Cigar Basics – How to Smoke a Cigar

Welcome to Cigars 101. Class is in session. We will be using this as a way to help out our newer BOTL & SOTL (Brothers/Sisters of the leaf). Maybe even some of our seasoned veterans will find a nugget of wisdom that they’ll benefit from. In this post, I’ll be covering some bare basics on how to get the ball rolling. Keep checking back and I’ll drop some more 101 knowledge on you over the coming weeks and months.

It wasn’t too long ago that I was a new cigar smoker. Tim decided to open the shop six years ago and I didn’t have a clue what to do with a cigar. If you find yourself in the same boat, I’m going to give you a bit of knowledge that will help you avoid looking like a lost and confused puppy dog when you smoke your first cigar. We are going to skip past the “picking out the right cigar to try” step for now. We’ll circle back to that in another post, but for the time being, just stop in to your local shop (I hear there’s a great Pittsburgh shop called the Dirty Dog… just sayin’) and tell the person working that you’re new to this and need some help picking something out. They should be thrilled to walk you through some options. Today, we are gonna start with what you will want to do once you’ve got that cigar in your hands.

Step one: Cutting and Lighting

Let’s start with a couple of basic terms that you’re going to want to know. While there are a ton of different shapes and sizes of cigars, they all generally fall into the “cylindrical and long” category. The first two terms you should become familiar with are the “head” and “foot” of the cigar. These are your respective ends of the cigar. The head of the cigar is the end you’ll want to cut. The foot of the cigar is the end you’ll want to light. The cap of the cigar is at the tip toward the head and is what you’ll actually be cutting. I was nice enough to put together a little diagram for you. Look at it, take it in, and then be sure to tell me how nice it looks. Thanks.

Cigar Diagram

There are a lot of different ways to cut a cigar. You can use a wedge (aka a V) cut. There’s a straight cut. You can use a punch. I’ve been known to use my teeth in a pinch. There isn’t a right or wrong way to cut your cigar. You just spent some of your hard earned money on the best form of life appreciation there is. You do what works for you. If anybody tells you that you’re doing it wrong, hit them and tell them that it’s your world and they’re just living in it. The point of cutting the cigar is to create an opening that will allow you to draw air through the cigar and bring the smoke into your mouth. To start off, the safest bet might be to use a straight cut. I say this only because different sized cigars may fall apart on you if you use some of the other methods. We’ll have a later post on the different types of cuts and why you may or may not want to use them. Just know that a straight cut is probably the most universally effective method. A typical guillotine cutter will do the job just fine.

You’ve cut the cigar and it’s not going to smoke itself. Remember the foot of the cigar we talked about earlier? Let’s take some fire to it. Lighting a cigar isn’t the same as lighting a cigarette. It takes some time. You want to make sure you get the full foot of the cigar nice and toasted. You can do that by holding the flame up towards the cigar just like you’re toasting a marshmallow on a campfire. Don’t go burying the cigar into the flame or you might scorch it. You want to avoid that as much as possible. Rotate the cigar by the flame until you’ve got a nice orange glow along the full foot. Feel free to blow a little air on it to get the cigar going. Some people prefer to puff on the cigar while they light it. It’s not totally necessary. When it comes to the tools you’re using, again, you’ve got a lot of options. Torch lighter, matches, cedar stick, basic Bic lighter… they all work. The only thing I’d suggest avoiding would be a Zippo lighter. You’ll be able to taste that fluid all through your cigar if you use a Zippo. Don’t do that. Some folks will make their first puff an outward puff to clear out any sulfur or fluid taste from a match or lighter.

Now you’ve got a cigar that’s lit and cut. Find someone cool to talk to. Swap some stories, tell some lies, have a beer, do whatever you like. Just enjoy it. Don’t inhale the smoke unless you enjoy coughing like a dying animal in front of your friends. Just draw the smoke into your mouth as if you were pulling liquid through a straw but not swallowing it. There are a ton of flavors to pull out from the cigar. Over time, your palate will learn to pick up those flavors and you’ll begin to find out what you like and/or don’t like.

Welcome aboard. You’ve done it. You’re better off for it.

Thanks for stopping by and reading. Feel free to share this with any of your new-to-cigars friends. Until next time…

Cheers and long ashes!!