There are countless articles and tutorials out there that claim to have the one definitive answer to the age-old question, “How do you properly smoke a cigar?”
What I’ve found, however, is that the only definitive answer to that question is that there is no definitive answer to that question!
Smoking a cigar can look entirely different from one gentleman to the next, and I think there is real beauty in that. Smoking a good stog amongst friends is one of those increasingly rare areas of life in which we can enjoy the moment genuinely and honestly, free from judgement.
We speak a lot about that freedom here in the Modern Day Gentleman blog. But that freedom doesn’t only extend to our conversations as we share in life together. It also applies to how we each choose to individually enjoy our cigars.
Perhaps the gentleman on your right enjoys a dark maduro, burned warmly and pulled often, while the gentleman on your left appreciates a milder connecticut wrapper and prefers a long, cool smoke. Each gentleman is enjoying his cigar. Which means…each gentleman is smoking his cigar correctly.
With that being said, there are general guidelines that you can use to ensure a more enjoyable and memorable experience as you smoke. Whether you are just starting and have only burned a few down, or you have smoked cigars for years and want to be more knowledgeable about the process, every seeking gentleman can learn something from this post.
Do not use these guidelines as boundaries to stay within. Rather, use them as starting points from which you can grow outward from within your own set of preferences and opinions.
I’ve broken down this set of guidelines into 6 main points:
- Cutting the Cigar
- Toasting the Foot
- Lighting the Cigar
- Drawing in Smoke
- Tending to the Cherry & Handling the Ash
- Finishing the Cigar
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I’m sure you’ve all seen at least a few of the many different kinds of cutters that are available out there. This is yet another example of individual preference. I myself prefer a straight cut (accomplished by using a guillotine cutter), but try a few of them out! You may prefer something different! The most popular cuts are:
- Straight Cut (made with a guillotine cutter)
- V-Cut (made with a wedge cutter)
- Punch (made with a punch)
Once you’ve cut your cigar, remove any small remnants of tobacco and wrapper that are hanging off the end to avoid getting them in your mouth.
Then, bring the cigar up to your lips and wet the end. This will help to reinforce the binding of the wrapper with the tobacco and decrease the amount of it that ends up coming off during the smoke.
#2 – Toasting the Foot
After the cigar is cut, you need to toast the foot. Below is a picture of the different sections so you know where the foot is in relation to the rest of the cigar.
Toasting is the process in which you warm the foot to prepare it for the lighting.
Do not touch the flame directly to the foot, but rather use the warmth surrounding the flame. If you apply the flame directly then you risk charring the tobacco, which can damage the taste and leave you with a taste that is different from what the manufacturer intended.
You will know the foot is properly toasted when you start seeing a good amount of smoke coming from the end and bits of tobacco beginning to ignite and turn orange.
Your cigar is now ready to light.
#3 – Lighting the Cigar
Many new smokers are intimidated by the lighting of a cigar. If that’s you, let this article serve as encouragement. Lighting a cigar is a classic example of “practice makes perfect”. Once you get it, you get it. So just keep at it!Many new smokers are intimidated by the lighting of a cigar. If that’s you, read on... Click To Tweet
This step in the process is very often rushed, and done in a way that can diminish the quality of the entire smoke,so take your time!
Bring the cigar back up to your lips, apply the warmth of the flame to the foot (again being careful to avoid direct contact with the tobacco), and begin to pull in with a consistent, strong draw (read more about how to draw in the next step).
Be sure to always roll the cigar in your fingers as you pull. You want to apply heat all the way around the cigar so that the whole foot gets lit.
Continue to draw in and apply the heat, pausing every few pulls to turn the cigar around and inspect the growing cherry (the “cherry” is a term often used to describe the burning tobacco you can see glowing as you smoke). You want the entire circumference of the cigar to be burning a bright orange, all the way into the middle.
One trick you can utilize here is to blow slightly onto the end to give the burning tobacco a bit more air.
Once you are able to pull and see that bright orange color fill your cigar, you are properly lit!
#4 – Drawing in Smoke
In order to properly burn down a cigar, you need to know how to draw it’s smoke into your mouth.
You do not want to inhale the smoke of a cigar. There are many reasons for this that I won’t explain here , but trust me, it won’t be enjoyable…so just don’t do it.
As a general rule of thumb, I usually tell people to pull on the cigar as if they would be sucking a drink from a straw, using your cheeks and lips instead of your lungs. If you’re up for it, go ahead and put your thumb in your mouth and pretend you are sucking a drink from a straw. Then, keeping your thumb in your mouth, try to inhale like you’re taking a big, deep breath. Totally different feeling, right? You want to apply the first method when smoking a cigar.
#5 – Tending to the Cherry & Discarding the Ash
As you smoke, the two main things you will need to be aware of and maintain are how the cigar is burning and when to discard the ash.
In general, people smoke their cigars much too quickly and as a result, they end up with a very hot, bitter smoke that burns away most of the tobacco’s flavor.
With that said, there are certainly different paces at which people smoke a cigar, and to my point made earlier, that is completely ok! Don’t let someone else’s pace dictate your own! Smoke at the pace that is enjoyable for you. This is just a warning that if you pull too often, you will risk an increase in heat, which can cause a decrease in flavor.
I usually pull on my cigars about once every 45 seconds to a minute. That may seem like a long gap in between draws, but well rolled cigars can stay lit even with much longer gaps. I enjoy a mild, cool smoke though while others may prefer to pull more often to achieve a different outcome.
Regardless of how often you pull, you just need to make sure you keep a nice, deep orange glow in the middle of your cigar as it burns down. If you keep a lot of ash on your cigar and can’t see that cherry glow, you can still tell the cigar is burning well by looking at how evenly the wrapper is burning. If you have a relatively straight line all the way around your cigar, it’s burning evenly.
If it begins to burn unevenly and you begin to see the ash crawling up one side, simply take a lighter and apply the flame to the part that isn’t burning while you take a long draw.
There are a lot of theories as to whether or not you should ash your cigar as you smoke it. This is yet another example of an area that is largely personal preference. Some like to keep the ash on and claim it helps the cigar burn evenly and adds complexities to its flavor. Others like to ash often, keeping a close eye on that cherry. As you smoke, pay attention to what you prefer and stick with that!
Ashing a cigar is a simple exercise, but is often done incorrectly. You are not supposed to remove the ash like you would with a cigarette! Do not hit the cigar to knock of the ash. Instead, press the cigar up against the ashtray where the ash meets the cigar at a slight angle and begin to roll slowly. The ash should “break” off easily. It may take some practice but will become more natural as you do it.
#6 – Finishing the Cigar
Several years ago I heard a phrase that sums up what cigar smoking is all about. I asked the question, “so when do I know the cigar is finished and when should I stop smoking it?” I was told very simply, “You’re finished smoking a cigar as soon it hinders your ability to enjoy the moment you are present in.” There it is! I love it.A cigar is finished as soon as it hinders your ability to enjoy the moment you're present in. Click To Tweet
My friend argued that smoking a cigar is all about enjoying the moment and when the cigar, for any reason, begins inhibiting your ability to do that, you’re finished smoking it. That could be ½ of the way through, or with only a few inches left to burn. The cigar is only meant to last for as long as you will enjoy smoking it.
The most important thing you should take from this post is that each gentleman has his own preferences and opinions as he burns one down. Those preferences and opinions should be respected.
And although cigars are to be enjoyed by implementing those personal preferences, basic guidelines can be used to create a consistent and positive smoking experience.
Thanks for reading!
Comment below with your thoughts!