Cigars 101

How to Touch-up and Relight Cigars

If it hasn’t happened to you yet, it will. It’s inevitable. I’m talking about having to touch-up and relight your cigar. Yes, even the best cigars will sometimes burn unevenly or simply conk out. Since there is a difference between touching-up a cigar and relighting it, they must be dealt with in different ways.

How to touch-up a cigar

Touching-up a cigar is most often required when the cigar begins to burn crookedly. Ideally, a great cigar should smoke evenly from start to finish. Then again, a great baseball pitcher should only throw strikes, but both are impossible 100% of the time. Eventually, a pitcher is going to walk some batters or give up a home run, while sooner or later you’re going to smoke a cigar that has a sub-par burn. In baseball, you can replace the pitcher and try to save the game, but it’s hard to toss out a cigar, especially when you paid a decent amount of money for it. Fortunately, you can keep your cigar in the game simply by touching-up the burn line. It doesn’t take a great deal of skill, but when touching up a cigar, you should be careful not to overdo it.

Here’s a typical situation: Your cigar is off to a great start, but at some point you notice the burn is beginning to angle. If the angle isn’t that sharp you can do one of two things: first, turn the cigar as you smoke it and see if it corrects itself. Some cigars do. If that doesn’t work, you can place the cigar in the ashtray saddle with the longer, unburned side facing down. With a little patience, this technique traps oxygen where it’s needed, allowing the unburned side to catch-up. If neither of those methods work, it’s time to go to the lighter.

For touching up a cigar, you may want to use a single torch flame lighter. The reason for this is, you want pinpoint control over your touch-up, and a dual or triple flame lighter may be overkill. While the cigar is still burning, hold it in front of you and delicately apply the flame to the unburned portion of the wrapper. This is done by keeping the flame far enough away from the body of the cigar to keep the wrapper from catching fire, yet close enough to char-off the excess tobacco. Essentially, you want to “sculpt” the burn line until the ash is even again.

Hopefully, that’s all it’ll take. If it happens again, repeat. If it happens a third or fourth time, it’s not YOU, it’s the cigar. At that point, it may be time to phone the humidor and call-in a new cigar. If you spend half your time fixing the burn on your cigar, you’re not going to get the ultimate enjoyment from it. Cigar smoking is supposed to be relaxing; not exasperating.

How to relight a cigar

Let’s assume the cigar you’re smoking is burning well, but you put it down for a minute or two; or you’re so busy yakking or watching the TV that you’re not paying attention and the smoke goes out. There are two good ways to relight cigars; in this case, a single, dual, or triple flame lighter will do the trick.

Tap out as much of the ash as possible. Then, using a toothpick or the non-business end of a matchstick, try to scoop out all of the ash so only the blackened charred tobacco is showing. Keeping the flame(s) a safe distance from the foot, toast your cigar as you did when you lit it up. Slowly blow on the glowing ash to get it going again evenly. Place the cigar in your mouth and blow through the cigar. You may get a little ash on you, but this will help burn off any bitter tars before you resume puffing. The cigar may be bitter until the next ash forms, but after you ash it, the flavors – at least in some cases – may possibly bounce back and you can pick-up where you left-off.

For this method you’ll need a cigar cutter – preferably a double blade model. Position the foot between the blades so that they are about ½ to ¾ of an inch behind the ash. Make sure the cigar is level, then quickly SNAP the blades together. You should get a clean cut, which will expose “fresh” tobacco. The biggest risk to this method is the cigar will crush or crack-up leaving you with a ruined mess. Even if you get a clean cut, the cigar could possibly unravel. To help avoid this, make sure the cigar still has most of its length. If it’s too short, the odds are greater that it will bust up. However, if the cutter’s blades are really sharp, they should slice through the body of the cigar like a hot knife through butter. If you’ve done a good job, simply re-toast and light the cigar as usual. You may lose a little of the cigar, but at least you won’t have to toss it.

Some cigars cannot withstand a relight. They will smoke bitter, and basically, the game is over. But some of the best cigars will hold up. If you’ve already smoked three-quarters of the cigar, it may not be worth trying to relight it, but it’s better to try and hope the flavors come back than to not try at all. It really depends on the cigar and how much enjoyment you’ve already gotten from the stick.

Hope this helped. If you have a method for touching up or relighting a cigar that you’d like to share, please leave a comment.