Get Lit Part 1: Pick Your Fire

Think about lighting your cigar or pipe like lighting your grill.  Everyone tends to have a different opinion of what is best, but at the end of the day it all comes down to different conditions and personal preference.  So let’s hit on the different ways to light up and how they may affect your cigar.

Soft Flame

A “soft flame” is a traditional flame, similar in appearance to the flame of a match.  Soft flames can be fueled by butane or liquid fuel (lighter fuel).  Common liquid fuel soft flame lighters include Bic and Zippo lighters.  Soft flame lighters can also be specialized for pipes which emit a flame at a 45 or 90 degree angle.

  • Pros:  These lighters can be refillable or disposable.  Some are made to be windproof.   They come in a wide variety of styles and range from $1 to $60 and up.  Some people find its easier to not accidentally char (blacken) your cigar compared to torches.  More convenient and durable than matches/cedar spills.
  • Cons:  When using the plastic disposable lighters, the metal tip gets hot and can burn your fingers when you are lighting your cigar.  Some people feel that when using lower grade lighter fuel it burns with an oily smell that can be imparted into the cigar, negatively affecting the taste.

Butane Torch

This is the most common lighting source with cigar smokers.  With these lighters, pressurized butane is used to create a super-hot precision-pointed flame.

  • Pros:  Powerful and precise, this method is known for quickly lighting your cigar and being more wind-proof than other options.  The precision tip is good for correcting uneven burns.  They come in models with 1 to 5 jets and are more convenient and durable than matches/cedar spills.
  • Cons:  Not appropriate for lighting pipes as the high heat can damage the bowl.  A lesser number of jets take longer to light cigars of larger ring gauges:  A greater number of jets increases the chance of overheating the foot.  Some people find the high heat harder to manage, resulting in accidental charring of the cigar.

Matches

A more traditional approach to lighting a cigar or pipe.  Matches come in a variety of materials and lengths.  Long-wooden matches are preferable to short cardboard ones because they burn longer, giving you more time to light your tobacco.

  • Pros:  The soft flame can be gentler on the tobacco rather than the super-hot flames of the torch.  Using matches can have an elegant/ritualistic feel.  Premium matches, if used properly, offer a clean non-chemical flame.  Will not damage pipes.
  • Cons:  Generally not windproof at all.  Can be tedious as you have to wait for the sulfur head to burn away before introducing your tobacco to the flame.  Matches are not as durable as lighters and can easily be ruined by water or crushed.

Cedar Spills

Probably the most romantic way to light a cigar or pipe.  Cedar spills are thin strips of Spanish cedar, generally used in cigar packaging to separate each layer of cigars.  They come as a single sheet that is then torn into smaller strips.

  • Pros:  Spills emit a soft cedar aroma when lit, which can impart an added cedar flavor to the cigar.  Spills are known to have the cleanest (most natural) flame and are generally longer than matches, giving the user more time to light their tobacco. Adds a touch of finery and panache to the lighting ritual.
  • Cons:  Spills are not very windproof and require more of a time commitment to get a proper light.  They can be inconvenient to carry around as opposed to a lighter.

Now that you know the different fire sources, stay tuned for Part II to learn how to light your cigar and Part III to learn how to light your pipe!

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