You bought the right stogie. You administered the perfect cut. You're one step away from taking that amazing first draw.
Wait. Don't yank a free pack of matches out of your jacket pocket and start huffing and puffing like a steam engine. If you want to get the most of your cigar, you need to handle this step with some serious care.
Cigar guru George Brightman once said, "If you kiss a cigar, it will kiss you back. If you treat it like a dog, it will turn around and bite you".
It's time to start kissing.
Here are a few pointers for lighting your cigars. Learn them. Commit them to memory. You can ruin an otherwise ideal smoke if you don't light it the right way. Lighting can be just as important as pulling the right stogie out of the humidor.
How to Kiss Your Cigar: Lighting Basics
Kiss gently, there's no reason to get too hot and heavy. Aggressive lighting is the fastest way to compromise the quality of your cigar.
When you light up, slowly draw air with gentle puffs. If you approach the lighting process with too little finesse, you'll push too much air through the cigar. This makes the cigar hot, ruining the overall quality of your smoke.
You want to kiss the cigar barely with your flame, all the while gently drawing in air and rotating the cigar. Your puffing and turning, if done correctly, will result in a nice even light. The entire tip of your cigar will glow orange within in a few seconds.
If you check and find that you haven't lit your cigar evenly, you'll want to return to that portion of the cigar, holding the fame near it for only a second. Don't let the fire linger, you don't want to burn your wrapper. If it does ignite, blow it out softly and let your cigar rest for a moment before smoking.
Paper: A Match Made in Hell
You want to taste your cigar, not nasty chemicals. That's why you are not going to put a paper match anywhere near your precious tobacco. Those little giveaway matches are worth just as much as people pay for them--nothing. They may be a fine way to get an advertisement into the hands of a wannabe Marlboro Man, but they're anathema to a smart cigar smoker.
Paper matches flame up when rubbed against that puny piece of sandpaper on the packaging because the manufacturers inundate them with sulfur. That sulfur also impregnates the stem of the match, to help it keep burning once lit.
The problem, obviously, is that burning sulfur produces sulfur dioxide, which doesn't smell or taste very good. Let's put it this way... They say that Hell smells like brimstone.
Brimstone is another word for sulfur.
Avoid cheap matches.
If, for some ungodly reason, you simply must use a paper match to light a cigar, do yourself a two favors. First, let the match burn for a few seconds to get rid of that rancid sulfur dioxide scent. Second, keep the flame away from the cigar. Don't let the fire come into direct contact with it. Draw over the flame in gentle, slow puffs. That will heat the tobacco enough to produce a light. This process may force you to use several matches, but it's worth the effort unless you have a real hankering for the taste of sulfur dioxide!
Wood: A Match Made in Heaven
Although no serious smoker would risk exposing his or her tobacco to the chemical flavor disaster of a paper match, there's nothing wrong with using the wooden variety. Unlike their nasty counterparts, wooden matches aren't treated and soaked with sulfur. You can use a wooden match without risking the quality of your smoke.
If you're using a wooden match, strike it and let that initial flame subside. You want to be 100% sure that the fire is feeding off the wooden matchstick and not the materials that comprised the match head.
Several companies make wooden matches specifically designed for cigar lighting. They're a bit longer than the usual match is and a smoker can usually manage a perfect light while using only one or two of these matches. They're relatively cheap and they're a great way to keep your cigar from biting you after a disappointing light. Unless you're committed to using a lighter, you may want to consider making a small investment in some of these custom cigar matches.
Fluid: Style and Tradition Brings Flavor Risks
Fluid-filled lighters have long been a cigar-smoking staple. It's hard for many to imagine lighting a cigar without the use of their handy old Zippo.
Zippos and similar lighters are extremely popular. People hand down lighters over generations and some chose them based on their appearance and style. Lighter manufacturers produce a slew of attractive and collectible lighters. That combination of style and tradition can make it hard to resist owning and using a Zippo.
The problem with using a fluid-filled lighter is that it can be a lot like giving someone a kiss after eating a bulb of garlic. Lighter fluid, to put it bluntly, stinks. That odor and the attached flavor will find their way into your high-quality cigar unless you're careful.
The manufacturers of these classic lighters recommend following the same instructions we mentioned when discussing paper matches. Keep the flame at a slight distance and slowly heat the tobacco to the ignition point.
Gas: Beautiful Butane
Many experienced cigar experts use butane-filled lighters to handle that crucial kiss.
Butane is colorless, odorless and burns clean with very little, if any, flavor. Your average, everyday convenience store lighters contain butane. You release butane when you press the button on your way to flicking your Bic. There are low-end disposable lighters and higher-quality refillable varieties.
If you follow our basic lighting guidelines while using a butane lighter, you'll usually find yourself enjoying your cigar without any unforeseen aggravation. They're a great tool.
They're also forgiving. If you get a little close to a paper match, you can expect that ugly sulfur dioxide burst. If you linger too long with a wood match, you might just blister a finger. If you put your cigar right atop your Zippo, you might feel like you're trying to enjoy a glass of Ronsonol. Butane, by comparison, is virtually risk-free.
The only potential downside to the butane lighter is that you might get a little too comfortable--and a little too aggressive. You can get by with closer contact when you use butane, but doing so runs the risk of overheating your cigar. If you take your time and exercise just a little restraint, butane lighters can be a great way to kiss your cigar.
Enjoy the kiss. Avoid the bite. Take a little care to light your cigar the right way and you're sure to have the best possible smoking experience.
P.S. In case you still have questions, or even if you don't, you will surely enjoy this video with a lecture on cigar lighting from Aria Giovanni...