rotating the cigar. This is called toasting the foot of the cigar.

As the flame engulfs the foot, puff on the cigar while continuing to apply an even flame across the foot of the cigar. Cigar professionals usually inspect and gently blow on the foot, looking for a glowing ring around the entire foot that signifies the cigar is evenly lit.

How to Hold a Cigar?

Hold a cigar between your index finger and thumb, allowing it to rest comfortably without applying excessive pressure. This grip is ideal for control and stability without compromising the cigar’s structure.

Avoid holding the cigar between the middle and index finger, similar to a cigarette, to maintain the elegance and etiquette associated with cigar smoking. It’s also tiring for the fingers to hold the cigar like this as the diameter is thicker and harder than a cigarette.

The hold should be relaxed yet secure, facilitating easy rotation for an even burn during the smoking experience. The positioning of the fingers allows for natural airflow around the cigar, preventing overheating and preserving the flavors.

How to Ash a Cigar?

To ash a cigar properly, allow the ash to develop an inch or so in length before gently tapping the cigar’s foot against the edge of an ashtray. Alternatively, roll the ash gently against the ashtray to dislodge it, a preferred method by cigar smokers. Avoid forcibly knocking the cigar, disrupting the burn, and damaging the ember.

The ash should almost fall off naturally, indicating that the cigar is burning evenly and at the correct temperature. A common unprofessional mistake is not paying attention to the ash buildup, allowing it to fall on your lap and soiling your suit pants. It’s a rookie mistake and simply unprofessional in a social setting with powerful men.

You do want to allow the ash to build up slightly, as this aids in controlling the burn rate and temperature, contributing to a smoother and more flavorful smoking experience. The ash acts as a natural temperature regulator so the cigar doesn’t burn too hot, which alters the flavors negatively. Balancing the ash and the ashing comes with experience. If you feel unsure about the ash falling off, then ash the cigar preemptively.

How to Put Out a Cigar?

Putting out a cigar involves simply setting it down in the ashtray and allowing the heat to extinguish naturally. There’s no need to snuff or crush it like a cigarette, and a cigar will go out on its own when left unattended. It’s a best practice to leave it alone so as not to spread unpleasant aromas.

Avoid relighting a cigar that has been out for too long (over 24 hours), as the flavors deteriorate and become less enjoyable, leaving a bitter taste in your mouth. If you wish to return to an unfinished cigar, it’s best to do so within an hour or two to maintain the quality of the taste.

How to Choose a Cigar

Choosing a cigar involves considering the type, size, color, and brand, as these heavily influence the distinct flavor and smoking experience.

Cigar Types

Cigar types are diverse, each offering unique characteristics.

  • Cuban Cigar: Cuban cigars, renowned for their quality and rich flavors, are crafted with precision from well-aged tobacco leaves for a premium smoking experience.
  • Nicaraguan Cigar: Nicaraguan cigars are known for their bold and robust flavors, resulting from the country’s volcanic soil that enriches the tobacco leaves.
  • Dominican Cigar: Dominican Republic cigars are celebrated for their smooth and mild characteristics, making them a favorite among beginners and connoisseurs.

Cigar Shapes and Sizes

The variety in cigar shapes and sizes contributes significantly to the varied experiences of cigar smoking. Each shape and size offers a unique draw, burn rate, and flavor intensity. From the straight-sided elegance of Parejos to the intricate designs of Figurados, each type is a masterpiece of craftsmanship. Below are the most popular shapes and sizes.

Parejos (Straight-sided)

  • Corona: A classic size with a balanced and enjoyable smoking experience, traditionally measuring 5 1/2 to 6 inches with a ring gauge of 42 to 44, typically lasting 30 to 45 minutes.
  • Churchill: Named after Winston Churchill, these are large cigars, typically 7 inches by 47 ring gauge, providing a prolonged smoking session of about 45 to 60 minutes of rich flavors.
  • Robusto: Compact and popular, especially in America, offering rich flavors, generally measuring 4 3/4 to 5 1/2 inches by 48 to 52 ring gauge and a 30 to 45-minute smoke.

Figurados (Irregularly Shaped)

  • Pyramid: Characterized by a pointed head and a wider foot, offering a concentrated flavor experience, generally 6 to 7 inches in length and approximately 45 to 60 minutes.
  • Torpedo: Similar to pyramids but often with a sharper point, providing a focused draw and complex flavor evolution, promising a 45 to 60-minute journey of evolving tastes.
  • Perfecto: Distinctive for their tapered head and foot with a bulge in the middle, offering a dynamic smoking experience with flavor variations throughout, typically lasting for 30 to 60 minutes, depending on the specific size.

Cigar Colors

Cigar colors from the fermentation process indicate the cigar’s flavor profile.

  • Maduro: Maduro cigars, dark and rich, offer robust flavors with notes of chocolate and spice due to extended fermentation.
  • Claro: Claro cigars have a lighter shade and a milder flavor, ideal for those who prefer a less intense smoking experience.
  • Colorado: Colorado cigars are medium-brown, known for their balanced, medium-bodied flavor profile.

Cigar Brands

Exploring various cigar brands is a fun way to discover personal preferences, as each offers unique qualities.

  • Cohiba: A renowned brand known for its Cuban roots with complex flavors and exceptional craftsmanship.
  • Arturo Fuente: Celebrated for their consistency, quality, and the use of premium tobacco blends with a diverse range of flavors.
  • Montecristo: Another iconic brand with various cigar types, each distinguished by its meticulous construction and balanced flavors.
  • Romeo y Julieta: Famed for its medium-bodied cigars with a harmonious blend of flavor, it makes them a favorite among many beginner cigar enthusiasts.

Romeo y Julietta are fantastic beginner cigars, Montecristo is a personal favorite of mine, and Cohiba is for moments of luxury celebrations as some are priced upwards of $200 per stick!

Cigar Subscriptions

Cigar subscriptions stand as a fantastic alternative for exploring a variety of cigars thanks to their selection of curated and premium cigars delivered regularly. There are brand-specific subscriptions that cater to enthusiasts with a preference for a particular brand, and others include a blend for new cigar smokers to explore brands.

What Are the Most Expensive Cigar Brands?

Brands like Gurkha, Cohiba, and Arturo Fuente are known for producing some of the world’s most expensive cigars, priced upwards of $1,000,000. These cigars are celebrated for their exquisite craftsmanship, rare tobacco blends, and rare availability, similar to premium accessories such as Rolex watches.

Cigar Accessories and Gifts

It’s common to see refined men with premium and luxury cigar accessories that showcase their unique style and value. Cigar accessories are a much-needed part of the smoking experience with a blend of functionality, elegance, personal style, and convenience.

Cigar Humidors

A cigar humidor is designed to create an optimal environment for storing cigars to keep them fresh and flavorful. Humidors come in various types and sizes, including traditional wooden humidor boxes that use natural materials to regulate moisture levels and electronic humidors equipped with digital hygrometers for precise humidity control. The different types of cigar humidors are listed below.

Cigar Humidor Box

Cigar humidor boxes are more than just packaging; they serve as temporary storage solutions that help maintain the cigars’ freshness, often found decorating men’s offices. Spanish cedar boxes are famous for their ability to enhance aroma while maintaining humidity, while cardboard boxes offer a practical solution for short-term storage and transport. The material of the box plays a significant role in preserving the cigar’s integrity.

Electric Cigar Humidifier

An electronic cigar humidifier keeps and regulates the right moisture level for cigar longevity, much like how a fridge keeps your food fresh. Bead-based humidifiers consistently release moisture, while electric cigar humidifiers do so automatically, adjusting the humidity levels as needed. The type of cigar humidor often depends on the size of the cigar collection and the level of control desired by the smoker.

Humidor Cabinet

A humidor cabinet is a functional and aesthetic interior design piece for collectors. Small cabinets are ideal for personal collections, while larger ones, equipped with advanced humidity control features, are suited for extensive assortments of cigars. The capacity and organizational features are key considerations when selecting a humidor cabinet.

Travel Humidor

For the enthusiast on the go, cigar travel humidors offer portability without compromising the cigars’ condition. Compact boxes are convenient for short trips, while larger, more elaborate ones are equipped with features to maintain optimal humidity and temperature during extended travel.

The choice between an electronic and traditional humidor often depends on the smoker’s preference for modern convenience or classic authenticity.

Cigar Ashtray

Cigar ashtrays are characterized by their size and design, tailored to accommodate the unique needs of cigar smokers. Single-rest ashtrays are ideal for individual smokers for convenience and elegance. Multi-rest ashtrays have designated rests for each guest, which is ideal for social smoking scenarios.

Cigar Lighter

A cigar lighter is a specialized tool used for igniting cigars. It’s designed to provide a clean, odorless flame for untainted cigar flavor. The different types of cigar lighters are listed below.

  • Torch Lighters: These lighters produce a powerful, wind-resistant flame, making them ideal for outdoor use for quick and even lighting a cigar.
  • Soft Flame Lighters: Offers a gentler, steady flame that is suitable for indoor use and allows for precise control during the lighting process.
  • Luxury Lighters: These are high-end, often featuring elegant designs, premium materials, and enhanced functionality for an opulent cigar lighting experience.
  • Custom Lighters: Custom lighters can be personalized with engravings or unique designs, ideal for gifting and reflecting the smoker’s personal style.
  • Tabletop Lighters: Larger, stationary lighters designed to be placed on tables, ideal for frequent and social smoking sessions.
  • Electric Lighters: Uses an electric arc for ignition, are windproof, and rechargeable. They are a modern, fuel-free option for lighting thinner cigarillos or cigarettes.

Butane lighters (torch lighters) are commonly used because of the consistent and wind-resistant flame, making them suitable for indoor and outdoor use.

Cigar Matches

Cigar matches are longer than traditional ones and designed to give ample time to light a cigar thoroughly and safely. Premium matches are often made from high-quality wood, adding an element of sophistication to the lighting ritual.

Cigar Cutter

A cigar cutter is used to create an opening at the tip of the cigar for smoking, as most cigars are sealed to prevent the cigar from unraveling. There are different types of cigar cutters for different types of cigar shapes. Listed below are the different types of cigar cutters:

  • Guillotine Cutters: The most popular cigar cutter used for a straight, clean cut across the cigar cap for an open draw and full flavor experience. Straight cuts are suitable for most types of cigar shapes.
  • V-Cutters: Creating a wedge-shaped incision in the cigar cap, V-cutters expose more filler, enhancing the draw and flavor. They are best for those who enjoy a concentrated flavor and a medium draw, particularly effective for cigars with a thicker ring gauge.
  • Punch Cutters: By removing a small circular piece from the cigar cap and leaving the cap intact, the punch cutters achieve a more restricted draw, slower burn, and concentrated flavor. It’s also ideal for dryer cigars that risk unraveling if the entire cap is removed.
  • Scissor Cutters: These precision tools provide a clean, straight cut and are often used for larger ring gauge cigars. Scissor cutters are best for enthusiasts who need precision and elegance in cutting premium cigars.
  • Knife Cutters: Knives or cigar knives are versatile tools used to make various cuts flexibly and precisely without needing a specific cigar shape. They are best for smokers who appreciate the versatility and the ability to customize the cut according to the specific cigar and personal preference.

Cigar Case

Cigar cases offer protection and style in transporting cigars. Hard cases are for maximum protection, while soft leather cases blend protection and style, making them a favorite for the fashion-conscious man.

  • Cigar Travel Case: Travel cases are equipped with features to maintain the cigars’ optimal condition during travel. Cases come with built-in humidifiers for the right level of moisture, while those with compartments offer organized storage for cigars and accessories.
  • Leather Cigar Case: Leather cigar cases are synonymous with elegance and durability. Genuine leather cases are prized for their longevity and classic appeal, while faux leather options offer a cost-effective alternative that doesn’t compromise style.

Cigar Holder

A cigar holder refers to a device used to hold a cigar in various contexts. There are two primary types of cigar holders.

  1. Cigar Golf Clip: This type of holder, often used by golfers, is a grip or clip that secures the cigar when you need to set it down, especially in the absence of an ashtray. It’s ideal for those who enjoy a smoke while enjoying outdoor activities.
  2. Cigar Mouthpiece: This type is a gadget that either fits over the head of your cigar or punctures the side, enabling you to smoke the entire nub without burning your fingers. The latter, formed as a sharp metal spike, can improve the cigar’s draw when used lengthwise on the cigar.

Cigar humidors, ashtrays, lighters, cutters, and cases are all fantastic gifts for the cigar aficionado who enjoys smoking a cigar, down to the very last nub.

Chris Starkhagen MSc.

Entrepreneur and Founder of chrisstarkhagen.com

Chris writes for men about what to know and how to be a high-value man and networking with high-net-worth individuals. Chris guides readers on men’s business, men’s home office, men’s performance, men’s accessories, and the best products for men to craft a timeless style. Whether you’re already a high net-worth man seeking your next luxury watch or a young G who wants a lifestyle upgrade, Chris connects men with the resources needed to elevate life as a man.