Smoking cigars is an incredibly rewarding experience, but the art of smoking takes a little practice. There are many small etiquette details to learn, as well as practical matters of how to draw smoke and how to put out a cigar. Learn before you smoke and settle in to our eight-step guide on how to smoke a cigar.
How to Smoke a Cigar in 8 Easy Steps
Even seasoned enthusiasts sometimes catch their cigar manners slipping, so it’s good for everyone to brush up on etiquette from time to time. Whether you’ve never smoked a cigar before, just picked up a cigar for the first time, or have been enjoying them for years, here’s a simple step-by-step guide.
Inspecting the Cigar
In most social cigar situations, you will notice experts inspecting their cigars before smoking them. Roll the cigar between your fingers first. You should hear a faint crackling sound. If it’s too faint or too loud, the cigar has been improperly stored.
To ensure the cigar you are smoking is in good condition and quality, look for these warning signs:
Irregular shape, with ridges, hardness, or soft spots which indicate improper rolling
Blemishes or spots
If you are buying from a vendor, inspect your cigars, and ask questions about where they’ve been stored. If an enthusiast gives you a cigar, trust that they have already inspected the cigar’s quality, but give it a quick pinch between your fingers to ensure proper firmness.
Cutting a Cigar
There are three main ways to cut a cigar: Straight cuts, hole punches, and V-cuts. Straight cuts using a guillotine or scissors are the most common, as they expose the whole end of the cigar for even burning. Straight cuts should be done as close to the end of the cigar as possible, between the first and second seam from the end of the cap.
Hole punches are available in a variety of sizes to accommodate different cigars. Get one that is large enough to expose at least a ½” hole right in the center of the cigar. Otherwise, the draw will be too tight. Although some cigar aficionados dislike hole punches, they are convenient and available in keychain form for easy travel.
V-cutters can be tricky to use, since gauging the depth and placement of the cut can be difficult. They also dull easily and are difficult to re-sharpen. However, with a little practice, they provide a great cut that reduces bitterness while maintaining the quality of the draw.
Avoid using a pocket knife or your teeth to cut a cigar. These are not designed for accurate cigar cutting and tend to result in a ragged cut and an uneven burn. It’s also considered poor manners.
Don’t wet the cap of the cigar before cutting it, as wetting it can make it much harder to get a clean cut. If you’re having trouble cutting the cigar, consider sharpening or replacing your cutter.
Lighting a Cigar
Lighting a cigar isn’t as simple as lighting a cigarette or a candle. Many newbies are put off cigars because they light it incorrectly, creating lots of bitter and harsh smoke. A cigar can also easily go out.
How Do I Light a Cigar?
Cigars require a steady flame that doesn’t affect the cigar’s flavor, so your options for lighters are limited. Long wooden matches are an option, but short matches don’t burn long enough, and cardboard matches can impact the flavor.
Liquid-filled cigarette lighters and candles can also affect the flavor. Your best bet is a butane-filled lighter or torch lighter that provides a steady flame without leaving a strange aftertaste. Look for a specially designed cigar lighter that’s made to be easy to hold and use with cigars.
Start by toasting the end of the cigar from a distance without placing it in your mouth. Hold the end about 2” away from the lighter, so the edge of the wrapper starts to blacken.
Slowly bring the lighter in closer to light the end of the cigar, rotating it to ensure an even burn. Light the filler from an inch away, instead of placing the flame directly on it. If only parts of the filler are smoldering, try blowing gently on it to get the rest to light.
Take the cigar in your mouth, bring the flame slightly closer than before, and puff twice while rotating the cigar. This should be enough for the cigar to fully light, causing flames to rise up from it for a moment. After it is lit, put the lighter safely away and occasionally puff to keep the cigar lit.
How Do I Relight a Cigar?
Having to relight a cigar is normal since it’s made of natural tobacco that goes out on its own without puffs stoking the flames. A partially burned cigar contains tar and other contaminants that taste unpleasant when relit, so cut the end of the cigar off to remove the ash and give you a fresh start.
Generally, you shouldn’t need to put a cigar back in your mouth to relight it. You can turn it over a flame, then bring it to your mouth for a few puffs. While the flavor may be intense at first, this should go away soon after. Make sure to relight a cigar as evenly as possible to avoid uneven burning known as canoeing.
Smoking a Cigar
Here is the good bit, the very best part of how to smoke a cigar. It’s time to luxuriate.
How to Puff a Cigar?
Puffing a cigar requires a little practice, but you’ll be able to do it naturally in no time. Gently pull smoke into your mouth, similarly to how you would suck on a straw. You should be able to taste some of the smoke and enjoy its flavors and aromas.
Then slowly and lightly blow out the smoke through either your nose or your mouth.
Blowing it out through your nose takes some practice and shouldn’t be done with full-bodied cigars anyway, so start with your mouth at first. Once you have some practice, you can try techniques like retrohaling, which uses your nose to help you appreciate all the flavors of the cigar.
Do You Inhale Cigars?
Cigars are not meant to be inhaled in the same way as cigarettes and will almost certainly set off a coughing fit. The taste of a cigar is what matters, so let the smoke stay in your mouth for a second or two. Savor it the same way wine or a fine meal is savored, then gently exhale it. Learn more about how to inhale cigars correctly.
The question ofhow to hold a cigar is open to a little debate. Most people agree that cigars are held between the thumb and forefinger, with the burning end supported by the remaining fingers. As the cigar burns, fewer fingers are necessary to support it. Avoid waving or pointing the cigar, as this can be rude and cause the ash to drop off.
Most cigar aficionados also discourage holding a cigar between the pointer and middle finger like a cigarette. Despite what you may see in movies, holding a cigar with just your mouth is not recommended. Holding it with your teeth can damage the wrapper, which gets bits of the wrapper stuck in your mouth.
Since dropping a cigar can cause burns to yourself and your property, holding a cigar correctly is important. You can also rest it on the ashtray if you need to have both hands free, but keep in mind that cigars can go out quickly Check out more tips on how to hold a cigar.
Cigarettes burn quickly, requiring the user to tap them frequently to remove ash. However, keeping a small amount of ash on the end helps cigars burn more slowly. Tapping a cigar frequently to remove ash is considered poor form.
How Long Do Cigars Last?
A good cigar can last up to an hour if you are careful to savor it. Cheaper cigars could last as short as 30 minutes, so it’s best to invest in good cigars. Remember that a cigar is an experience to be savored and enjoyed, especially if you pair it with a drink. Try to leave plenty of time to enjoy your cigar without being rushed.
Taking puffs about once per minute will help the cigar last longer, and also looks more refined than puffing constantly.
Since wind and low humidity will make a cigar burn faster, try to avoid windy conditions and smoke indoors if needed. Make sure your humidor is set at the correct settings, too, otherwise your cigar could burn much faster.
If you’re no longer excited about the flavor of the cigar, it’s okay to stop smoking it before the end. In fact, some cigar enthusiasts recommend stopping about a third of the way from the end. Learn more about how long cigars last and how to make them last longer.
Unlike cigarettes, cigars are designed to extinguish on their own. It’s very easy for cigars to go out on their own if you wait too long between puffs.
The politest way to put out a cigar is to set it in an ashtray and let it go out on its own. Stubbing it out can generate more smoke and generally looks rude.
The best time to put a cigar out is subject to some debate, but most cigar enthusiasts agree that you should never smoke it all the way down to the nub.
Once it’s out, dispose of it discreetly if you can find a nearby trash can. If you’re in a club or other social setting and don’t see a trash can nearby, wait for a waiter or the host to remove it.
You can store a cigar for later, if you’re careful to wrap it in plastic and keep it separate from the other cigars. However, half-smoked cigars should be enjoyed within about 24 hours. Once it’s time to re-light it, you should be able to do so by briefly holding it over a flame. Learn more about how to put out a cigar.
Cigars have wonderfully complex flavors and feelings, so they’re perfect to enjoy on their own. But flavor profiles and social settings can further enhance how to smoke a cigar.
Can I Drink While Smoking?
Cognac, bourbon, single malt whiskey, and other drinks with strong flavors pair well with cigars. Except for tequila, light spirits like gin and vodka are usually overpowered by the taste of the cigar.
Beer also pairs well with cigars, partly because the carbonation allows it to stay light on the tongue. Try light beers like lagers and ales with mild cigars, and stouts and other dark beers with strong cigars. The color of cigar wrapper often corresponds to how mild it is, so look for darker wrappers to pair with dark beers.
Since smoking cigars can dehydrate your mouth, try to drink something non-alcoholic during or after smoking. A glass of water, lemonade, or a non-alcoholic cocktail all work fine for rehydrating.
Cigars can leave a variety of savory and slightly sweet flavors in your mouth after smoking. Drinks make excellent palate-cleansers after or between cigars. Cigars and tobacco smoke are very alkaline, so an acidic drink like coffee or a whiskey sour cleanses the palate well.
How Long Should I Wait Between Cigars?
In order to properly enjoy the flavor of your next cigar, wait at least 15 minutes before starting it. Even if you use a palate-cleansing snack or drink, your mouth and sinuses need time to clear out the flavors of the previous cigar.
Avoid smoking mild cigars immediately after smoking strong ones. If you didn’t plan well and want to try a mild cigar after a stronger one, wait at least an hour to give your senses a chance to reset.
Should I Share Cigars with Friends?
Gifting and trading cigars with friends is perfectly acceptable and encouraged. However, sharing a cigar once you’ve started smoking it is not commonly done, and is frowned upon in most social settings.
It’s fine to share a lighter or matches with friends, but it is considered poor manners to ask someone else to light your cigar for you. Although it is often done in a social context, lighting, ashing, and enjoying your cigar is ultimately a solo activity.
When and Where Is It Acceptable to Smoke Cigars?
Cigars are generally acceptable anywhere cigarettes are. Whether by law or by practice, many homes and businesses don’t allow smoking, so always ask before partaking indoors.
Outdoor patios may be okay, especially if there are ashtrays set out. When in doubt, double-check, as some restaurants and bars only allow outdoor smoking during certain times or are restricted by state law. Try not to smoke in very dry or windy places, as the cigar could end up burning very quickly or unevenly.
Avoid asking to light up during a meal, as the smoke may be bothersome to non-smokers’ sense of smell and taste. If other people are smoking cigars, it is likely acceptable.
Cigar stores and other specialty shops often allow cigars to be smoked in lounges. However, they generally require that you smoke cigars purchased on-site, and sneaking in other cigars is seen as rude. Take care to only smoke in posted areas, and don’t try to wander around the humidor with a cigar in hand.
Smoking cigars opens up a whole new world of flavors and sensory experiences that are only brought about with tobacco. It’s a hobby that isn’t reserved for the wealthy or elite and can be enjoyed by anyone in a wide range of settings.
There is a learning curve for both the practical how-tos and the etiquette.
Pay attention to best practices for cutting and lighting cigars, since this determines how well your cigar burns and how long you can enjoy it. Avoid holding a cigar in a manner that is unsafe or risks dropping ash outside of the ashtray.
Your next step is to buy a cigar to smoke. Swiss Cuban Cigars is the leading online store for authentic Cuban cigars. Explore the different brands and cigars, as each cigar has its own style and character.