Tips for how to properly smoke a cigar

Here are some cigar smoking tips on how to properly smoke a cigar that will help you look like a true cigar aficionado.

Cigar smoking begins with a ritual that involves cutting, toasting and lighting.

How to cut a cigar

First, using your cigar cutter of choice (although we prefer the guillotine), make a deft cut or opening at the head of the cigar – the closed end, aka, the part you will be putting between your lips.

Do this above or at the seam that you will see at the shoulder, or sloped part of the head. When cutting a cigar, if you cut too far below the seam, the entire cigar could unravel, so be careful where you make your cut.

Before you light it, put the cigar to your lips and draw through it. It should draw smoothly. If not, it is too tightly rolled (in which case you should get a new cigar, because things won’t get better) or try making a slightly larger cut to admit more air. But again, don’t cut too far down because you don’t want the wrapper to come off.

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How to light a cigar

Whether using a wooden (not cardboard) match, butane lighter, or cedar spill, the lighting ritual is the same. It starts with toasting the foot of the cigar to prepare it for lighting. With the cigar at a 45 degree angle, hold the tip of the flame directly underneath the foot, or tuck end, of the cigar.

"Never let the flame touch the tobacco and risk charing that beautiful (and expensive!) wrapper. "

The tip is the hottest part of the flame, and you want to toast the open end of the filler leaves to dry them out (remember, your cigar has been – or should have been – humidified). This will prepare the tobacco to more readily accept the flame when you light the cigar.

Gently rotate the cigar as you toast it. Be sure to get the entire circumference smoldering. Some people – especially cigar sommeliers – will continue this procedure until the end of the cigar is completely glowing and sometimes bursts into flame of its own accord.

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How to light a cigar with cedar planks

Within a cigar factory, cigars are aged in rooms lined with fragrant Spanish cedar to maximize their aroma because the smell of cedar blends well with tobacco. Cedar also helps to retain moisture.

This is why many manufacturers place thin sheets of cedar inside of their cigar boxes. To create a cedar spill, simply snap or cut a thin strip of cedar from the sheet to participate in this time-honored ritual. Light the spill and use the flame from the spill to light your cigar. When lighting a cigar, cedar spills will impart an extra measure of spice to your initial puffs and will also make you look like a seasoned pro.

How to smoke a cigar

Now comes the fun part: how to smoke a cigar. When a whiff of smoke starts to curl up, place the cigar in your mouth, and puff gently while continuing to rotate the cigar over the tip of the flame without lettingthe flame touch the cigar. As you puff, you will eventually see the flame flare up and ignite the cigar’s foot. Continue to rotate the cigar until the entire foot is glowing. Now you are ready to relax with your cigar.

Remember, a cigar is never inhaled. The smoke is sipped, like a fine wine, then gently blown out (exhaled), leaving all the flavor on your palate.

What should I do with the cigar band?

We prefer to leave the band on. Trying to take it off risks tearing the wrapper. Also, the band provides a convenient reference point for holding the cigar. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, not only is the band a thing of beauty, but it also tells others the brand of cigar you are smoking—a brand you should be proud to show off. Think of keeping the band on as a tribute to the cigar maker.

How do I take the ash off the cigar?

Although it is a great sport to see how long one can get an ash, there is always the danger of an inside “air pocket” causing the ash to prematurely fall off, usually in your lap or on the floor. Therefore, once your cigar’s ash reaches about an inch in length, discreetly tap it off, into an ashtray. If it refuses to budge, leave it alone (it shows that you have a well-made cigar) and continue to smoke for a while longer until finally flicking the ash off gently.

If there is no ashtray around, don’t worry about ashing a cigar onto the lawn; premium cigars are all natural, so they won’t harm the grass or the soil.

How to put out a cigar

Never snuff out a smoking cigar like a cigarette. Simply place the butt in an ashtray and let it go out of its own accord. Again, cigars are not made with chemicals that cause them to burn, so simply letting the cigar extinguish itself is the best way to end a great cigar smoking experience.

How to relight a cigar that has gone out

Because a hand-rolled cigar is made of pure tobacco, with no chemicals to make it burn, if not puffed and supplied with air, it will eventually go out. If you try to draw on your cigar and only get a tiny waft of smoke, simply dislodge the ash and relight it. Your best bet is to relight the cigar while it is still warm.

Some people will tell you that you can relight a cigar that has gone cold. Even if you cut the cigar and remove the ash, there will still be smoke or ash in the barrel (the body of the cigar) which will taint the taste of the tobacco. It’s better to light up a new cigar.

 Cigar smoking tips recap

  • Don't cut too far into the cap of the cigar. That will cause the wrapper, the outermost leaf, to unravel.
  • Don't use cardboard matches. They're tainted with chemicals and can ruin the cigar. Instead, use a torch or butane lighter.
  • One of the best tips is to occasionally blow the smoke over the ash of the cigar and inspect the ash. That shows you know to look for an even burn.
  • Don’t try to knock off the ash. Let it fall on its own. A long ash is a sign of a quality cigar, so show it off.
  • Always remove the cellophane before smelling a cigar because with the cello on, you won’t smell the true essence of the cigar. Instead, you’ll pick up other scents, like cedar or wood notes from the box.

Now it’s your turn! What other cigar knowledge does a person need to have? Tell us your best tips for first-timers below or join a group to learn from our other cigar lovers.

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  • Member Avatar
    (14 months ago)

    Love articles like these. I'm not an expert by any means but I know enough not to look like a rookie. Sitting at the local lounge it's fun seeing everyone's different processes right or wrong.

  • Member Avatar
    (4 years ago)

    Great tips and advice from the Cigar World professionals! Great read. I will forward this on my Twitter timeline. 💯

    • Member Avatar
      (4 years ago)


  • Member Avatar og
    (4 years ago)

    Excellent first article for new cigar smokers!

    Definitely suggest that when someone creates a new account, CW make “Recommended Groups” include “Education” right at the top & persistent for awhile (people WILL find their brands, that’s easy - its finding other content thats trickier).

    BTW the words in the pics pointing to cigar parts are too small to read.

  • Member Avatar
    (4 years ago)

    This was really helpful.