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All About Butane Lighter Fuel

Strengths, Weaknesses, Types of Lighters, and More

Whether you are a seasoned cigar smoker who knows your preferences inside and out or you are just considering trying a blend for the first time in your life, here is a fact for you to take along for the ride: Cigar smoking encompasses more than cigars.

That’s right; cigar smoking might revolve around the blend, the aging, and the construction of a cigar, but it’s about so much more than that. There are history and heritage behind the production of every cigar out there - and that’s just an intangible. There are tangibles, too.

The cigar smoking experience requires specialized tools and skills to enjoy fully. Let’s put it this way. If you picked up a wonderful cigar - your favorite - pulled out a Zippo and soaked the foot in flame, you wouldn’t have much of an experience. That is if you could even get the cigar lit at all.

For one thing, you’ll probably take note of the fact that we didn’t mention cutting or punching the cigar. Then we made the decision to use a liquid-fuel lighter to start off this hypothetical cigar. By the way, when you develop excess ash, where are you going to drop it?

That just touches the surface of the holistic experience of enjoying quality tobacco. You need a suite of specialized tools, including but not limited to lighters, cutters, cases, ashtrays, and more. Otherwise, the experience, whatever it is, is not going to be all that it could be.

Since we broached the hypothetical value of a lighter in the beginning just above, we’ll touch on an oft-debated subject in the world of cigar fluid. Lighting a cigar, how to do it, and what to use. Here, we’re going to address butane lighter fuel. We’re going to look at what it is, how you can use it, and what types of lighters are out there.

Butane Lighter Fuel: What Is It

First off, just what is butane fuel? For one thing, it is far from the only type of lighter fluid out there, and notwithstanding, it is equally far from the only method at your disposal for lighting a cigar. If anything, there are possibly some of you reading this that wouldn’t get anywhere near a cigar with a butane lighter. That’s for you as the smoker to decide, but for some reasons we’re going to investigate in this article, many cigar smokers do enjoy the convenience and practicality of some butane lights.

At any rate, butane is a colorless, odorless (and also, this is important, tasteless) gas composed of a string of hydrocarbons (chemical formula C4H10) that is highly flammable. It can also be easily liquefied for transport, consolidation, storage, and containment, at relatively low pressures, which makes it valuable as lighter fuel.

We mentioned that butane is flammable, which is probably not a surprise to most of you, whether or not you use lighters to light your cigars. When butane is lit in the presence of adequate oxygen, it combusts into carbon dioxide and water vapor. That is, it burns very cleanly, so long as there is enough oxygen in the environment. You may also have noticed that water vapor is tasteless and so is carbon dioxide.

These are some of the main reasons that butane is so popular as lighter fuel. Even so, butane is not the only fuel that lighters today use or have used in the past. There are other types of lighters out there in addition to butane lighters, which we will probe at length.

Different Types of Lighters

Before we get into the different types of lighters out there let us say that this is for the purpose of exploration only. Some of the types of lighters we are going to cover here are not even for sale in our shop, but, since they exist, can categorically be used.

Wick lighters: Wick lighters were once more popular than they are today, but notwithstanding that fact, they are still immensely popular. If you have never heard them called by this name, then you will most certainly hear them called by another moniker that is much more recognizable: Zippo-style lighters. Zippos are wick lighters, and so are many other lighters designed after them.

While these lighters are very popular and many people still carry them, very few if any light cigars with them and it is not recommended. Although these lighters are durable, windproof, and can easily be refilled, they use liquid fuel (not butane; they use light petroleum distillates) that will alter the flavor of tobacco if it is applied to it.

Electric lighters: There are some electric lighters, including plasma arc lighters, that some have marketed as practical for lighting cigars. These use electricity flowing between electrodes, either to produce a spark or to create a stream of plasma. They burn very hot and very cleanly and are windproof, but they do not last long and they are likely to scorch tobacco. For these reasons, they are not popular as cigar lighters.

Soft flame lighters: Now we’re back in the realm of lighters that use butane lighter fuel. If you have ever seen a lighter produce a light yellow flame, then you know what a soft flame lighter is. These lighters typically use a steel striker and a ferrocerium “flint” or an electronic ignition to ignite a stream of butane gas that is then directed and controlled by a nozzle. Some of them have adjustable flames.

Soft flame lighters are affordable and some of them can be refilled, but the thing is that they produce a flame that can be temperamental. They do not burn as hotly as torch flame lighters (see below) and they also are not windproof; in fact, they are particularly susceptible to being put out by the wind.

Jet or torch flame lighters: We’re not going to front any statistics on this, but the fact of the matter is that jet flame, also (and more popularly) called torch flame, lighters are the most popular cigar lighters out there.

Unlike so-called soft flame lighters, torch flame lighters produce a bright blue jet of flame using butane gas and electronic ignition. Due to carefully controlled release of the fuel, these lighters can often be adjusted and can very easily be directed by the user. For these reasons and others that we will explore below, torch lighters are very popular and practical.

For example, like many soft flame lighters, they can be refilled, and many of them easily, at that. This is important since torch lighters absolutely guzzle fuel. They also burn hotter than soft-flame lighters and are much more windproof, although it would not be fair to call them fully windproof; they can be blown out.

Table lighters: Finally, there’s one more addition to make here, and that is a class of lighters that are called table lighters. Table lighters are defined not by the fuel they burn but more by their construction or design, though most of them do burn butane lighter fuel. To keep it simple and straightforward, table lighters are lighters that are meant to be used from a tabletop or a setting and not designed to be handheld. These are popular among smokers who host, as it gives a communal ability to light cigars when in company.

Torch Flame vs. Soft Flame: Which Is Better?

To be clear, there are quite a few reasons but butane lighter fuel, generally, makes one of the best options for cigar lighters.

  • Butane is flavorless: Most importantly, when the light is applied properly, butane will not alter the flavor of tobacco, or adversely impact it.
  • Butane is reliable: Butane lighters are widely reliable in a number of different conditions and butane lighters can be easily refilled.
  • Butane is affordable and widely available: Everyone loves when something is affordable, and butane will not break the bank.

However, since both soft flame lighters and torch flame lighters use butane, we figured we’d shed some light on the relative merits of each.

Soft flame lighter pros:

  • They don’t burn up a lot of fuel at once.
  • They’re cheaper.
  • They’re less likely to scorch the foot of the cigar.
  • The flame can be drawn much more easily than a jet lighter.

Soft flame lighter cons:

  • Though the flame can be drawn, it can’t be directed; it will only burn upwards.
  • They are not windproof and go out very easily.
  • They don’t burn as hot as torch lighters (some might see this as a con).

Torch flame lighter pros:

  • The flame is more reliable in the wind.
  • The flame burns hotter and can ensure a more even light, with practice.
  • The flame can be directed very easily, to get a precise light.

Torch flame lighter cons:

  • They guzzle fuel like no other.
  • Some might say they burn too hot; an unpracticed hand can scorch the tobacco.
  • They tend to be more expensive than most soft flame lighters.

We understand that this is not a surefire answer to the question of which one is right for you, but remember this - it’s a matter of personal preference.

Now, many cigar smokers find torch flame lighters more practical, easier to use, and downright cooler than soft flame lighters. Plus, you can always get a Bic or a Scripto if you need a quick soft flame lighter, so if it’s a toss-up, go with a torch flame lighter; we have plenty in our store.

Are There Alternatives to Butane Lighter Fuel - Or Lighters?

Guess what - if you aren’t sold on lighters, you wouldn’t be alone. There are others out there that swear that other methods are superior for lighting cigars and that butane lighters, despite their efficiencies, are not the best choice for getting a quality light.

Some old school smokers will use a match - a wooden match, to be sure, as the flavor of wood is not off-putting. Those who smoke a cigar with a match are sure to let all of the match head (which is mostly sulfur) burn off before lighting the cigar. Otherwise, the match will sour the tobacco.

However, the traditional way to light a cigar is with a very thin strip of cedarwood. This is the reason that many high-quality cigars come with a little sheet of cedarwood in the box. The cedar imparts a pleasant flavor to the cigars in the box and also regulates humidity, but it also can be used to light them.

Those who would use a cedar strip to light a cigar would take a thin strip, lighting the end, before drawing the flame into the end of the cigar. This, when done properly, provides an even, strong lighter that is pleasant, sweet, and aromatic, due to the oils in the cedarwood.

As you can see, yes, there are alternatives to lighters!

Get Your Other Cigar Accessories Here

Now you know most of what you need to know in order to make a decision about what type of lighter you want to buy, but remember, lighters are not the only necessary accessory you need to enjoy a cigar to the fullest. You might want to stock up on some of the following:

Punches and cutters: These are necessary to remove a cap from the head of the cigar so that you can achieve a good draw.

Cases and travel humidors: Cases and travel humidors both protect cigars from being deformed and also help protect cigars against drying out.

Among others - contact us for more information!

Still Have Questions?

If you still want to learn more about the different types of lighters (we have favorites from Rocky Patel, Colibri, S.T. Du Pont, and more) and how you can use them, or even if you just want some product recommendations, don’t be shy about getting on the phone with us. We’d love to help you out and we’re proud of the fact that we still maintain that old-world, main street commitment to customer service.

Whatever you want to know about, call us up at 888-216-5834 and we’ll help you get to the bottom of it!