How To Light Up Your Cigar The Right Way

Alex Mcil author
Alex Mcil

You wouldn’t be here if lighting up a cigar was as easy as lighting a cigarette.

how to light up your cigar the proper way

A cigar is a completely different beast, and there’s an art to lighting one up perfectly. Experienced cigar smokers may have this technique mastered, but if you are just learning, you’ll find It’s a little like a dance which involves patience and grace.

After all, the ultimate goal is to ensure an even burn to promote those flavors in your mouth! Once you get it right, the rewards are satisfying!

“There are no shortcuts to truly enjoying a good cigar, and that begins with lighting it properly. You can’t simply spark it up like a cigarette; that’s where many novices go wrong. The key is always patience, toast the foot of the cigar first, allow it to warm up, and then puff lightly as you rotate it. Only then, you’ll unlock the true aromas and experience refined tastes.”

Xavier Voltaire, Professional Humidor

Why Lighting Up Properly Is Important?

So why is the lighting process so important? 

Lighting up a cigar properly is important because an evenly burning cigar means all the components of the cigar will burn together. This allows flavors to blend nicely and come through as the creator intended. 

A well looked after cigar is what makes the experience and heightens the enjoyment. Don’t forget, keeping your cigars at the right humidity & temperature is essential for an even burn and a flavorful experience.

Quick Answer

The best way to light a cigar is with a torch lighter. You have to hold the cigar at a 45° angle, do not let the flame get in direct contact with the tip of the cigar. You have to carefully rotate the cigar using the indirect heat form the lighter. It is important to properly store the cigar in a special box.

The Steps To Lighting Your Cigar

As a general rule of thumb, you want to use a soft flame as not to singe the cigar. You want a torch that produces a 830° C flame. Avoid torches that go above the 2000° C or they will burn the cigar.

Strike your lighter first, angle the cigar at 45° and bring the bottom of it just above the flame. The distance will depend on what flame you are using, but usually with a soft flame, this will barely be touching the foot to sometimes touching. Try to keep it at least one inch away from the tobacco, even more if possible.

even flame light

Hold the flame’s tip towards the cigar’s outside edges while slowly rotating. While still rotating, gently move the flame towards the center until you start seeing ash appearing (you want every bit of the foot to be covered by the fire).

Image source: cigar aficionado

At this point you want to blow at the end, and if you see a nice enough cherry, it is time to place your cigar between your lips and puff away.

Pro tip: By blowing at the end of the cigar, you’ll see if it has been evenly lit. If you see black spots (as opposed to fully cherry), continue the process.

4 Ways To Perfectly Lighting Up Your Cigar

Here are four methods to lighting your cigar depending on what accessories you have available.

The sparking up methods are similarly, but with slight differences, as the flame type and burn rate differ.

#1 Using A Torch Lighter

A torch lighter may seem overkill, as we know the flame is very hot and can char the tobacco and wrapper (best avoided). However there are some advantages to using torch lighters for your cigar, such as, they are wind proof and can be used out doors & they have a very accurate flame that jets out with minimal flickering. Torch lighters use butane gas and are refillable, you can purchase one for just $80 dollars.

This is how to light up a cigar with a torch lighter

The distance a torch flame should be from the cigar foot
  1. Strike the torch
  2. Bring the cigar above the flame (approximately an inch)
  3. Begin by heating the outside edges while rotating the cigar
  4. Slowly move the flame towards the middle
  5. Once the cherry starts to develop, give it a couple of blows
  6. Raise the cigar to your mouth and take your first draw

Image source: cigar aficionado

#2 Using A Soft Flamed Lighter

Next we look at using a soft flame much like the ones produced by common Bic lighters. The process of lighting up is similar to using a torch lighter, with small differences. This is mainly because the flame does not burn as hot.

A soft flame is the preferred flame for lighting your cigar as you have more control of evenly spreading the flame provided you are indoors. 

This is how to light up a cigar using a soft flame

  1. Bring the cigar gently over the flame (much closer than with a torch lighter)
  2. Begin by exposing the flame to the outside edges of the foot while rotating
  3. Slowly move the flame towards the center
  4. After ash appears on edges, give it a blow until you see a nice cherry
  5. Time to take a draw.
soft flame evenly lighting cigar

These steps are similar to using a torch lighter except for two differences, a) bringing the flame 1 inch close to the cigar and b) it takes around 1 minute to fully light the cigar!

Image source: cigar aficionado

#3 Using Wooden Matches

The wooden match is yet an other soft flame method to lighting up your cigar. The process is exactly the same as mentioned above using a soft flamed lighter, however, there are a couple of things to consider.

  1. Because the process takes a while, it is important to source long matches as opposed to the cheaper book matches.
  2. When striking the match, wait a few seconds for the potassium chlorate and sulfur to burn off. You want to start lighting your cigar once the wood (not the chemicals) is fuelling the flame.

An alternative is option #4, cedar spills, which work on the same principles as matches (yet a third soft flame option).

Did you know: Some cedar spills can add more flavor to your cigars, at least at the initial light up process?

Closing Comments

The principals of lighting your cigar are the same no matter the flame type. The only difference is the necessary adjustments needed to get the heat distribution just right. You want to evenly heat the area of your foot so that the cigar also burns evenly throughout its entire length and only then do you appreciate the full taste of flavours as intended.

Remember, time and patience is needed and that’s the whole romance of lighting your cigar

It wouldn’t be fun if it was easy to do!


About The Author

8 thoughts on “How To Light Up Your Cigar The Right Way”

  1. I remember lighting my first cigar with an inexperienced hand, completely botching the burn, and the only reward were uneven, bitter puffs.

  2. Ah, George, I had exactly the same experience with my first cigar! Burned it too fast, ended up with a hot, unpleasant hour and a very shamed face in front of my Cuban friends.

  3. I remember wrestling with the dance of lighting my first cigar, it wasn’t an easy feat. Good thing my mentor, a seasoned smoker told me, “Patience, Vinny, with cigars it’s always about relishing the process, not rushing through it.”

  4. Avatar
    Jefferson Kipling

    Just like Vinny, I also remember the struggle of lighting my first cigar, it was almost like a ceremonial initiation! Your mentor’s advice resonates with my experience; savoring each step of the process is the essence of cigar smoking. Your experience reaffirms the philosophy that the key to achieving a flavorful smoke lies in patience and treating the whole act as an art form. I believe every novice cigar enthusiast will resonate with your story, Vinny.

  5. The first time I lit up a cigar, it turned out to be a rush job rather than a graceful dance. My friends chuckled, but they were patient and taught me that the journey to light and enjoy this slow burning masterpiece is indeed part of the entire experience. Now, every flame strike has a new meaning to it, bringing out an appreciation for the nuances of the ‘art form’ Jefferson, you spoke of.

  6. I recall my first attempt to light up a cigar: I was on a Caribbean cruise, feeling bold and adventurous. Despite having the wrong technique initially, I stumbled upon an elegant older gentleman who showed me the right way. Each puff now reminds me of that serendipitous encounter.

  7. A perfectly lit cigar has the potential to turn any ordinary evening into one of finesse and tranquility; it took me quite a few trial and error attempts to master this art.

  8. Yes indeed, there is a unique satisfaction in lighting your cigar just right. In my experience, you truly appreciate the worth of a well-lit cigar once you have tasted the perfect draw after nailing the lighting technique – it’s like hitting that elusive golf hole-in-one!

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