Cigars 101

Cigar Advisor Explains the Basics of How to Smoke a Cigar

how to smoke a cigar
It doesn’t take much to learn how to smoke a cigar! You can be a pro just like Gary!

So you’ve just purchased your first premium handmade cigars. Congratulations. Now what do you do? Smoke them, of course! But there’s more to smoking cigars than clipping, lighting-up and puffing. Some cigar smokers tend to approach it as if it were an art, but although there are several steps involved, how to smoke cigars is really very simple.

While cigar smoking is the kind of hobby that even the most experienced enthusiasts will continue to learn even after many years, it’s not as difficult as it looks to get started. How to smoke a cigar is actually a very easy thing to learn, requiring just a few steps before the uninitiated newbie is puffing away like a pro. It can be intimidating for a new smoker to light up in the presence of BOTLs or SOTLs with lots of experience, which is why we’ve put together this handy guide so you can have a clue what you’re doing before you fire one up for the first time. However, don’t worry if you forget a step! Those savvy vets you’re smoking around are most likely extremely friendly, non-judgmental, and more than happy to help you enjoy your early cigar experiences. The vast majority of cigar smokers take great amounts of pleasure in sharing their passion and helping others, so if you’re not sure how to smoke a cigar properly – just ask a friend who knows!

First, you need an adequate amount of time to smoke a cigar. Average size cigars such as Coronas, Lonsdales, and Robustos will generally stay lit for a half hour or more. Large cigars like Churchills, Torpedoes, and Double Coronas can smoke for well over an hour. Rule of thumb: Before you light up a cigar, be sure you will have enough time to smoke it completely, and preferably without interruption.

Moreover, the time it takes you to smoke a cigar depends on how often you puff on it. According to most experts, about one puff per minute is the standard. Puffing too often on a cigar will cause it to burn hotter, and in turn, can make the smoke taste harsh, sacrificing the flavors the blender intended for you to enjoy. Another factor to consider when smoking cigars is atmosphere. Since the key component of smoking a cigar is to relax, be sure to smoke your cigar in an environment that lends itself to relaxation. This will help you better appreciate the flavors and aroma of your cigars, too. The location could be your back porch, or if you’re fortunate enough to have your own smoking room, even better, especially if you live in a cold climate during the winter months. A smoking lounge or club where you can partake with other cigar smokers is also one of the best places to enjoy your favorite cigars.

Next, you’ve got to actually select a cigar to smoke! Mild cigars are often selected for new smokers, their smooth flavor profiles are easy on the palate. They tend to have less nicotine and provide an enjoyable taste without overwhelming the new smokers with the complexities and heavier flavors found in full bodied cigars that are more of an acquired taste. Acid cigars are also very popular among newer cigar smokers, their sweet tips and infused flavors offer a wonderful way for new smokers to be initiated into appreciating fine tobacco. Some suggestions for brands to try when learning how to smoke a cigar are Macanudo, Baccarat, Cusano, Arturo Fuente, and Oliva Connecticut Reserve among others.

Try not to smoke a cigar dry. In other words, “pair” your cigar with a drink. Coffee is one of the best and most popular beverages to drink with cigars. Single malt scotches are also among the most popular libations, as well as Port, rum, and cognac.

Now that you’ve got the cigar, the location, and the drink, it’s time to get started!

How To Smoke A Cigar

First you must cut your cigar. Double blade guillotine cigar cutters are the most popular for cutting cigars, but there are a variety of other methods including cigar scissors, punch cutters, v-cutters, and more. We suggest using the popular guillotine cutter as it tends to be the easiest.

how to smoke a cigar
Here’s how to smoke a cigar like Nick Perdomo!

Open the cutter and place it on the head of the cigar. Gently squeeze the blades together so as to try and “pop” the cap off the head of the cigar. Very well made cigars will usually clip off in a virtual perfect circle.

The important thing is to expose enough tobacco at the head to get a good draw. Try to keep from cutting the cigar too far down, or below the “shoulders.” (The shoulders are represented by the curve where the straight side of the cigar meets the head.) Clipping too deeply may result in the cigar unraveling.

Next you have to toast and light the cigar. Cigars can be toasted and lit with a variety of lighters. The most popular cigar lighters are torch flame lighters. These are especially good for toasting because you can char the foot much more carefully, and unlike a match, the torch flame won’t burn down and scorch your fingers. By the way, if you prefer to use matches, make sure they are cedar cigar matches. They tend to be longer, and the cedar imparts a nice aroma when lit.

Holding the cigar in one hand in front of you, place the flame as close to the foot of the cigar as possible without touching it. Soon the tobacco will begin to turn black. Don’t overdo this. It might take a little longer, but you want to toast the foot gently. Over charring could cause the cigar to taste bitter. Now place the cigar in your mouth. Again, with the flame just barely touching the foot, begin to puff. When you see an ample amount of smoke appear, take the cigar out of your mouth, turn the foot toward you and blow on it. Continue to this until the entire foot of the cigar is glowing red. Put down the lighter, kick back and start enjoying your cigar.

One thing to remember is do not inhale the smoke. If you have recently switched from smoking cigarettes to smoking cigars, this is even more important. Inhaling will only inhibit your enjoyment of the smoke and will most likely cause you to cough. Smoking cigars is more of an aesthetic experience in which the flavor and the aroma of the smoke combine for an all-inclusive olfactory stimulus. Holding the smoke in your mouth for a second or two and expelling is all you need to do to appreciate the flavor of the smoke. Some cigar smokers retro-hale, in which the smoke is passed out through the nose. This technique also allows you to get a good sense of where the cigar is in terms of it’s overall flavor properties and body.

Finally, when learning how to smoke a cigar, you also need to know when and how to put your cigar out. The best cigars will often taste great right down to the last inch. However, most cigars tend to turn bitter or tarry in the last two inches. Once a cigar begins to leave a sour or bitter taste on your palate, that’s usually the best time to put it down. Keyword, “down.” Never snub out a cigar as you would a cigarette. Simply leave the cigar in the saddle of the ashtray and it will go out by itself. This way, you can also enjoy the remnants of its aroma in those final minutes. That’s all there is to it.

And now you know how to smoke a cigar!

Gary Korb

Gary Korb

Executive Editor

Gary Korb has been writing and editing content for since its debut in 2008. An avid cigar smoker for over 30 years, during the past 12 years he has worked on the marketing side of the premium cigar business as a Sr. Copywriter, blogger, and cigar reviewer. A graduate of the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, prior to his career in the cigar business, Gary worked in the music and video industry as a marketer and a publicist.

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