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How To Smoke a Cigar: A Beginner’s Guide

Welcome to the cigar lifestyle! Smoking a cigar is an art that demands patience, appreciation, and a few essential techniques. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, lighting a cigar and smoking it is more involved than just taking a cigarette from the pack and lighting one up.

Lighting and smoking a cigar is a meditative process where you’re conscious of every step. Whether you’re a novice or looking to refine your skills, this comprehensive step-by-step tutorial will guide you through smoking a cigar like a true connoisseur.

From inspecting the cigar to properly cutting, toasting, and smoking it, each step contributes to a refined and gratifying experience.

Embark on this journey and learn the secrets of enjoying and how to smoke a cigar properly, and in no time, you’ll also be one of the cigar professionals!  

Welcome to the World of Cigar Smoking

Attractive business man with a cigar and a drink Attractive business man with a cigar and a drink s whiskey and cigar stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

From gentlemen’s lounges to Hollywood’s gilded age movies, cigars are often seen as the epitome of luxury and sophistication. However, cigars aren’t only for ‘Big Boy Clubs’ or fat cat capitalists in lush offices. So, with the stereotypes out of the way, let’s continue.

Often, cigars are presented at the birth of a child, to celebrate a promotion at work, or to savor in the presence of good company. Cigars are often associated with a special occasion For the record, cigars aren’t meant for the gents only. Ladies can also indulge in cigars like their male counterparts.  

Considering that you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’ve either purchased your first cigar or received one as a gift. Welcome to the club! A cigar is the best thing that can happen to a tobacco plant and its leaves.

Select a fine cigar.

Savor it.

Enjoy it.

Never rush it.  

Before you rush and light up a cigar, there are a few pointers you need to keep in mind, and we’re going to unpack. Follow the tips below, establish your own rituals, and enjoy smoking a cigar like a pro.  

Step 1: Inspect and Appreciate the Cigar

Before you cut and light up your cigar, please take a moment to inspect it thoroughly. Scrutinize the wrapper (outside), ensuring no visible flaws, cracks, or holes.

A premium cigar should have a smooth and consistent texture. Hold it, feel its weight, and appreciate the craftsmanship.

Choose a cigar that entices you with its appearance and aroma. Remember, the visual and tactile elements are all part of the cigar experience. 

Step 2: Cut the Cigar with Precision

Cuban Brown Cigar and Cutter on a black background A Cuban Brown Cigar and Cutter on a black background s whiskey and cigar stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

Once you’ve selected your cigar, it’s time to make a clean and precise cut. Remember, a cigar is not a cigarette—there’s no filter on which you’re going to draw and inhale smoke.

The cut is essential to allow you to savor the cigar’s taste. But there’s also a right and a wrong way of cutting a cigar. When you cut too much off the tip, your cigar might unravel, and you’ll end up with a mouth full of tobacco bits.

The recommended cut is 1/8 of an inch (3mm). Avoid the temptation of biting the tip off. Still, in a desperate situation, you can follow this route, although it’s not recommended. 

The most common cutting techniques are the straight cut, V-cut, and punch cut. Experiment with different methods to find the one that suits you best. Using a high-quality cigar cutter, gently snip off the cap at the head of the cigar. Aim for a straight and even cut, ensuring an optimal draw.

Avoid cutting too much of the cap, as it may cause the wrapper to unravel.

Experiment with different cutting techniques, such as straight cuts, V-cuts, or punch cuts, to find your preferred method. 

Step 3: Toast the Foot for a Perfect Start

Regrettably, not every cigar enthusiast takes the time to properly toast their cigars before lighting them. However, those who patiently toast the foot of the cigar will find that the ash burns evenly once the smoke is underway.

This ensures a consistent burn throughout the entire cigar. 

Toasting the cigar serves the essential purpose of igniting all the components: the filler, binder, and especially the flavorful wrapper. Many cigar smokers may not realize that the wrapper contributes significantly to the overall taste. Without good toasting, only the filler will ignite, resulting in an uneven burn. 

Hold the cigar at a 45-degree angle and use long wooden matches or a butane lighter to toast the cigar’s foot (the part you’re going to light).

Rotate the cigar, gradually bringing the flame closer to ignite the tobacco evenly.

Take care not to let the flame touch the cigar directly—the flame’s heat is usually enough to toast and light your cigar. 

Step 4: Lighting Your Cigar Properly 

With the foot toasted, bring the flame closer and take a slow, gentle puff while continuing to rotate the cigar. Let the heat draw through the tobacco, igniting it evenly.

I prefer the lighter or match’s heat to ignite my cigar, but you can also use the full flame to light up. Avoid rushing this process, as a gradual and deliberate ignition is critical to properly light a cigar.

A well-lit cigar ensures an even burn and allows you to appreciate its flavors fully.

Take your time and enjoy the moment of lighting your cigar. 

Step 5: Puff with Poise and Appreciation 

As the cigar starts burning evenly, begin taking slow, controlled puffs. Once your cigar is burning equally, the first thing you’ll do after lighting your cigar is to blow the ‘old smoke’ out. Yup. You’re blowing out all the nasty ammonia and bitter substances that accumulate in the foot of the cigar. A few puffs and you’re ready to go!  

Take slow and steady puffs, gently allowing the smoke to roll over your tongue and around in your mouth.

Do not inhale!

Hold the smoke in your mouth for a few seconds to fully experience the flavors, then exhale slowly. Avoid puffing too frequently, as it may overheat the cigar and taste bitter.

The recommended rate for new cigar smokers is about a puff per minute, allowing the cigar to stay lit and develop an even ash line. 

Step 6: Rotate and Relish the Experience 

To ensure an even burn, periodically rotate the cigar between your fingers. This gentle rotation helps maintain balanced combustion and prevents the cigar from burning unevenly.

As you smoke, pay attention to the evolving flavors, nuances, and aromas that unfold with each puff. Allow yourself to be fully present and immersed in the experience.

Take your time and relish the meditative qualities of cigar smoking. 

Step 7: Appreciate the Ash and Flavor Journey 

As the cigar burns, a solid ash line will form. Allow the ash to accumulate and naturally create a solid ash line. It helps insulate the cherry (burning end) and preserve the flavors.

If you get some ash on your pants, don’t fret! It. Will. Happen. A gentle shake and all are well again. When you’ve got about an inch of ash on the cigar, and it hasn’t made its way to your lap or jacket yet, well done!  

While it may be tempting to tap off the ash, consider allowing it to build and appreciate the insulation it provides. Longer ash often indicates a well-constructed cigar.

Gently tap the ash into an ashtray, or to be safe, gently roll your cigar in the ashtray until the ash breaks off.

If you tap too hard, the wrapper might unravel, and your cigar will fall apart.  

Step 8: Relish the Serenity of Smoking Cigars 

Smoking a cigar is not just about the flavors; it is also an opportunity to find relaxation and serenity. Choose a peaceful setting, free from distractions, and fully immerse yourself in the experience.

Engage in meaningful conversation, reflect, or simply savor the moment of tranquility that cigar smoking offers. Let the ritual of cigar smoking transport you to a state of calm and contemplation.

Enhance your cigar experience by pairing it with complimentary beverages such as whiskey, rum, coffee, or even tea. We will be covering beverage pairings in posts in the future, keep an eye out for them! Experiment with different pairings to discover your personal preferences. 

There’s no rule or law in the cigar world that you must finish a lit cigar in one session. When you feel you’ve had enough, pause and let your cigar rest.

Try to finish your cigar within two hours because the flavors tend to diminish after exposure to the air.  

Step 9: End with Elegance and Respect

When you have finished enjoying your cigar, allow it to extinguish itself in the ashtray gracefully. Avoid stubbing it out forcefully, as it can release undesirable odor

Respect the artistry and craftsmanship that went into creating the cigar.  

To summarize, the infographic below visually illustrates everything we’ve discussed. 

The Final Puff

With this detailed step-by-step tutorial, you now possess the knowledge and techniques to smoke a cigar like a seasoned enthusiast.

From selecting a cigar to properly cutting, toasting, and smoking it, each step contributes to a refined and gratifying experience.

Remember, cigar smoking is an indulgence that should be savored leisurely. Enjoy the flavors, aromas, and moments of relaxation accompanying this timeless ritual. Don’t rush the cigar smoking experience; savor and enjoy it. Happy Smoking!  

Andrew Olsen, a Musicology Ph.D., explores the intersections of art, literature, and music. Beyond academics, he's a cigar aficionado who revels in experimenting with pipe tobacco blends and collecting vintage and new pipes. Other pursuits include reading about cigars and tobacco pipes, blends, and (of course) writing about it.

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