Cigars 101

Cigar Q&A: What are the advantages to lighting cigars with cedar spills?

Q: Recently, I read a post in one of the cigar forums about lighting cigars with cedar spills. Isn’t that a bit old fashioned? With all the torch lighters around, what are the advantages to using a spill?
– T. Hicks in Sioux Falls, SD

cedar spills

A: Actually, it is a little “old fashioned,” but it’s a neat way to light a cigar, even if you only do it once.

One of the reasons some cigar smokers prefer a spill over a match or lighter is that, when lit, the cedar strip imparts a slight cedar flavor to the tobacco. Plus, cedar is “cleaner” than typical matches, and since spills are longer, you have more time to properly light your cigar.

“Factory made” cedar spills are available for purchase, but half the fun of using cedar spills is making them yourself from the Spanish cedar sheets used to separate rows of cigars in factory boxes. There are three ways I’ve found to make cedar spills:

1. Take the cedar divider sheet and carefully fold it down in 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch strips. The cedar is very brittle and breaks-off easily, though each strip may be a little uneven.

2. Using a steel ruler and an exacto knife on a cutting board, mark the width of the spill you want, and slice the sheet into even strips.

3. If you own or have access to a paper cutter – the type with the long blade handle – use the square grid on the board to mark where you want to cut the sheet and slice away.

If you don’t have any cedar sheets, most cigars stores will be happy to give you some. They just get thrown out, anyway.

Try it, you may like it.

(Photo of homemade cedar spills above courtesy of