How to Smoke Cigars
Smoking your first cigar can be a daunting experience. There seem to be so many complex rules and rituals to cigar smoking that it’s difficult to know where to begin. The important thing to remember is that smoking a cigar is supposed to be a pleasurable and relaxing experience. Every moment of the cigar ritual is one to be savored and enjoyed. This article aims to help you understand the different elements involved in smoking a cigar, so you can forget those niggling worries about whether you're doing things right, and just get down to the business of enjoying yourself.
If you are completely new to the cigar-smoking world, some of our other articles may be able to offer you advice on How to Choose a Cigar and What to Drink with a Cigar.
How to cut your cigar
The practice of cutting the cigar is one of the elements that may appear overly complex and off-putting to the inexperienced smoker, but in fact it’s a fairly straightforward procedure. These days, most experts agree that it is best to use a single or double-blade guillotine to make the cut, as this produces the cleanest edge. You should never use a knife or your teeth, as this risks damaging the overall structure of the cigar.
The cut should be made just above the cap line, just before the curved end of the cigar begins to straighten. Cut too low and you won’t create a big enough aperture, making the cigar difficult to smoke. Cut too high, and the wrapper may start to unwind.
How to light your cigar
To light your cigar, first strike a match and hold it underneath the foot of the cigar to warm the tobacco. The distance should be great enough that the tip of the flame does not touch the underside of the wrapper. Roll the cigar slowly between your fingers to make sure the entire foot is evenly warmed. This will make the tobacco in the cigar more readily accept a flame.
Once you have warmed the tobacco, put the cigar in your mouth at a 45º angle and use another match to light it. Hold the flame directly in front of the cigar (again, so it is not actually touching the wrapper), and slowly inhale to draw the flame to the foot of the cigar. While lighting your cigar, ensure that you turn the barrel so that all sides of the foot are equally lit. You may wish to lightly blow on the foot of the cigar to even things out and make sure your cigar continues to burn evenly.
Always light your cigar using wooden matches or a butane lighter, as anything else contains chemicals that may give the cigar an unpleasant chemical taste. Paper matches and gas lighters are especially poor choices in this regard.
If your cigar goes out, just tap it to remove any clinging ash, and then blow through it to clear out any stale smoke. Then, merely relight it as you would a fresh cigar. Don't worry, it is quite normal for a cigar to go out, especially if you have already smoked half of it.
How to smoke your cigar
Unlike cigarettes, a cigar should always be smoked slowly. Some of the larger varieties of cigar can take over an hour to smoke (for more information see Types of Cigar), so you should never rush yourself and always allow a good length of time to smoke your cigar properly.
You should never inhale the smoke from your cigar. Instead, taste it slowly, allowing yourself time to savour the complex aromas and flavors of the smoke. Find yourself a drink that complements your cigar of choice (our article What to Drink with a Cigar can help you with that one), sit back, and relax.
Traditionally, cigar etiquette in Britain has demanded that you remove the band from your cigar as you smoke it. It is not seen as acceptable to make a big scene about the brand you are smoking. In other countries, it does not matter as much. If you choose to remove your cigar band you should always wait until the cigar is lit, as the warmth of the smoke eases its removal. Wait until you have been smoking for a few minutes before discreetly removing and disposing of the band.
When the cigar eventually goes out, don't stub it out in the ashtray. It is not a cigarette. Just place it discreetly on the side of the ashtray and it will go out on its own, without you having to do anything. Don't immediately light up another cigar, as soon as your first is finished. According to Zino Davidoff's essay on cigar etiquette, you should wait at least 15 minute before smoking another cigar, as anything less indicates obsessive behavior!
I hope that this article alleviates any nervousness the beginner smoker might have about trying his first cigar. There is no need to worry about obsessively adhering to rituals when it comes to smoking; the rules are there to heighten the enjoyment of the cigar, not to exclude new smokers. So find yourself a comfortable chair, a nice stiff drink and several hours of free time, and practice!