How to Cut, Light and Smoke a Cigar.

by Jesse on February 18, 2008

This is a guide for beginners, most of you old hats at cigar smoking will find it useless, please feel free to add comments and share your own tips.

I see many searches by people looking for the basics on smoking their first cigar. So in order to help out those people looking to join the Brotherhood of the Leaf I’m writing this simple guide to getting started.

This guide takes a look at the basics of using a guillotine cigar cutter and a torch style lighter. Future guides will detail techniques involving other cutting and lighting methods.

Camacho Cigar and Palio Cutter

Please add your advice in the comments section or let me know if you feel I should revise something.

Step One: Cutting Your Cigar.

You put the cigar in the cutter and cut it, sounds simple doesn’t it? While it isn’t rocket science, it isn’t as simple as that. Take off too much of the cap and the wrapper will start to come off. Don’t cut off enough and the draw could be too tight. Typically you want to remove an 1/8 inch or less. Where to cut is going to vary some from cigar to cigar, but you want to leave part of the cap on to hold the cigar together.

Cutting A Cigar

A simple trick I learned on getting a great cut is to put the cutter on a flat surface and place the head of the cigar in it. Close the cutter enough to grip the cigar and pick it up. My cutter cuts a bit deep, but I’ve never had any issues when I start this way.

Camacho Cigar and Palio Cigar Cutter Camacho Cigar and Palio Cigar Cutter

To get a clean cut the trick is to cut fast and all the way through. A single bladed cutter may give you some trouble, but typically if you apply fast even pressure you’ll be in good shape.

Cut Cigar and Palio Cigar Cutter

If you plan on smoking cigars on a regular basis you should invest in a good cutter. My preferred cutters are Palio and Xikar.

Step Two: Lighting Your Cigar

In this example I’m using a torch lighter. While traditionalists may prefer wooden matches or cedar strips I like the convenience of a torch lighter. I use a cheap $3 refillable I picked up at Walmart.

Don’t let the blue part of the flame actually touch the cigar (The flame on my lighter unfortunately did not show up in the picture). Slowly move it around until you start to see some smoke and a good portion of the end is glowing. Take a couple experimental puffs and check it. If you don’t feel like you’ve got a good light repeat the process.

Lighting A Cigar

Try not to puff on the cigar while lighting it, but I will do this when I’m outside or in a rush to get a good light quickly. Puffing on the cigar while lighting it can affect the flavor of the cigar.

The burn may not look even at the start, but give it a minute to two to even out on its own before trying to correct the burn.

A Lit Cigar

Step Three: Smoking Your Cigar

Cigar Jack smoking a cigarDon’t rush your cigar. Cigars are met to be savored and enjoyed. They aren’t just a nicotine fix like a cigarette. Only take a puff or two about every 45 seconds. Smoking it faster can cause the cigar to taste bad.

Do not inhale your cigar. You should only take the smoke into your mouth. Once you get more experienced you can experiment with exhaling out your noise. This is referred to as retrohaling. Read the Stogie Fresh Retrohaling article if you want to give it a try.

I hope this basic guide can help you appreciate a fine cigar like we here at Cigar Jack do.

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{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

CreekEn d UK February 18, 2008 at 8:12 am

Good article and even though I’ve been smoking for over half my life, initially only Cubans but for the last few mostly those available to US markets, I still didnt know not to try and correct the burn when lighting and to let nature do its stuff alone.

Rgds and Thks
Roy.R

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Jesse February 18, 2008 at 9:55 am

Roy,

You’ll need to correct the burn if it gets seriously out of control or you can tell it is affecting the draw. Otherwise though let it be especially at the start. Most cigars I’ve smoked will correct themselves in the first inch I’ve found.

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Daniel February 18, 2008 at 10:42 am

Good point, Jesse. I only correct my light if I find it’s getting too uneven. But my first course of action is generally to try to pull from the other side that’s not burning well.

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CreekEn d UK February 18, 2008 at 10:44 am

I smoke mostly outdoors and the UK laws since 7/07 made that worse.Burn problems are my most frequent irritant. I am often outside at all hours of the night watching the stars and wondering what GOd I have upset to ruin a good cigar in the cold.

Rgds – Roy

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Jesse February 18, 2008 at 10:49 am

Smoking outside can really impact the cigar. The wind, temp and humidity call wreak havoc on the cigar. But a nice evening out under the starts with a cigar is a great way to unwind. I got a screened in porch and a propane patio heater that can make the nights very enjoyable.

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Walt February 18, 2008 at 12:28 pm

Jesse,
I wrote an article for Doc Stogiefresh a little while back which may also be beneficial for new smokers when deciding on a cutter.

Also, when you place your Palio on a flat surface like that, you are removing 12/64″ (3/16″), the most material of all cutters I measured while writing the above mentioned article.

Nice writeup
-Walt

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Jesse February 18, 2008 at 12:43 pm

Thanks for the link Walt. Yeah it is a bit thicker but I love the smooth cut I get with the Palio.

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carol February 18, 2008 at 9:56 pm

Wow! Who knew there is so much ritual involved in the lighting of a cigar :)
Just popping in to tell you thanks for visiting my site and for the heads up about no follow. I put no follow back in the template so I don’t get slapped in the PR..
Thanks,
Carol

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Pete February 19, 2008 at 6:20 am

This is a good informative guide for novice and experienced cigar smokers.

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Caveman February 19, 2008 at 1:28 pm

Thanks for this post. I was puffing on ‘em while lighting, I’ll have to try it this way now.

-Caveman

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monkeydan February 20, 2008 at 6:59 pm

Teeth & Matches. It’s all good!

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Silvio March 9, 2008 at 6:42 am

This is a decent beginners guide to smoking cigars but to me it looks like you cut a little bit too much off the cigar (I could be wrong). Usually when I cut a cigar I look for the “line” in the cap and cut from there. When lighting the cigar I usually rotate the cigar slowly to make sure the burn is even.

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Jesse March 9, 2008 at 1:14 pm

The Palio using the method of standing the cigar on its head with the cutter on a flat surface will take off more than most. I was doing it more to demonstrate the technique.

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Ryan March 13, 2008 at 10:30 pm

I believe Silvio knows what he’s doing.

Yes, the cutting guide was fine for beginners, but people who know what they’re doing and know how a cigar is made, know about the cap.

The cap is basically the keystone of cigar construction. You must cut above it, ideally at a slight angle and make a clean cut.

This ensures you get the best possible drawn and the cigar will not fall apart.

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Jesse March 14, 2008 at 8:23 am

It is hard to tell in these photos but I didn’t take all the cap off.

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Jesse March 14, 2008 at 8:39 am

I think I definitely need to add some video to demonstrate this. Hard to show the rotating of the cigar while lighting in still photos. :)

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FNA March 14, 2008 at 12:02 pm

“You must cut above it, ideally at a slight angle”

Why not perpendicular to the axis of the cigar?

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FNA March 14, 2008 at 12:10 pm

Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t notice any problems smoking cigars outside.

I can see how a strong wind could cause some problems, but I would think it would have to be awful strong.

I can’t see how any normal range of humidity could cause problems in smoking a cigar. people talk about leaving shipped cigars in humidors for weeks to get them ‘re-humidified’.

How much are they going to be affected by ambient RH being actively smoked outside for an hour or so?

I would also mention that outside humidity is often very close or identical to the humidity inside one’s house, so if it creates problems outdoors, it should create problems indoors too.

Is there a certain temperature below which you believe a cigar will have burn or other issues?

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Jesse March 14, 2008 at 7:32 pm

When I get cigars shipped to my I tend to let them rest a few days before I’ll review them, but I’m impatient so I smoke at least one off the truck. :)

I’ve had some burn issues when the wind is strong especially if I’m right in the wind.

The only time I’ve had burn issues from humidity is when it is raining out and I’m sitting in my screened in porch.

During times of low humidity and cold I’ve occasionally seen my wrappers split some along the burn line. Doesn’t cause any real problems with the smoking of the cigar, but I just happened to notice it.

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Josh March 16, 2008 at 10:17 am

A good rule I try to use is to shave off as thin of a layer of the cap as possible. You’ll get better and better with practice.

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FNA March 17, 2008 at 10:19 am

“A good rule I try to use is to shave off as thin of a layer of the cap as possible”

I like to “pop the cap”, so I have a little yarmulke shaped cap that will fit on the tip of a finger.

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Nathan April 30, 2008 at 11:28 pm

Great site. I’ll be back.

First, and less importantly, I want to point out a very small typo. In the second sentence of step two, you use “my” when I believe you meant to use “may”. Sorry to be nit-picky…I’m a marketing guy so proof reading is in my blood!

Second, and much more importantly, keep up the great site. As a novice cigar lover, I really enjoy the way you review cigars and describe their flavor. It’s made me more conscious of what I’m smoking.

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Jesse May 1, 2008 at 8:49 am

Nathan, thanks for pointing out the typo. I glad you enjoy the site!

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Jamil May 24, 2008 at 7:12 am

I am wondering if while smoking a cigar it is OK to let it go out and relight again. For me the taste changes dramatically but I have been advised by other cigar smokers that it is part of the process of smoking a cigar to let it go out and relight again.

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Jesse May 24, 2008 at 10:06 am

It is OK, my cigars tend to go out quite often while I’m smoking, because I get distracted or something. If they sit too long though they can develop a really bad taste.

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Jack Rabbit Slim August 29, 2008 at 12:43 am

Great work. I will def send this on to my family and friends. Your photography is excellent.

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Johnny Bananas August 31, 2008 at 10:46 pm

Hey Jesse, next time your gonna lay a cigar down make sure you blow out through the cigar.That way when you re-light your stoogie there’s no stale smoke trapped in it..When you guys cut your cigars just cut the cap off,and try not to damage the shoulder of the cigar.

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KevinG September 6, 2008 at 6:36 am

That’s a great post Jesse. I am doing a video series on this with Aria Giovanni. You can see the first video “How to Cut a Cigar with Aria Giovanni” right here:

http://www.mycigarfriends.com/?L=videos.index&video=19.

We are editing the second one next week on how to light.

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Jay October 15, 2008 at 12:07 am

I really like the V notch cutter I recently got…Good draw and no unraveling , even on small ring guages…i can gnaw on the end while im working and don’t get a mouthful of tobaccoo….my 2 cents………JD

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Nico A. January 28, 2009 at 2:38 am

Thank you very much. Its really been hard to find an instructional site for cigar beginners. I found this very helpfull.

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Nico A. January 28, 2009 at 2:43 am

I just had a thought, It would be greatly appreciated if you could include suggestions on some mild cigars for beginners?

Thanks

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Johnny Bananas January 30, 2009 at 12:55 pm

Here’s the best stogie for ya..Can’t beat a “MONTECRISTO CLASSIC”.If you find a better tastin’flavorful stick,let me know..So light up and enjoy my friend..Johnny B-baby…

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Robert July 8, 2009 at 1:18 pm

Hehe, good article here. I just bought my first cigar a week ago, and I loved it. I tried out 4 different ones.

I now have 3 CAO “America” cigars. I might smoke one tonight!

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smokestack lightning August 19, 2009 at 12:57 pm

Great article! I have been smoking for several years, but there was still some information I will try to incorporate into my smoking- like not puffing when I light… never thought about that, but it makes sense.

Kudos on a great site. Excellent and thoughtful reviews with descriptions you can actually understand and relate to. Keep up the good work!

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Bob November 8, 2009 at 10:08 pm

Nice write up. I personally do not light them that way, but my friend does. After toasting, almost lighting the foot, I draw gently while keeping the flame juuuuust out of reach. The cigar flames up a bit and lights the foot evenly every time… indoors. :)

You truly haven’t lived until you find yourself in Havana having a cigar steward cutting and lighting a cigar for you, though. It’s a remarkable ritual and a perfectly lit cigar handed to you.

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Don November 15, 2010 at 5:36 pm

i myself do not cut the end of my cigar i punch it. is there anything wrong with this method?

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