Got A Light? A Short Primer on Cigar Lighters

It’s fair to assume that if you smoke cigars you already have a lighter; maybe even several of them. Cigar lighters are sort of like pens. Odds are you’ve got a number of them at your disposal, but there’s probably one you use most often. That said, if you’re not sure which lighter to use for your cigars, what follows is a brief description of the options available to you.

Basically, you’ve got two choices. A soft flame lighter, and the more popular torch, or jet flame lighter.

Soft Flame Cigar Lighters

Soft flame lighters have a flame similar to that of a candle. Typical examples of soft flame cigar lighters are your disposable Bic-types and cheap convenience store imitations; though reputable manufacturers such as Xikar, Vector, et. al. (better known for their torch lighters),
make some excellent soft flame models, plus they’re refillable. soft flame cigar lighters

When using soft flame cigar lighters, you want to make sure that the white tip of the flame doesn’t touch the foot of the cigar. The tip of the flame provides more than enough heat to properly toast and light your cigar. It may take a little longer, but when done right the results are excellent. Just two caveats:

  1. If you’re using a plastic convenience store lighter, the metal tip can get very hot and burn your fingers.
  2. Generally speaking, soft flame cigar lighters don’t work very well outdoors in windy conditions.

Zippo Lighter

Therefore, if you prefer using a soft flame to light your cigars, since you’ll be using it most often, you might want to invest in a high-quality soft flame lighter made by one of the companies I noted above, including Zippo. But first…

…a word about Zippos

Zippos are cool because they have that “iconic” American look and feel to them. Besides, certain models also become collectors items. However, because they run on liquid fuel they’ve been reputed to emanate an oily smell when lit. It’s believed that this odor can affect the flavor of the tobacco, which is why many cigar smokers tend to avoid using Zippos. This may have been true with the original Zippo lighter fuel, but in recent years Zippo has developed a much more refined, premium-quality fuel that’s essentially “odorless.”

Torch/Jet Flame Cigar Lighters

Blazer Signle Flame Torch LighterFor the majority of cigar smokers, the torch lighter is the standard. The neat thing about them is the flame is much hotter and more powerful. As a result, the flame toasts your cigars more quickly and is way more wind resistant. Another neat thing about torch lighters is they come in one, two, three, four, and even five jet models.

Single jet torch lighters are the most common, and generally lower in price. They work on all cigars, but because of their high temperature and pinpoint accuracy they can risk charring some cigars. For cigars with smaller ring gauges like 36 – 42, single flame torches are ideal. But when used on larger cigars with ring gauges of 48 and above, it may take longer for a single torch to do the trick. If you tend to smoke big cigars most of the time, you may have better Z-Plus Torch Lighter Insertluck with a two or three jet torch, as it will cover more surface area during the toasting process. This will also lessen the risk of overheating the foot.

There are a wide variety of cigar torch lighters available, with Xikar cigar lighters among the most popular due to their slick style, easy functionality, and lifetime warranty.

Here again, regardless of how many jets are on a torch lighter, you want to keep the flame from touching the tobacco when lighting-up. This is another advantage to using a torch lighter. Because they’re SO hot, you can toast a cigar from as far as several inches away from the foot. This gives you much better control over the entire toasting & lighting process, and may result in a more flavorful smoke.

(BTW: If you can’t bear to part with your Zippo, but want a torch flame, check out the Z-Plus replacement insert. It turns your Zippo into a single torch flame lighter in seconds.)

Fuel For Cigar Lighters

Madelaine ButaneNo matter what type of cigar lighter you use, you’re eventually going to have to refill it. If you think that just any brand of butane is sufficient for refilling your lighters, think again. If you want to get years as opposed to months of use from your lighter, you want to use the most refined fuel available. The more the gas has been filtered, the cleaner the burn. When purchasing lighter butane, make sure that it has been filtered at least 3 times, but the more the merrier. Xikar, Madelaine, and Lotus all make high quality butane. Lotus butane is triple refined, while Xikar’s Premium Butane contains less than 15 parts per million of impurities.

Whichever lighter you decide is best for you, take good care of it and it will pay you back with unlimited lights.

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  1. Arturo C. says:

    I am a personal fan of the torch lighter. No need to worry about the wind blowing the flame out. Plus, I like how they look when they light, like the afterburners of a jet fighter! (Ha-ha)

    I have had some issues with these though, specifically, refilling them with butane. It seems you need to angle it just right to do it, not as easy as you think. I am not sure if this is a common problem or not.

  2. Gary Korb says:

    Hi Arturo,. It seems that most torch lighter makers have standardized the size of their fuel valves. I say this because, I’ve rarely, if ever, had to use any of the adapters that come with most butane refill cans. However, there are cases in which the butane will spray out and cold burn your fingers while refilling, The gas still gets in there, but there have been numerous occasions where I had to wrap a towel around the hand I’m holding the lighter with. So, not every fuel valve is a perfect fit, but if first you place it carefully over the valve, make sure it’s snugly in the can’s snout, it should fill up your lighter quickly.

    One little caveat to keep in mind: NEVER shake the can of butane before refilling or you’ll be injecting both gas AND air into your lighter. Gas good. Air bad.

  3. Wally says:

    You should bleed your lighter of air before refilling. Take a micro screwdriver, or similar object small enough to gently press down on the nozzle of the lighter. Do this until no air comes out. Then try refilling it. You will find that your lighter will have less trouble with air lock.

  4. Sam says:

    I just bought this 555 lighter and it really works fine. The problem however is I can’t find an opening to refill the lighter on the outside, and I am afraid I may not be able to close it back after I open it up. Any suggestions?

  5. Gary Korb says:

    Hi Sam. I’m not familiar with that lighter. There MUST be a place for the fuel valve. If you want, you can email a picture of it to me Then I might be able to help you out.

  6. Kane says:

    Gary I have a Vector triple flame lighter. When filling the lighter they tell you to bleed the air out. The question is, when bleeding the air out should I be pressing down on the little brass filler nozzle. If so will this damage it.
    Thank you very much.

  7. Kane says:

    Gary, when you mention about certain butane fuels to be used. I have a Vector triple flame. I’m using Zippo refined butane. Will this cause damage to my lighter? Thank you very much.

  8. Gary Korb says:

    Some people use the tip of a ballpoint pen, or a tiny screwdriver, but YES, the little nozzle where you fill your lighter is the spot. You can only way you can damage it is if you push down too hard, or use a tool that could bend the nozzle out of shape. Press down gently and keep the tool in position until the lighter stops hissing. Additionally, you can flick the lighter afterwards and listen for any additional air/gas escaping from the flame end. Once both ends are “quiet” when depressed, you’re good to go.

  9. Gary Korb says:

    As far as fuels go, I’m not familiar with the Zippo butane, but as long as it’s been highly refined (say 4x-5x) and doesn’t cause you any problems like clogging, misfiring, etc. you should be fine. Vector makes a good gas, as does Blazer, and Xikar. Some fuels DO work better than others, so try a couple and see which works best for you.