How to Smoke a Cigar like a Pro

by Jenny Novac on March 20, 2012

If you think that all you have to do to exude an air of class while smoking a cigar is inhale (which should not be done) and exhale, do not go near a cigar before reading this!

Cigar smoking is a culture in itself, and in order to appear Cary Grant-like, you must know how to cut a cigar, light it and finally, smoke it.

Choosing a cigar

When purchasing a cigar, there are certain things you should keep in mind:

The length and diameter of the cigar is related to the intensity of the cigar. So if you’re a novice cigar-smoker, then you may want a longer, thinner cigar (with cooler smoke) rather than a small stubby one, which may make you cough some.

Verify the quality of the cigar by squeezing it slightly to make sure there are no lumps in the it, and check to ensure that the tobacco at the end of it is not discolored. Also, avoid purchasing cigars with discolored wrappers.

Remember that if you’re purchasing cigars in the United States, you’d be hard-pressed to find Cubans, which is too bad, as these are top quality stogies.

Ask the salesperson whether the cigar consists of 100% tobacco — that’s what you want.

Cutting the cigar

Cigar Cutting

Man cutting a cigar

Aim of cutting the cap on the head of the cigar: To create enough of an opening to smoke the cigar comfortably, while maintaining the original shape of the cigar.

So how is this done? No, biting the cigar is not a cutting method. Not only is this ineffective since your teeth are not real cutting tools, but you will look nothing like an aficionado while you’re spitting out the leftover tobacco in your mouth.

Straight cut (most recommended): Use a single-bladed cutter to horizontally slice off the head in one quick “chop” (a la guillotine). With this single, swift motion, you lessen the probability of tearing the cigar’s wrapper.

Before cutting, bring the blade down towards the cigar – just enough to tap the cigar – to ensure that your blade is positioned properly and aiming at the right spot on the cigar. The bull’s eye is right where the cap of the cigar meets the wrapper, leaving sufficient space to ensure that enough of the cap is left surrounding the wrapper, preventing it from falling off.

With a double-bladed cutter, chances of making a clean cut are increased and you’re less likely to tear the wrapper with the blade, since the cigar is being cut from both sides simultaneously.

One reader suggested cutting the cigar by laying the cutter flat on the table, and then placing the cigar flush against the table, through the cutter.

Lighting the cigar

Cigar Lighting

Man holding and lighting a cigar

Now that you’ve come this far after choosing your cigar and cutting it to perfection, you don’t want to mess up all that work or tarnish your image by lighting the cigar the wrong way. It’s best to light a cigar with a cigar lighter, as the ammonia from matches may spread to the cigar and alter its smell and taste.

You’re better off not using matches, a cigarette lighter, and especially not a candle.

If you must use matches:

Use longer ones; short ones make it hard to light a cigar, especially on the first couple of attempts. Try to find matches without sulfur and if you can’t, at least wait until the sulfur burns away.

Finally, smoking it

Smoking Cigar

Man enjoying cigar smoking

Proper etiquette calls for removing the band at some point whilst smoking the cigar. The reason you need to keep it there before smoking it is to prevent the tobacco from tearing, but once the cigar’s lit, you don’t need the band anymore.

Enjoy and savor the stogie, but do not inhale! After 12 puffs or so, remove the band, which will probably be falling off on its own thanks to the heat.

So sit back with your cigar in one hand and a glass of port, cognac, bourbon/scotch, or wine (preferably Cabarnet Sauvignon or Mourvedre) in the other. Before you know it, you’ll be discussing humidors and habanos all night long.

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