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How to Light a Cigar: Simple Steps And Lighter Types

Chris, Chief Editor

Updated Jan 24, 2024

Human experts evaluate all our content

Unlike cigarettes, lighting a cigar requires a small bit of patience and precision. These are the 5 basic steps to light a cigar properly.

  1. Light the correct side.
  2. Toast the cigar.
  3. Check the burn.
  4. Gently blow on the lit end.
  5. Puff on the cigar.

A perfectly lit cigar enhances the smoking experience and allows cigar smokers to appreciate the rich flavors of the hand-wrapped tobacco to the fullest. But an improperly lit cigar leaves you with a bitter taste in your mouth and an uneven burn, both ruining the smoking session.

I’ll walk you through the best practices for how to light a cigar, select the right tools, store a cigar, and relight a cigar for later.

Lighting a Cigar

What is the best way to light a cigar?

1. Light the correct side

The foot of the cigar, which is the open end, is the part you ignite.

The foot is typically pre-cut and exposes the tobacco. You can distinguish it from the head (the part you put in your mouth), with a rounded and closed-off cap and the cigar band placed closer to it.

Cigarillos are usually a bit trickier to identify where the foot is as both ends are pre-cut. The end you light often looks slightly frayed and exposes the tobacco, and the opposite end has a smaller diameter than the rest, which is the part that goes into the mouth.

2. Toast the cigar

Hold the cigar comfortably between your thumb and forefingers.

  • Light your lighter and hold it to the outer edge of the cigar’s foot at an angle.
  • Rotate the cigar slowly so that the edge gets evenly toasted, similar to toasting a marshmallow.
  • You can also rotate and move the flame around if that is more comfortable.

Toasting a cigar warms up the foot, seals the wrapper, and helps to achieve an even burn throughout the smoking session.

3. Check the burn

Once you’ve lit your cigar, check that it’s burning evenly across the entire foot of the cigar.

You’re looking for an evenly lit cigar with a nice layer of ash. If a part looks unlit or you see dark spots, then continue to toast those parts until ashed beautifully.

You want to address this as soon as possible to avoid an uneven burn, which is tricky to correct later, so make sure to get it right from the start.

4. Gently blow on the cigar

Softly blow on the lit end of the cigar to help it burn evenly.

Don’t blow too hard, as excessive blowing causes the cigar to burn too hot, resulting in a bitter taste. A soft exhalation on the cigar suffices for the flavors to unfold without the risk of overheating.

When you gently blow on the lit end of the cigar, you distribute the heat evenly across the cigar’s foot, preventing the formation of a tunnel or canoe shape in the burn.

5. Puff on the cigar

Once your cigar is adequately lit, the moment of time comes to relish the rich flavors of the cigar.

The recommended technique for smoking a cigar is to draw slowly and delicately, making sure not to inhale the smoke. Taking one or two puffs per minute is generally advised to savor the aroma and taste without causing the cigar to overheat or go out.

Puffing on your smoking cigars at a suitable pace allows you to appreciate all the components and subtleties of its flavor without leaving a bad taste in your mouth.

Is there a wrong way to light a cigar?

Yes, there certainly are incorrect ways to light a cigar, and these mistakes greatly impact your overall smoking experience. The most common errors that lead to uneven burns, bitter tastes, and other unpleasant outcomes are listed below.

  1. Rushing the lighting process: Cigar lighting is not something you should rush. If you don’t take your time to properly toast the foot of the cigar and ensure an even burn, you risk scorching the tobacco, which leads to a bitter taste.
  2. Using the wrong lighting tool: Not all flames are created equal when it comes to lighting cigars. For instance, using a regular lighter or matches with sulfur affects the taste of the cigar. Butane lighters or sulfur-free matches are generally recommended for a cleaner, odorless flame.
  3. Not rotating the cigar: When lighting a cigar, it’s important to rotate it so that the flame evenly toasts the entire circumference of the foot. Failing to do this results in an uneven burn, known as “canoeing.”
  4. Holding the flame too close: If you hold the flame too close to the cigar, you risk overheating and scorching the tobacco, giving it an unpleasant taste. Instead, hold the flame just below the foot of the cigar and let the heat, not the flame itself, toast the tobacco.
  5. Not checking the burn: After toasting and lighting the cigar, it’s important to check that it’s burning evenly across the entire foot. If you notice any dark spots or areas that aren’t lit, you should continue toasting those parts until they’re evenly ashed.

How do you keep a cigar lit and prevent it from going out?

Keeping a cigar lit can be a bit tricky as newcomers usually make the mistake of not puffing frequently enough. Unlike cigarettes, cigars require a certain rhythm of puffing to stay lit. Here’s how you can keep your cigar lit and enjoy an uninterrupted smoking experience:

  1. Proper Lighting: Begin by ensuring that your cigar is lit properly.
  2. Regular Puffing: Take a puff every 30 to 60 seconds. This keeps the cigar lit without overheating it. The risk of puffing too frequently is a deteriorating taste due to overheating.
  3. Rotating the Cigar: While puffing, gently rotate the cigar from time to time. This helps with equal exposure to air and maintains a consistent burn, especially if you hold the cigar at an angle.
  4. Mind the Ash: Don’t be too eager to tap off the ash. A little bit of ash at the end of the cigar actually helps regulate the burn and keep the cigar lit.

Following these steps will maintain a consistent burn and keep the cigar lit.

Why does my cigar burn unevenly?

Uneven burning of a cigar often referred to as “canoeing” due to the canoe-like shape that forms, can be caused by a variety of factors. These include:

  • Humidity Levels: The humidity level of your cigar affects how it burns. If the cigar is too dry, it will burn too quickly and unevenly. If it’s too humid, keeping the cigar lit and burning evenly will be a challenge.
  • Construction Issues: How the cigar is constructed contributes to an uneven burn. For example, if the filler tobacco is not evenly distributed or the wrapper is not applied correctly, it can lead to an uneven burn and unraveling of the cigar while smoking.
  • External Conditions: External conditions, such as wind or a draft, can cause your cigar to burn unevenly. Consider smoking inside a cigar lounge or a dedicated space for cigar smoking.

What are the different ways to light a cigar?

a perfectly lit cigar

There are various ways to light a cigar, each with its own pros and cons. The lighting techniques we’ll discuss are.

  • Matches
  • Soft flames
  • Torch flames
  • Bic lighters
  • Zippo lighters

How to light a cigar with matches?

Lighting a cigar with sulfur-free wooden matches is a traditional and elegant method many cigar enthusiasts favor and is ideal to use indoors.

To light a cigar with matches, strike the match and allow the sulfur to burn off before bringing the flame to the foot of the cigar. Then, gently rotate the cigar over the flame for an even toast and ignition.

Wooden matches are typically longer to accommodate for the time it takes a lit match to light a cigar. Cigar matches yield a clean and odorless flame for enjoying the authentic flavors of your cigar without disturbance.

How to light a cigar with a soft flame?

Soft flame lighters are popular for their ease of use and gentle, odorless flame without the hassle of using cigar matches.

To light a cigar with a soft flame lighter, hold the lighter close to the foot of the cigar without touching it directly to begin the toasting process. Then, rotate and light the cigar while gently taking draws for an even and thorough lighting of the cigar.

Soft flame lighters produce a clean and mild flame. Some special models can alternate between a soft flame and a blue flame with the flip of a switch for indoor and outdoor use.

Can you light a cigar with a regular Bic lighter?

While you can light a cigar with a regular Bic lighter, it’s not the most recommended method given potential disadvantages such as:

  • Less control of the flame
  • A regular lighter gets too hot and you might burn your fingers
  • The flame is weak and easily goes out
  • The flame is small, making it hard to light the entire foot evenly
  • It takes longer to light a cigar properly

For a better cigar-smoking experience, consider using wooden matches or a butane torch lighter instead.

Can you light a cigar with a Zippo lighter?

Yes, you can technically light a cigar with a Zippo lighter, although it’s not the most recommended method due to the potential impact on the cigar’s taste. Zippo lighters use lighter fluid that imparts a chemical taste to the cigar, and the flame is also harder to control. Many cigar smokers and aficionados prefer butane lighters, torch lighters, or sulfur-free matches.

How to light a cigar with a torch (blue) flame?

To light a cigar with a blue flame lighter, hold the cigar’s tip very close to the flame without touching it. Rotate the cigar while toasting the foot, or skip this step and gently puff on the cigar while rotating for an even burn.

A torch lighter burns hot and high, and it might take some practice to properly understand the flame’s distance without actually touching the cigar, as this could scorch the leaf and impart a bitter taste. Torch lighters generate a consistent flame, making them ideal for outdoor use.

Is a Torch Lighter Better for Lighting Cigars?

Yes, a torch lighter is generally considered better for lighting cigars. Its powerful, wind-resistant flame provides a quick and even burn, making it particularly useful for outdoor smoking situations. However, it requires a bit more skill to avoid overheating and scorching the tobacco, and it might consume butane faster than a soft flame lighter.

Can you relight a cigar more than once?

Yes, it’s possible to relight a cigar if it goes out but it’s best to do so within a reasonable time frame after it goes out to retain its flavor and quality. If you need to relight your cigar, first ash the cigar and then gently blow on the ember to remove any ash before lighting it again, following the standard lighting procedures. Keep in mind that each time you relight a cigar, you run the risk of altering its flavor.

Can you save a cigar for later?

Yes, you can save a cigar for later as long as you store it properly to maintain its freshness. To preserve a partially smoked cigar, wrap it in its original wrapper and store it in a cigar humidor, a Boveda bag, or an airtight container. Store smoked cigars separately from non-smoked cigars to prevent mixing flavors and smells. For an optimal taste, smoke the remainder of the cigar within 24-48 hours.

How to put out a cigar and stop it from burning?

The best method to put out a cigar and stop it from burning is to simply let it go out on its own. Since a cigar needs regular puffing to stay lit, it will go out in a few minutes if left alone. When it’s time to extinguish your cigar, place it in an ashtray and allow it to extinguish naturally. Snuffing out a cigar like a cigarette is not advisable, as this can result in an unpleasant smell and is generally considered poor cigar etiquette.

What Are Some Cigar Etiquette I Should Be Aware Of?

Some important cigar etiquette tips you should be aware of are:

  • Hold the cigar properly between your thumb and forefinger
  • Light your own cigar rather than requesting someone else to light it for you
  • Ash your cigar when the ash is approximately one inch long by gently rolling the end against an ashtray.

Following proper cigar etiquette enhances your cigar-smoking experience and shows respect for the traditions of cigar-smoking.

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.