Congratulations on buying your first cigar. I hope you got an awesome deal on it like I recommended. If not, here’s another chance for a great cigar to start!
In order to do this step you will need to have a cigar and a cutter. I will go over each type of cutter and the pros and cons of using them here. Ultimately though it’s up to you.
Whichever cutter you are most comfortable with is the one that you will want to hang onto and keep using. That said there are a number of cigars that will only cut properly with a particular kind of cutter.
Why do I need a cutter? Can’t I just bite it off with my Teeth?
Have you ever heard that phrase before? Old timers apparently like to bite the ends off their cigars instead of using a cutter. It’s cheaper and gross.
First of all, the purpose of cutting a cigar properly is to ensure that the wrapper (not the paper printed with the logo, that’s called the band) – the outside thin leaf of tobacco which is so important to flavor – does not unwind. If it ravels it will completely change the smoking process, create a mess as pieces of tobacco leaf fall unpredictably and leave small sediments of the filler (inside tobacco) which is now exposed inside your mouth. Cigars are not designed to be eaten. Trust me. It’s a gross taste.
You absolutely need a cigar cutter to avoid that situation. You also need to ensure that you have a sharp cutter that can do that job properly. If your cutter is not sharp it’s likely to be no better than biting off the end.
To make sure you get a sharp cutter, avoid the gas station cutters and stick to one that will last you a long time, preferably a brand that lets you sharpen the blade as it appears to dull. Xikar is the leader in that. Here’s the epitome of a perfect cigar cutter right here and you should buy it right now before you make an excuse!
Different Types of Cutters and How they are Used
Guillotine – The guillotine cigar cutter is the favorite for cigar smokers for many reasons. It is small, lightweight, safe and makes a great cut on most cigars. It is usually the best pick for torpedo cigars (those with torpedo shapes at the mouth) and is the easiest to master.
The cigar is simply lined up between the two blades of the guillotine, using the cap as a guide. The cap is a small piece of tobacco leave that looks like a bowl or a hat fitting onto the mouth end of the cigar. You will see a line from the leaf showing you the cap. That is what you are trying to remove. Nothing more and nothing less.
Line up your guillotine cutter just on the short side of the cap. With both sides, receiving power at the same time, give it a quick and decisive snap. You won’t hurt yourself or the cigar. Just make it a nice, quick, clean cut and you’ll be all set. Throw away the tobacco that is lost from the cap.
Punch – The punch cutter is one that is growing on me. Although it cannot be used for torpedo cigars it is my preferred cutter these days for most others, especially larger ring gauge smokes. The punch had the advantage of controlling your draw better (how much smoke you’ll be bringing into your mouth) by allowing less to possibly come in. You can either work harder on your draw if you want more or slow things down and use the smaller cut to enjoy the draw.
Using the punch is a little more tricky but not bad once you get the hang of it. Again, it is very important to make sure the punch is sharp, otherwise you will end up with a mess. The punch blade is a hollow, circular blade, inside of a protective layer. It’s about the circumference of a pen. Aiming for the center of the cap, take the circular blade and gently push the blade into the cigar. It should ease in really nicely. Don’t go too far, just until you can feel that it has punctured the cap. Once it has, push the release on the opposite side of the blade and pull it out. Again, you want to make it one clean, and quick motion to avoid any damage. Some punch cutters do not have a release and are simply pulled out. What you are left with is a small hole that goes about a centimeter in the cigar. That’s it!
Other Cutters – There are other cutters as well. There are fancy scissors that you can use, table attached guillotines, motorized cigar cutters, notch cutters and others I’m sure. These all work fine as well but are not necessary for a beginning cigar smoker. Focus on getting a nice quality guillotine cutter and then a punch cutter. 99% of the time that’s all you and your friends will need and if you buy quality they should last for years and years.
Choosing a Cigar Lighter and Lighting your First Cigar
Just like with the cigar cutter you definitely do not want to settle for lighting your cigars with a lighter from a gas station or grocery store. Disposable lighters are gross because they leave an impact scent and taste with the cigar that often remains for the first few draws. Aesthetically you are also likely to be turned off by their cheap appearance and reliability. You don’t want to keep lighting your cigar, trust me!
Now, if you missed my last post on buying your first cigar, I highly recommend you go back and check out the cigar lighter I recommend. It has a lifetime warranty, is windproof butane and looks super classy. If you don’t like that one though I will highlight a couple more here for you to check out.
‘Why can’t I just use matches?’ is a phrase I hear a lot of from new cigar smokers. First of all, most matches use sulfur to begin the light from a strike so that will have a nasty smell initially but you also have to deal with reliability. If you are smoking indoors or on a day with zero and I mean zero wind, matches will work just fine for most people. But if you are outdoors and there is any chance of wind, you will go through the whole pack trying to get the right angle of wind and probably be constantly relighting it, which will adversely affect the flavor dramatically.
I recommend you get yourself a windproof butane lighter. First of all, butane does not impart a flavor like sulfur does. Second, you have no idea how useful that windproof function is until you start utilizing it! Choose one that has a lifetime guarantee because you eventually do something stupid with it like forget to take it out of your pocket in the washing machine. If you cannot swing that price, here are a few great alternatives that are almost as powerful and should still last you years. Plus they look amazing!
How to Light a Cigar
Now you have your cigar. You have your best cigar lighter and you have your cutter. You selected the cigar to smoke and you have cut it using the previous guide on cutting a cigar. You are ready to smoke.
But first, consider your environment. This is very often over looked but incredibly important. Certain environments both indoors and outdoors will feel uncomfortable to smoke in. Better to get yourself comfy right away. I prefer an outdoor location with a slight breeze (good thing you got windproof) and average fall temperature. I also like to have a hot beverage when I’m trying a new cigar, a black coffee or a black tea work great in a Thermos.
Before you light the cigar put it in your mouth. Take a few draws (bringing fresh air in through the cigar by inhaling to your mouth). Do you feel the air circulating? You should be able to bring fresh air in, and then blow it out through the front. This is the science of how cigar smoking workings. When you light the end and you breath in, you are igniting the fire you started with fuel. If you cannot feel the air your cigar is not appropriate for smoking or you are not breathing properly. Take the time to focus on this. When you breath in, hold it in your mouth (not actually inhaling). Let your mouth fill up and then blow it out. Do you feel air coming in and out now?
Once you have practiced your draw you are ready to light your first cigar. There is a technique many of us use called toasting. This is where we light the end of the cigar, around the edges, slowly turning it, held at a 45 degree angle to the fire. This gets the temperature of the cigar ready for smoking and ensures a nice even burn throughout the smoking process. Skip this step and you may get the cigar too hot too fast, causing an irregular burn and nasty taste of fire in your mouth. You only want to do this for about 10-20 seconds. When the end starts smoking (it shouldn’t catch fire yet) it is done toasting.
To begin the full lighting of your cigar, you will want to move the cigar from your hand and to your mouth. You will use the same technique for taking a draw but this time with the fire on the end of the cigar. Keep your cigar at that same 45 degree angle and raise the cigar about an inch over the flame. If it’s too close it will burn too quickly.
When you draw, you will be drawing air from outside (oxygen) into the fire you have created with your lighter into the cigar. Like paper or wood, the cigar will combust and the reaction will be a fire. More specifically, you will draw from the cigar and begin turning the cigar in your fingers as it remains in your mouth to ensure a nice even burn. When you see the entire circumference of the cigar turning gray and creating an ash, pull the flame away. You should notice that the whole of the cigar end is lit. You don’t want it to be so lit that a flame stays on it. You just want a slow and even burn. If you missed half of the cigar, redo the process but with emphasis on that side. Alternatively you can torch that side by holding it up to the lighter but will have to wait a moment for it to cool down.
Now that your cigar is lit you will have to take draws on it to keep it lit throughout the whole smoking process. It should be noted that most cigar smokers don’t inhale. Doing so will likely make you sick since they are much more powerful than cigarettes. Simply hold the smoke in your mouth as you inhale and then release it on your exhale. Experiment with slow and controlled puffs. It’s quite enjoyable. As you are enjoying your cigar, turn it in your finger every few minutes so that the fire is evenly separated. Most smokers will take a draw (puff) every minute or two. Do it too much and it will get hot too fast, do it too little and your smoke will go out.