From Butane Lighter Fluid to Matches: How to Light Your Cigar
Sure, you love good tobacco. Who doesn’t? Tobacco is one of life’s finest and simplest pleasures, and to paraphrase the people at Alec Bradley, when smoking a cigar, all are equals. It is the time spent enjoying a life that makes it worth it, and what matters most.
Of course, as we stated, that paraphrased roughly, but the meaning is not lost on us and it is not lost on those who enjoy cigars. The question is, how does one best enjoy a cigar? There has been endless debate over the years over how tobacco should and should not be consumed.
For example, opinions vary widely on how quickly a cigar should be smoked. Generally, everyone agrees that you should take your time, but how much time should you take? Should you draw every 45 seconds or no more than once per minute? Should you allow the cigar to rest and mature for 2 minutes or more between draws? It’ll cool the smoke down, but it will mute some of the notes, and it might even cause the cigar to burn unevenly.
The point here is that in some instances, there is no single “right” answer, but rather, a series of approaches to answering the question, each one with its own advantages and disadvantages.
Another one revolves around the lighting of the cigar. That is, what should you use to light your cigar, and how should it be done. In this article, we’re going to go over some of the different fuels used for lighting cigars, as well as the different methods of lighting them. We’ll cover everything from butane lighter fluid to humble matches. As you’ll see, there are benefits and drawbacks to each method.
Using Matches to Light Your Cigar
Matches are the old-school way of lighting a cigar, and despite the simple technology associated with them, they are dependable, classic, and when used properly, can afford an excellent, even, untainted light. There are, however, a few things you will need to observe when lighting a cigar with matches.
For one thing, stay away from paper matches. You can light a cigar with paper matches, but you’ll probably end up wishing you didn’t. Believe us, there are plenty of good reasons for eschewing them, but if you need it spelled out for you, keep this in mind.
For one thing, paper matches don’t light as reliably or as easily as wooden matches. They are flimsy and unreliable by comparison. Even when they do light, they are typically treated with a wax that will taint the flavor of the tobacco.
Even if that’s not enough reason for you to avoid them, paper matches don’t burn as long as wooden matches. What will happen is you’ll end up getting a poor light or burning your fingers before the cigar is properly and evenly toasted. Can you light cigars with paper matches if you have nothing else? Sure, but don’t waste your time.
That leaves you with wooden matches, which are not only a serviceable alternative but one of the best ways to light a cigar. Truth be told, there are probably some cigar smokers out there who won’t light a cigar with anything but.
However, you’ll still need to observe some best practices if you want to light a cigar with wooden matches. First, get out of the wind. It’ll either make the match go out prematurely or make it difficult to direct the flame.
Also, when you strike the match, make sure you allow the sulfur of the match head to burn off entirely before even attempting to toast the foot of the cigar. Then, once the flame has stabilized, bathe the foot of the cigar in the flame, drawing in evenly as you rotate the cigar. This should prevent you from scorching the wrapper and will give you an even, pleasant light nearly every time - if not every time.
Using a Strip of Cedar to Light Your Cigar
Another traditional way to light a cigar is with a strip of cedarwood, and this is, all things considered, probably the best way to do so. It’s also the reason that boxes of cigars ship with thin strips of cedar wood inside of them. Well, it’s one of the reasons. Cedar also seasons and flavors the cigars at the same time that it regulates moisture. Oh, also, cedar is antifungal and antimicrobial, like a natural preservative. Plus it smells delicious.
However, it also serves that other, highly useful function. Serious cigar smokers will split the cedar sheet that comes with a cigar into smaller sections and use these to light cigars. There are a few benefits to this.
For one, like with wooden matches, there is a very low chance of scorching the foot of the cigar. Also, the cedar strip will burn much longer than a wooden match because it is both larger and has oil in the fibers which extends the burn time. Finally, the cedar will impart a pleasant sweetness to the cigar. Some enjoy this immensely.
When lighting a cigar with a strip of cedar, first you must light the cedar strip. This can be done with a lighter or a fire, or even a match. Again, however, if you use a match, make sure you let the sulfur burn off completely before lighting the cedar. With the strip of cedar light, turn it so that the flame does not move too aggressively along its length.
Allow the flame to stabilize for a moment or two. There should be no smoke coming off of the end of it. From there, the process for lighting the cigar is effectively the same with a cedar strip as it is with matches. Apply the flame to the foot of the cigar, drawing evenly while rotating the cigar. Just like with matches, you’ll get an even, enjoyable light almost every time, if not every time. When you’re done with the cedar, allow the flame to extinguish itself by turning the strip vertically. The same piece of cedar may be used more than once until it is consumed.
Old School Lighters and Liquid Fuel
Next, we have old school lighters, including the iconic Zippo lighters, that use liquid fuel, typically naphtha fuel that has been refined to burn cleanly and to produce minimal flavor. While we generally advise against using liquid fuel lighters to light cigars (and most would agree with us) if they’re the only thing you have, there are a few ways you can get around it.
For one thing, you can use the liquid fuel lighter to light the strip of cedar that may have come with the cigar. You’ll want to strike the lighter and let the flame burn for a few seconds to burn off any flavor or distillates that were present at light-up. This will prevent tainting the flavor of the cedar with any off-flavors.
If you have to use the lighter itself to light the cigar, the same thing applies. Make sure you light the lighter and allow it to burn for a few seconds. Also, hold the flame well beneath the foot of the cigar; don’t stick the cigar in the flame-like we advised with a match flame or a cedar light. Doing so will only impart more of the flavor of the lighter fluid into the cigar, which will basically ruin it. Otherwise, everything else applies; draw slowly and evenly and rotate the cigar.
It’s worth noting something here. While we stand by our original caveat that you should generally avoid using Zippos and other lighters to light cigars, they’re not as bad as they once were. For most of their history, these lighters used a potent, pungent liquid fuel that would destroy the flavor of tobacco. However, in recent years they have refined and improved the formula for their lighter fluid. Now it burns more cleanly and is nearly odorless and tasteless. There is still a faint flavor, but it isn’t the worst thing in the world.
One more thing, on the subject: these types of lighters are widely compatible with a number of inserts that use butane lighter fluid as opposed to liquid lighter fuel. In the event that you are using one of these lighters with butane gas, all words to the contrary are off the table. You can use them without caution to light cigars, bringing us to the final, and probably most widespread lighter fuel: butane.
Butane Lighter Fluid: Not All Lighters Are Created Equal
Today, it is probably the case that most cigar smokers use a butane lighter of some form or other to light their cigars. Butane is cheap and widely available, the lighters are reliable and a refillable lighter will last effectively forever, and some of them are nearly windproof. They’re there when you need them and extremely convenient.
Another reason butane is so widely used is that, unlike the other methods described above, butane is entirely flavorless. No matter how you split it when you light a cigar using a butane lighter, you’re not going to impart any flavor. For purists and those who are serious about not impacting the tobacco, butane is the best way to get a good light.
However, not all butane lighters are created equal. Speaking broadly, there are two main types of lighters that use butane lighter fluid, which can be classified as soft flame and torch flame lighters.
Soft Flame Lighters: Soft flame lighters, as their name suggests, produce a soft flame that cannot be directed easily. These lighters produce a flame that looks like that of a Bic lighter, and for a while, they were the most common.
Proponents of soft flame lighters argue that they are gentler on the cigar and minimize the risk of scorching the leaf. They also say they last a lot longer per fill than torch lighters, which is true. However, there are others who don’t like the fact that the flame can’t be directed, and for what it’s worth, soft flame lighters are not wind-resistant at all.
Lighting a cigar with a soft flame lighter is effectively the same as the method described for matches; light the lighter, apply the flame to the foot of the cigar, and slowly draw as you rotate. You’ll get an even light, free of any foreign flavors!
Torch Lighters: Torch lighters also use butane lighter fluid, but unlike soft flame lighters, produce a blue jet of a flame that can be easily directed. Torch lighters due guzzle fuel, and there is a risk of scorching the foot of the cigar when you use one carelessly. However, because of a few distinct advantages, many, if not most cigar lighters produced today are torch lighters.
For one thing, torch lighters burn very hot, and the flame can be directed. This makes it possible to toast an area at the foot of the cigar that may not be drawing well. In the absence of even draw, you may be able to get the fill to take a light with some heat directed from the torch lighter. Additionally, torch lighters are nearly windproof, making them attractive to the majority of smokers to enjoy their tobacco outdoors.
They’re also reliable and affordable, and despite the fact that they chew up a lot of fuel, they’re highly effective for most smokers’ purposes. Here at Rocky’s Cigars, we sell a number of butane lighters, including torch lighters, along with other cool cigar accessories including cutters - you can even get a cigar cutter knife here as well!
Call Us for Tips!
Still evaluating which method of light to use for your favorite cigars? Looking for more information before you make your ultimate decision? That’s fine - we have what you need here one way or the other, and our customer service won’t be bested.
Give us a call at 888-216-5834 if you’re looking for more information or have additional questions and we’d love to answer them. We enjoy hearing from our customers and we’d love to know what you think, too!