Once you have selected
your cigar, you will need to cut the closed end. All Havanas have a double
cap over the head end - this end goes in your mouth. If you attempt to smoke
a cigar the other way around, you will find that half way through it will
unravel and take on the appearance of an exploded stick. There are a number
of ways of cutting the cap, ranging from the use of a thumb-nail, to
portable guillotine cutters (both single and double bladed - see 'Accessories'),
from cheap to expensive, to the more exotic cigar scissors and table-top
cutters. The cut should be clean and level, or there will be difficulties
with the draw and a risk of damaging the wrapper. Cut the cigar so that an
eighth of an inch of the cap is left around the cigar wrapper. It is not
recommended that you pierce the cap with a pin, as this will interfere with
the passage of smoke, make the cigar overheat and lead to unpleasant
flavours from residues condensing at the point the cap was pierced. Cap hole-punching
devices do work well as long as the diameter of the punch is at least a
quarter of an inch. Wedge-shaped cutters are also not recommended, as these
have a tendency to cut through all of the band on either side and the cigar
wrapper can then unravel. Whatever you use, make sure it is sharp, and that
you expose enough of the filler leaves under the cap to allow the smoke
When you light a cigar, use either a butane lighter (not one filled with
gasoline) or a match. Anything else, such as using a candle, will tend to
taint the flavour of the cigar, and will ultimately impede the passage of
smoke through the cigar with particles from the flame. Avoid matches with
high sulphur or wax contact (don't use paper matches). Take time and care to
light the cigar.
First, hold the cigar horizontally in direct contact with the flame, and
slowly revolve it until the end is charred evenly over its entire surface.
Put the cigar between your lips, hold the flame about half an inch away
from the end, and draw slowly while rotating the cigar. Its end should now
ignite. Ensure an even burn has taken hold.
Gently blow on the burning end to make sure the cigar is fully lit.
Unlike cigarettes, cigars will naturally go out if left unattended. If
your cigar goes out, don't worry. Remove any ash clinging to the previously
lit end by tapping the cigar. Blow through the cigar to clear away any stale
smoke. Re-light as previously described above. As long as the cigar has not
been out for too long, the flavour will not be unduly affected. Continuous
re-lighting of cigars will affect the flavour, and if a cigar is allowed to
cool, then on re-lighting the tastes can become quite tainted and unpleasant
(due to condensation of the smoke in the remaining part of the cigar).
Cigars are made from long filler tobacco leaves (another difference to
cigarettes and machine made cigars). This means that the ash on the cigar,
if it is a good one, should not fall off the moment it appears. There is no
particular merit in keeping a long ash on a cigar, but neither is there any
need to continually tap it to remove any excess ash. In assessing the
quality of construction of your cigar, a long solid cylinder of ash is a
There is no need to warm the length of the cigar before smoking it. This
was done in the nineteenth century to burn off the rather unpleasant gum
used on some cigars made in Seville. Today's handmade Cuban cigars use a
small drop of flavourless, odourless vegetable gum at the cap end of the
The final third of your cigar will be when the smoke is at its strongest.
This is the time to part company before flavours become bitter and the
effect of the cigar on your well-being may become detrimental. There is
absolutely no need to stub or grind a cigar out to extinguish it. Left in
the ashtray it will go out by itself: if you stub it out, it will release
foul odours into the room. Once the cigar has self-extinguished remove any
butts and ash from the room before they start to give out unpleasant smells.