When it comes to certain professions, trades, sports, or hobbies (like smoking premium cigars), when done by a professional or someone who’s very experienced, it usually looks a lot easier than it is. However, in the case of smoking cigars, nothing could be simpler or more pleasurable when done right. Keeping in mind that every cigar smoker has their own way of smoking a cigar, the following will show you how to clip, toast, light and puff away to your delight with the best of them.
The Right Tools
Now that you’ve got your cigar, make sure you’ve got the right tools. All you need is a cutter (preferably a double blade), a lighter (preferably a torch flame), and an ashtray with wide saddles for comfortably resting your cigar between puffs.
With your thumb and forefinger, hold the cigar at the neck or on the band with the closed end, or “cap,” facing up. Hold the cigar steady, open your cutter and clip anywhere from 1/16 to 1/8 of the cap. If done correctly, the cap will practically pop-off, then the blades close behind it. Be careful not to cut too deeply or you risk the wrapper unraveling on you. If you’re not sure, it’s better to cut less at first, then more. Place the clipped end of the cigar in your mouth and test the draw. Air should flow easily through the shaft.
Toasting & Lighting
Hold the cigar in front of you so you can see the end (or “foot”) of the cigar. Take your lighter and carefully toast the foot by holding the lighter close enough to blacken the foot, yet without touching the flame to the tobacco. Now, gently blow on the foot. It will start to glow bright red. If you notice some black areas, continue toasting those spots, then blow again until the entire foot is glowing. At this point, the cigar is lit and you can begin puffing.
You can also toast and light your cigar in two stages: Though I personally prefer the method I described above, here’s an alternative:
Toast the foot until the entire surface is blackened. Place the cigar in your mouth, point it down to about a 45-degree angle, and hold the flame under the foot, again without touching the tobacco. As you hold the flame, slowly turn the cigar in the direction of the wrapper (look at the seam of the wrapper to see which way it was rolled: clockwise or counterclockwise), and begin to puff. You may see the flame jump as you light it. Once you have it going, take the cigar out of your mouth and blow gently on the foot to ensure it’s completely lit.
Some cigar smokers put their flame right to the foot without toasting. To each his own, but the advantage to charring the foot is it permits the flavors in the tobaccos to caramelize, resulting in a more flavorful start and a cleaner burn.
Now for the really fun part: enjoying the flavor and aroma of your cigar. Slowly draw the smoke into your mouth and taste the flavors. Whatever you do, DO NOT INHALE. If you do, you will soon find out why that’s a no-no as you bow deeply to the God of Porcelain. Try not to rush your cigar, too. Let it rest for about a minute between puffs. This will allow the cigar to cool a little and let the flavors caramelize, so the next puff will be consistent with the preceding one. Continually puffing on your cigar will not only build up more heat, which can cause the wrapper to crack, it will also produce more tars and bitterness as you get to the “sweet spot” of the cigar.
Finally, make sure you give yourself enough time to relax and enjoy your cigar in its entirety. For most cigars, about an hour is plenty of time.