Cigar Basics HEADING_TITLE

Enjoy this cigar primer from our friends at HumiBlog:

Cutting:

When I got interested in cigars my first question inevitably was: How do I cut it? Did I cut too much, or not enough? How do others do it? Well… in short, it’s partly a matter of personal preference. There are actually several different ways of cutting a cigar. The most common of cutters are the guillotine (pictured above) and the cigar punch. The punch basically cuts a round section of the cap while the guillotine cuts across the cap in a swift action that may or may not cut part of the filler as well, depending on preference.

I personally prefer to cut as little as possible into the filler if at all. I do not like to cut the whole cap off, but just enough to see the filler and allow smoke through. So, as a general rule, I cut upto 2mm, making sure the rest of the cap remains well in place so as to avoid unraveling of the wrapper leaf, which for me just ruins the cigar.

Lighting:

Because of their increased gauge in comparison to cigarettes, lighting cigars properly requires a bit more patience and attention, to ensure that they burn evenly throughout the smoke. A cigar that is poorly lit will often burn unevenly and require lots of additional attention while smoking; therefore, when lighting up, the goal is to light up the foot as evenly as possible.

I normally use a “torch” lighter because I tend to like the wind proof flame and the ease of precisely directing the flame. Regular butane lighters, matches, and cedar strips are also popular and can be used as well. It is not advisable, however, to use a “fluid” or “fuel” lighter because the smell of the lighter fluid may get passed onto the cigar and taint its taste and aroma. The use of candles is also not advised since wax particles can also be passed onto the cigar.

In order to light the cigar evenly, I hold the cigar in my hand and “toast” the foot by exposing it to the flame, without actually touching the foot with the flame, until the entire foot (including the outer edge) is blackened (hence, toasted). This step should only take a few seconds. I then place the flame a bit closer to the cigar’s foot while taking a few slight puffs and rotating the cigar with every puff. Lastly, I blow on the foot lightly to verify that the entire foot is glowing evenly. Lighting the cigar can not be rushed and, to me, is a big part of the cigar smoking experience.

Having said all of this, lighting a cigar is a ritual in itself that can be very personal and based of one’s preferences. You just have to see what you prefer and what works for you. Probably, the only universal truth in all this is that improper lighting can totally ruin the enjoyment of even the finest of cigars.

Smoking:

Remember not to over puff on the cigar. Draw slowly, as often as needed to keep the cigar burning (since a cigar that sits too long will go out). Over puffing can overheat the cigar, and cause the smoke to become hot, sour, or harsh. Over puffing may give you a rather unpleasant nicotine buzz or nauseous spell even from a mild or medium cigar, depending on your level of experience. The key here is to take it easy, relax, and enjoy the flavor(s) and aroma(s) of the cigar.

Do not inhale the cigar smoke! This is very unpleasant and harmful. You do not have to inhale the smoke to enjoy every aspect of a cigar. It is said that no respectable smoker will ever take a “hit” from a cigar.

Every now and again (more often than desired for sure) a cigar will not burn evenly and require slight coaxing from a lighter to encourage an even burn. Depending on the thickness and the type of the wrapper even the slightest heat from a flame on or near the wrapper may produce a harsh and unpleasant taste. Eventually, an aficionado will know when to attempt to correct the burn and when to let it run its course. This same principle applies when deciding to relight a cigar that either tunneled or simply died before you were ready to put it down. Sometimes you’ll relight it and continue with no loss of flavor, sometimes though it will be more desirable to allow the cigar to die in peace in order to avoid a sour or bitter finish of what otherwise would have been a great cigar smoking experience.

Ashing:

Allow the ashes to build up on the foot until they are “ready” to fall off, then take a few quick puffs to warm up the edge of the ash, and give the cigar the lightest tap with your index finger. The ashes should gently fall in. If they do not fall, then they are not ready to fall. Often times, if I am smoking outside, I don’t worry so much about the ash, but be careful or they will end up on your lap! In general, allow the ash to build up to a good length. It is said that the ash helps keep the cigar smoking cool. A long firm ash is certainly the mark of a quality cigar.

I got nauseous! What happened?

He he he… I only laugh because this has happened to the best of us at one point or another. There are so many reasons why that may have been. Perhaps the cigar was stronger than you are used to. Maybe you inhaled the smoke unintentionally while you smoked or didn’t breathe enough between puffs. Who knows! There can be many reasons, but probably the most common mistake of new cigar smokers is to smoke a rather strong cigar in a rather small unventilated indoor space. No you may not be inhaling the smoke from your puff but the smoke has generally built up in the room and soon before (or after) you finish your delicious fine cigar you get a case of the sweaty shakes. At any rate, if this ever happens, just suck on a sugary (not sugar free) mint, get over it, wait a day or two, and try a lighter bodied cigar. When you regain your confidence (if you thought you had lost it), go ahead and try that nice full-bodied cigar again, I guarantee you’ll enjoy it this time.

Copyright 2006 Humiblog.com.  Used with permission