Several factors contribute to your individual experience with a cigar. The type and brand matter, and that’s typically what we attribute to whether or not we enjoy the cigar. But those aren’t the only big contributing variables. How the cigar has been stored or aged matters–especially if stored incorrectly. How you draw on the cigar–too hard or too light–can alter the taste of the cigar. And how you cut and light the cigar can also maximize or downgrade your experience.
Too often, good cigars are ruined by user error. Too often, you don’t experience everything a cigar has to offer because it wasn’t prepared properly. You want to give your cigars the best possible chance to present their best, so learn all that could affect the tobacco and your smoking experience.
Here we’ll dial-in two main factors: the cut and light of a cigar. Cigars differ from most other tobacco products because they require some user maintenance that includes effort, knowledge, and a couple of important tools. In this case, your cutter and torch lighter will help you achieve the best experience your cigar has to offer.
Types of Torch Lighters
Due to their size and design, cigars offer a larger lighting surface than other forms of smoking tobacco. The tobacco leaves are rolled into shape, so the lighting surface must be lit thoroughly and evenly so the different leaves still smoke at the same time and pace. Otherwise, your cigar can experience tunneling or canoeing, which occurs when some tobacco burns more quickly, forming a tunnel or canoe shape of burned-out tobacco. Torch lighters are the best tool to create this burn.
Torch lighters are the most popular means of lighting cigars. Pressurized butane creates a consistent, ultra-hot flame when lit so cigar smokers can evenly spread the heat onto the tip of the cigar. There are several types of torch lighters, and there are other methods to light cigars beyond torch lighters.
This type of torch lighter produces a single jet of flame. This allows more control and cigar smokers often use a single jet to “spot light” their cigar when one area isn’t burning as consistently as the others. Somewhat unexpectedly, single jet torch lighters are the preferred tool for many when they smoke especially large cigars. With a single jet, they can control how the surface of the cigar is being lit.
Multi-jet torch lighters allow you to light more surface of the cigar at once. This can help achieve a more consistent burn and will reduce the likelihood of you lighting only one portion of the cigar. As you’re lighting, be sure to stop and inspect the cherry to see if one side is lighting more than the other.
Triple, Quadruple Jet
The more jets to your lighter, the more spread out the power of the flame. With lighters of this size, however, you can expect to burn through far more butane. And many would argue that the return isn’t worth the likelihood of running out of fuel while on-the-go, or the need to refill constantly.
A bad light–which is often an uneven light–not only leads to a frustrating smoke, but it will affect how long the cigar will last, and it can change the quality of smoke it produces. Smoke will behave differently as the canoeing and tunneling worsen as you continue to smoke an unevenly lit cigar, and this will gradually affect the taste and the amount of smoke you’re getting with each drag.
Types of Cigar Cutters
The access point you create by cutting a cigar allows the mechanism of the draw: your cigar wouldn’t smoke without creating a way for air to move through the layers of tobacco, fueling the cherry and transporting the smoke. So the cut you make can affect how well the cigar smokes.
There are four main types of cutters available today, with the unique Shuriken being the most recent addition. Each type slightly changes the experience, and you should use your cutter based on the type of cigar you’re smoking and your preference.
The straight cutter is the most common type of cutter. It comes in a single-blade guillotine style or as a double-blade style, with enthusiasts generally preferring the latter. A double blade creates the cleanest, most precise cut without risking tearing the tobacco, which can happen with a single-blade style. You determine the size of the cut, which is why this type can create the most problems should you cut a size too wide or too shallow.
This tool helps eliminate tobacco debris by using a pointed blade to cut a small hole in the center of the cigar, effectively drilling instead of chopping the tobacco. The size of the punch hole will affect how the cigar smokes, and the problem with punch cutters is you need several to create the right size hole.
By far the most unique cutter, the Shuriken cutter creates six angled cuts along the perimeter of the cigar, creating multiple openings for the smoke The cuts are slight–the blades are essentially razor blades–and the goal is to preserve the shape of the uncut cigar. But because of the low-impact design and the small size of the cuts in the cigar, you may have to put pressure at the cut end to free up the tobacco and get a fuller draw.
A wedge cutter, or v-cutter, uses a bent-shaped blade to cut a narrow divot in your cigar. This makes for a cleaner cut and reduces or eliminates tobacco debris. Cut too deep, and your cigar burns too hot with this cut. Ensure you get a sharp tool to avoid crushing the tobacco instead of slicing through it.
How to use a cigar cutter and lighter
It’s not a bad idea to keep several types of cutters or torch lighters on hand. Large humidors will often include a drawer for cigar accessories, and you should keep a few types and back-ups ready. Here are a few guidelines for any cutter or torch lighter to ensure the best possible smoking experience.
- Ensure the cutter is sharp by using a test piece of rolled paper. If your cutter is especially dull, you’ll damage the end of your cigar and likely won’t be able to fix the gnarled end.
- Check your torch lighter’s fuel level. You don’t want to begin lighting your cigar and then run out of fuel with a half-lit cherry. If it’s windy, don’t begin lighting until you find shelter to create an even flame.
- Avoid cutting too much from the cigar. You can always cut more, but you can’t undo a cut. If your cigar hasn’t been stored in a good humidor, lightly moisten the cutting surface to prevent unwanted cracking.
- Visually inspect the end of the cigar after lighting to ensure an even burn across. Spot light where needed.
Keep your cutter and lighter together to ensure you always have the right tools. We love combinations like the Xikar Tactical Bundle Pack to keep a consistent aesthetic with great tools.
Another favorite is the Klaro gunmetal finish cigar cutter and torch lighter combo.
Why does my torch lighter sputter?
If you’re experiencing an uneven burn when lighting cigars, it might not just be the type of torch lighter that’s wrong. It could be that your torch lighter isn’t performing as it’s meant to, either because it lacks enough butane fuel, the fuel is old, air is in the tank, the butane is compromised, the torch head is dirty, or you’ve over-filled your lighter. Keep your torch lighters in the best possible condition by storing them somewhere clean and dry, like the drawer of your humidor.
Cutting and lighting your cigar properly can improve the smoking process drastically. But remember, these are only two pieces of the larger goal to care for the cigars in your cigar collection. To learn more about how humidors protect your cigars, check out our humidor guide for a full rundown.