How to Smoke a Cigar

How to Smoke a Cigar
Photo: Bettmann / Contributor, Getty Images

Congratulations, you’re about to smoke a cigar. Maybe you have cause to celebrate, or perhaps you want to make like Scrooge McDuck showcase your big boss energy by burning a $100 bill with the crackling cherry of a stogie.

Whatever your reason for lighting up, there’s some cigar etiquette you should probably adhere to, or at least be aware of. Here are some things to know about cigars and smoking them, so you can approach the world of tobacco with a guidepost or two.

There are different types of cigars

Cigars come in all shapes and sizes. Unlike cigarettes, which don’t typically vary in their size and shape that much, there’s a mini-universe of different stogies out there, all classified with regard to their width, length, and overall shape. (Note: there’s some niche terminology in the cigar world, and one of the most important terms is “ring gauge,” which Cigar Aficionado defines as “designation of a cigar’s diameter broken into 64ths of an inch.”)

Here’s a quick primer on some of the cigars you might encounter while perusing your local tobacco shop, again per the experts at Cigar Aficionado, that imminent authority on sophisticated smoking.

  • Parejos: These are “straight-sided cigars; most have an open foot for lighting and need to be cut before smoking.”
  • Coronas: “This is the benchmark size against which all other sizes are measured. The traditional dimensions are 5 1/2 to 6 inches with a ring gauge of 42 to 44.” (There’s also petit coronas, which are smaller versions of this cigar).
  • Churchill: “A large corona format. The standard dimensions are 7 inches by 47 ring gauge.”
  • Robusto: “A short, fat cigar that has become the most popular cigar size in America. The size is generally 4 3/4 to 5 1/2 inches by 48 to 52 ring gauge.”

Though these are the most common varieties, you can certainly explore the much wider variety of them out there if you’re so inclined.

Inspect your cigar

The one similarity between cigars and other tobacco products and perishable goods like milk is that they go bad. If your cigar smells funky or feels harder than it should, there’s a more than likely chance that it will taste like absolute trash if smoked, because it’s spoiled.

There’s also the possibility that your stogie won’t draw the requisite airflow necessary to smoke it comfortably. That’s typically because it’s packed a little too tightly. In order to make sure your cigar is actually ready to smoke, here’s how to inspect one:

According to Bespoke Unit, there are various things you need to look out for:

  • Dull Colour
  • Spots or Blemishes
  • Mould
  • Tears
  • Holes
  • Soft Spots
  • Hardness
  • Ridges
  • Irregular Shape

How to cut a cigar

In order to cut a cigar, you’re going to need a cigar cutter, ideally in the shape of a guillotine. Once you’ve got both your cigar and the cutter on hand, you may slice away, but be mindful of your fingers.

Place the cap of the cigar between both blades of the cutter, right up to where the wrapper begins. Cut the cap off with one solid motion so the paper doesn’t splinter and the tobacco doesn’t spew out and fracture.

How to light it

This isn’t as simple as flicking a match or using a Bic lighter from the gas station. To get a sustained ember going, you need a proper butane lighter with a strong flame or a long wood match.

As to the actual lighting process, WikiHow has some good tips:

The foot of the cigar is the part you’ll actually light. Hold the flame below the foot without touching it, and rotate the cigar a few times until the foot is evenly warmed. This will warm up your tobacco and make it easier to light.

After that, put the cigar in your mouth while holding it to a flame and take in a few breaths to get it lit.

Don’t inhale

This is probably the one thing that nonsmokers can tell you about cigars — and it’s very good advice. (Note that even without inhaling, smoking is bad news; according to the Mayo Clinic, cigars are no safer than cigarettes.)

Take slow drags of your cigar and blow out all the smoke. Never inhale. No kind of smoking is good for you, regardless of how cool it looks.

Use a humidor

Cigars are particularly sensitive to humidity, which is why you need to consider a humidor if you want to get serious about your smoking. This is a storage container that maintains a humidity range appropriate for cigars, so the tobacco leaves don’t get damaged. Without a humidor, it’s likely that your cigars will at least become unsmokeable overtime, if not get mouldy and gross.

So there you have it, and congrats again — you are well on your way to becoming a regular at your local cigar lounge, if that’s your thing.

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