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How to Properly Cut and Light a Premium Cigar

Written by Cesar Escamilla Turicos

While there are no hard and fast rules on properly cutting and lighting a premium cigar, there are fundamentals to understand. Whether a novice or experienced smoker, here is some information you may be surprised to learn.

We’ll begin with three cuts used most frequently. Everyone has their own preference.

Starting with the straight cut, it’s the gold standard for cutting the cap off a cigar. It’s a classic and one of the oldest methods commonly used today. It cuts a straight line, removing the entire cap surface, allowing the smoke to envelop your palette and experience the tobacco blend like the master blender intended. All cigars should first be experienced with a straight cut, and then, you can tweak the experience by altering the cut. Be careful not to cut beyond the cap. One way to facilitate this is to lay the cutter down on a flat surface, place the cigar cap in the cutter, and cut.

Next is the “V-cut,” also called the “wedge.” This type of cut has become very popular. It cuts deeper into the cap and leaves a wedge through which you draw the smoke. There are some that say this intensifies the flavors, which you may prefer, and it could cause the cigar to burn hot when puffing because of how loose the draw can be. There are little to no scientific studies done on these theories. Personally, I will only V-cut on a tapered cap such as a torpedo or belicoso because I feel the draw is too tight for me when I perform a straight cut on these types of cigars.

Finally, there is the punch cut. This is becoming more common as well. This cuts a small circle into the cap of your cigar. The act is less of a cutting motion and more of a hole punch, hence the name. This method requires care because of the force needed to dig into the cap, which risks breaking it. Some cigar enthusiasts prefer this method for the lack of tobacco pieces that can end up in your mouth, which can be annoying. There is the risk of accumulated moisture, oils, and thus tar because of the small puncture that the smoke has to travel through.

Now that we’ve gone over the types of cuts and what they do remember to take your time and start small, test the draw, and cut to your liking. While there are a handful of ways to cut your cigar, there is one way to light a cigar properly. The method may vary, be it torch lighter, soft flame, matches, and even cedar spills, but the technique remains.

Patience is key. It’s not like lighting the tip of a cigarette or the wick of a candle. A properly lit cigar is important because it means all components (wrapper, binder, filler) will be evenly lit, thus showcasing the blend as the maker intended them to be experienced. You are less likely to fight an uneven burn while you’re smoking, which can add hassle to a time that should be relaxing.

  1. Light your cigar the same way you would toast a marshmallow-keep the cigar above and near the flame but don’t let them touch.

  2. Like a marshmallow, you'll want to rotate the cigar so all parts of the tip are equally heated.

  3. Raise the unlit end of the cigar to your mouth and take the first puff. The embers should burn evenly while drawing. If not, take the cigar out of your mouth and go ahead and touch up the end with a flame.

Remember, it’s best to avoid lighting a cigar with a flame from a source that will alter the essence of your cigar. Standard sulfur matches, Bic lighters, and Zippo or oil-fueled lighters will add an undesired taste. The best method is to use a lighter designed specifically for cigars. These are affordable and easy to find online or at your favorite cigar shop.

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