Written by our friend Walt White at Stogie Review.
Címon baby, light my fire!
The purpose of this article is to discuss with you a little about lighting your cigars. The intent is not to talk about the actual technique of lighting cigars, but instead to talk a little about the different methods available. The article was inspired by the many questions we have received asking us ďWhat is the best way to light a cigar?ď.
Matches are more, or less, the same across the board. They each have a tip with a variety of compounds. When friction is applied to these compounds a chemical reaction creates heat which in turn creates fire. The fire continues to burn as it consumes the fuel, in the shape of paper or wood.
The big difference comes in the way of the fuel. As cigar smokers we always hear that we should avoid paper matches and stick to only wooden stick matches if a lighter isnít handy.
The chemicals in these matches are used to bond the paper and make the ďstickĒ or handle of the match. The wooden variety is typically made up of a small piece of white pine or aspen and does not require any sort of additives to make it hold its shape.
While I am no match expert, I would tend to think that there is absolutely no difference between a cigar match and the boxes of wooden matches available at a hardware store, with the exception that cigar matches tend to be much longer than these utility types.
So why would you want to use a match over a lighter? I prefer them from time to time because they seem to slow me down and put me in that relaxed mind set from the very beginning. The soft flame of the match makes lighting your cigar a little easier in the sense that the wrapper will not scorch as fast as a jet flame would.
When using this type of light, it is suggested that you strike the match and allow it to burn for a couple of seconds. This will allow the sulfur on the match tip to burn off and not become drawn into your cigar as it is lit.
Toasting the foot is not required but some enjoy the relaxing ritual of lighting the cigar without puffing on it during lighting. This method generally takes about three long matches to complete.
So why wouldnít you want to use a match over a lighter? That question can be answered easily enough with another question, Have you ever tried to light a cigar with a match, outside on a windy day?
In addition to the problems caused by a breeze, matches are often too short to light a cigar in one shot. Depending on the size of the match, it can sometimes take a half dozen short stick matches to get a large ring gauge cigar burning properly. By the same token, small ring gauge cigars are generally a breeze to light with a single match, or sometimes two.
Along similar lines as a match, there is also another method of lighting your cigar which involves a soft flame and a piece of wood. This is known as lighting your cigar with a Spanish Cedar Spill. In this case, a spill is a fancy name for a slender piece of wood which is set aflame by a lighter or match, then used to light your cigar.
The lighting process works in the same manner as a match, with the exception that time isnít needed for the sulfer tip to burn away. It is said that this method has a cleaner taste on the initial light and imparts a bit of a cedar tone. The cedar flavor matches the flavor that aging the cigars within cedar boxes would.
This method of lighting has the similar pros and cons as using a match. While I have never used this method myself, you can see Jerry use this method while lighting the Vasco da Gama cigar. This review is a bit dated but should make the danger of using a flaming piece of wood, to light your cigar, very apparent.
The Single Flame:
This is probably, hands down, the most common way of lighting cigars. Single flame torch lighters can range from a couple of dollars at your local walmart to hundreds for special edition ST Dupont torches. With this style of lighter being so widely available, the fuel is also widely available and relatively inexpensive.
The trick to the fuel is forcing yourself to pass up on buying that jumbo container of Ronson fuel for $1.99 and waiting until you are able to visit a quality tobacconist. At your local tobacconist you will be able to find what is called Triple Refined Butane. This is the most common and should cost only a few dollars for a can which will last much longer than you would initially think.
As with any product, there is also something that is supposed to be new and improved. In this department you have your Quadruple and Quintuple Refined Butane. This means that unlike your triple refined butane, which is filtered three times, this is filtered four and five times to remove impurities.
The difference between this product and your inexpensive Ronson product is that it is much cleaner.The most common ailment of jet flame lighters is a dirty or clogged jet. This comes in the form of impurities in the fuel getting stuck within the jet or ashes or other debris falling into the jet during lighting.
I find that this style lighter feels very precise. Because of the narrow heat source, it is easy to touch up an ailing burn line or avoid scorching your cigar on the initial light. This same narrow heat source can also make lighting a large ring gauge cigar time consuming.
Multiple Flame Lighters:
Just as butane has new and improved products, so do torch lighters. These bigger and badder lighters sport multiple flames and provide a broader heat source. This makes lighting your mammoth sixty-six ring cigar a little faster but can lead to scorching when lighting that petite corona you have been eying up all day.
Models with multiple jets have the same problems as their single flame siblings, they can easily become clogged. The number of jets only multiplies this potential problem as one or all of the jets could become clogged along the way. If, or when, this problem does arise, it is suggested that you use a can of compressed air to try and blow out any obstruction from the jet in question.
If your standard torch lighters were children, table torches would be their daddy. Just as you would think from reading the name, these products are designed not be kept in your pocket, but set atop your table. Table lighters come in all varieties and offer anything from a wide single jet to a series of finer jets.
This type of lighter is normally what you find available for public use at your local cigar shop. They are ideal because often times they hold a tremendous amount of fuel and make quick work of lighting cigars. They are also less likely to grow legs and walk away, never to be seen again, due to their large size.
More often than not, you will see these lighters used in haste and result in badly scorched wrappers. It can sometimes be difficult to use this type of lighter if you arenít accustomed to the large flame they produce. With a little practice and the forethought to hold the lighter far away from the foot of the cigar, they are fast working and very effective.
So what do I use? I use all of the above, with the exception of the Cedar Spill. In different circumstances one type of light is preferred over the other and I donít feel as though I should be locked just one type. As you smoke cigars more and more, you will see where the situation may be improved by using one method over another.
If you found this post looking for advice on buying a lighter for yourself, Iím sorry but that is another discussion for another time. So, What is the best way to light my cigar? That is easy, the best way to light your cigar is by using the method you are most proficient with. If you are uncomfortable with one way over another, grab yourself a cigar that isnít terribly important to you and throw caution to the wind and give one of the other methods a try.
I can promise you that at some point you are going to forget your lighter and be forced to use something different. Better to be more prepared when that time comes then using a particular style of lighting, for the very first time.