There is a certain finesse that some cigar smokers will forgo altogether in lighting up their stick, but I feel it is imperative that we do this thing properly. Obviously if you enjoy what you do, do that. But hear me out, because this part is fun, and it will make your tobacco taste all the sweeter.

Cut your cigar using your cigar cutter of choice. You can find a more complete list in the Tools of the Trade article.
To do the thing properly, you’ll want to cut through the cap. That is to say, the cap is what holds the cigar together. Without it, the whole bundle would begin to unravel. Cut maybe half or three quarters of the way down into the wrapper, as cleanly as possible. The sharper the cutter, the easier this will be to do.
Cut through the cap to avoid unraveling your cigar

With certain cutters, you’ll find that measuring that distance is easier or even unnecessary (i.e. V-Cut cutters will only cut from the tip anyway, and the same for Punch-Cut cutters). Do this carefully, as it will change the whole experience for you.

Take a draw on your cigar. If it feels like it’s not drawing too well, you may cut more. BUT WAIT! Before you start hacking away at your cigar, try massaging the end, the part you just cut. Sometimes the tobacco there gets quite tight and stiff, and in massaging it, you loosen up the flow. Alright, read on.

In a worst case scenario, you may need to cut the whole cap off. Sad is this day. Now your cigar will undoubtedly unfurl as the heat from the burning ember at the end is pulled through the cigar, coursing hot winds of change through its length. In such a case, you may be forced with the sadistic choice of either licking the wrapper to stick it down, or throwing away the cigar in frustration altogether.

Do be careful not to find yourself in such a predicament, won’t you?

I’m not saying it takes a professional, but this is where finesse and experience definitely comes into play. That is, if you want to do this right. In lighting your cigar properly you will not impart any flavor that is not from the cigar itself, and in general you will have a better smoking experience. Plus, the right way is fun.

You may use a jet or soft flame lighter (butane only - high grade, please. NO GAS), or a wooden match.

In general, the idea is to try to use the heat from the flame to not scorch, but toast the foot of the cigar until it smolders and then puff until it smokes to your liking. The idea is also to do this slowly enough that the tobacco does not burn too hotly. Extreme heat is undesirable as it causes the tobacco to produce other, less desirable flavors (like ammonia - yuck!). So keep the visible part of the flame away from the tobacco.

Also in general, do not light the center. Lighting around the edge will ensure an even burn, and will also help to keep it lit in a low-oxygen environment (i.e. smoking indoors).

For soft flame or wooden matches, the best way to achieve the above mentioned effect is to hold the foot of the cigar above the flame, tilted at a 45ยบ angle so that the cut foot end of the cigar is touched by the heat (again, not the flame) rising from the flame. Rotate the cigar so that no single point gets too much heat, and so that you get an even light.

For a jet lighter, the angle is less crucial, although it will still be easier if the flame is below the cigar, as heat rises more readily than it is forced downward.


After lighting, purge your cigar. That is, puff out through the cigar to remove any nasty toxins or nasty flavors. Relight if necessary.