How to Enjoy Cigars, A Beginner’s Guide (Part Two)

J.A. SHAPIRA

How to Enjoy Cigars, A Beginner’s Guide (Part Two)

In the first article of this series, I advised that you not waste your money on cigar equipment and accessories until you’ve decided whether you really enjoy smoking cigars, or not. I stand by this statement.

However, if you’ve decided to continue your journey into the world of cigars, then a good next step is to purchase two small accessories which will prove worth the investment, even for the rare or occasional smoke.

The first accessory is a cigar cutter, and the second is a lighter. Both of these tools are obligatory for smoking cigars, and the cost for each can range from a few dollars to upwards of several hundred dollars.

For the sake of simplicity, I recommend that you purchase a lower-priced cutter, while putting your money to better use by investing in a higher-priced lighter.

A Day in the Life of a Cigar Smoker

Sitting in the valet on my nightstand, are seven accessories which I reach for each morning as a part of my daily ritual. After putting on my suit and adjusting my tie, securing cufflinks and lacing shoes, I gently affix my watch to my wrist, slide a signet ring onto my pinky, and finally place a billfold, a calling card case, two fountain pens and a lighter inside various trouser and jacket pockets.

Then, I proceed downstairs for breakfast with my wife and children, read the newspaper, select two cigars from the humidor and pack my attache for the office.

After dropping my children at school and daycare, I change the music from the most recent Disney playlist to a curated playlist of favorite arias, while enjoying the 40-minute drive to work.

As I walk into the building, odds are someone will compliment my outfit, and I reciprocate with a nod and a friendly smile, say a few hellos and then arrive at the office and relax in solitude. Then, my routine starts. I believe for a writer, a routine is as necessary to the mind as water is to the body.

I take the lighter from my pocket and use it to light two Cire Trudon Ernesto candles—one that sits on my desk and the other on a coffee table next to my copy of a beautiful book you may know : The Parisian Gentleman. I then select a vinyl from my collection to play. At this point I write, and before I realize it, noon hits.

If it’s nice outside, I’ll go out for a stroll. Along the way, it’s not unusual for someone to ask to borrow a lighter. At times, the lighter becomes a conversational piece, accompanied by compliments or jokes about stealing it. Upon returning to work, I pour myself a dram of whisky, put on another record and light my first cigar of the day. Oftentimes, it’s not even 2:00 pm, and I’ve already put my lighter to use.

A lighter can be indispensable, whether you smoke cigars or not. It’s a tool that every man should have in his home and one worth keeping as part of your everyday-carry (EDC) kit. Aside from toasting a cigar or lighting a cigarette, having a good lighter can be used for a variety of things, ranging from lighting birthday candles to starting a bonfire at the beach. Heck, just last week my 14-year-old used my lighter to shorten a straw that was too long for my youngest’s chocolate milk. This doesn’t include the countless times a gentleman has asked for a lighter. So whether you’re lighting your own cigar, or lending the lighter to your boss, or using the flame to start a gas burner that refuses to self-ignite in order to prepare meal, having a good lighter is something that every man needs.

How good does a lighter have to be?

One of the best torch lighters I own is one I purchased for less than $10 at a local cigar shop. It’s windproof and lights flawlessly every time. Of course, it’s ugly as sin, so I rarely take it out of the drawer at home. Instead, I use a slightly less reliable, but stunningly beautiful gold lighter from S.T. Dupont as my EDC lighter. Why?

Because the lighter is reliable enough to work in most weather conditions, but also because the beauty of the lighter usually pairs well with what I’m wearing. Sure, I could carry one of the other ten or twenty lighters I have, but that would be like taking a BIC ballpoint out of a bespoke suit pocket. Something about this scenario seems “off”, and if you care about details, it just doesn’t work.

Do you need to spend a thousand dollars on a lighter? Not a chance. Even a reasonably priced Xikar Executive II or a Colibri Enterprise lighter will look good coming out of your pocket.

As an analogy, one may argue that a $60 shirt from TM Lewin is just as nice as a $700 shirt from Charvet or Marol, but informed customers know that this statement is just not true, and many PG readers and experienced gentlemen have the education to argue against such a premise.

So, where heirloom-quality, elegant lighters are concerned, spending more on a lighter which can be passed down to future generations, can prove satisfying and rewarding. A few lighters I can  recommend without hesitation include :

S.T. Dupont

This exceptional brand is the one I trust and place in the front trouser pocket of my suit before I leave the house each day, and is the only one I have chosen to carry to work. I can now say that most of my (close to 50) suits and blazers are from artisanal makers, which is one reason I prize rakish accessories such as the S.T. Dupont, which pays tribute to the garments.

Dunhill

When it comes to vintage lighters, Dunhill is an excellent option. The Dunhill can sell at a fraction of the price of other prestigious lighters, but the quality is exemplary. Well worth the investment.

Davidoff

I can’t say for certain, but have seen indications that new editions of Davidoff lighters are produced by S.T. Dupont. Regardless, they are of equal caliber. For the gentleman who favors matching accessories, if you enjoy Davidoff products, having a lighter with their name on it is a solid investment for the most distinguished man about town.

As far as other lighters are concerned, there are plenty more choices to consider. From true cigar lighters to no-name brands, I recommend that you buy based on the aesthetic-preferences. There are very elegant lighters which can be made from precious materials like gold, rhodium, and platinum—and even novelty lighters made in various shapes like a firearm, or a grenade, with sizes ranging from standard to (over-the-top) large. Aside from appearance, keep in mind : The lighter you choose must be a torch lighter.

Why? Because the torch is the only type of lighter you ever want to use to toast your cigar, since any fuel other than butane may alter the flavor of the cigar. This is precisely why a torch lighter is so crucial. And though one may argue that you don’t need a blue flame torch for birthday candles, cigarettes or bonfires—it certainly won’t hurt either.

When it comes to the number of flames, some are convinced that combining two or three flames during your smoke will work better. But, my recommendation is to stick to just the one. You’ll have better control over the light of the cigar, and although it may not burn as hot, you’ll get the same results in the end.

When lighting your cigar

1. Toast the foot by holding the cigar in your dominant hand between your thumb, your forefinger, and your middle finger so you can clearly see the foot of the cigar and rotate it with ease. In your other hand, slowly bring the lit flame towards the edge of the foot of the cigar, and begin to slowly rotate the cigar evenly. Look for a white ashen appearance to indicate a good edge toast.

2. Light the filler by repositioning the cigar so the centre of the foot is in line with the flame. Carefully toast the cigar until the entire foot is evenly toasted.

3. Take a draw by placing the cigar in your mouth and slowly drawing smoke in. It should be similar to drinking a milkshake through a straw. If the cigar is too hot give it a moment to cool, and if you’re still not getting any smoke, but are able to draw air in, continue to toast the cigar for another moment to ensure it’s lit.

Cutters

A must-have tool for the cigar smoker is a cutter. The simple truth is that a lighter and cutter are really all you need to smoke a cigar.

If you haven’t yet decided whether you intend to take up the hobby, a wise idea is just to buy the cutter.

Like lighters, cutters come in various price ranges and styles. You could certainly invest in gold Davidoff cigar scissors, but they aren’t very comfortable to carry. Instead, I recommend that you spend a little less and get a simple guillotine cutter.

In fact, my daily carry is a Palio cutter in burl wood. It cost less than $100 and performs well every time I use it. For the beginner, another option worth considering is the metal Perfecto cutter which ensures a great cut every time. These cutters use a patented system which guarantees you won’t cut off  too much or too little— regardless what size or shape your cigar is. This option may be ideal for the greenhorn who is learning to perfect the cut, but is one I usually recommend to cigar lounges who hire me as a consultant, or to train their staff.

When Cutting a Cigar

Almost every premium cigar has a closed head which must be cut before smoking. To cut the head of your cigar :

1. For a standard shaped stick, cut just past the shoulder, where the cigar’s curved head begins to straighten. This area is located about 3mm from the tip and you may see a faint line showing where the cap was attached to ensure the cigar didn’t unravel.

2. Perform a cold draw, or a mock smoke to get used to what a nice air flow feels like. As mentioned, it should be similar to drinking a milkshake through a straw. With experience, you’ll know a good cut from a poor cut in regard to what cut will give you the best draw.

3. Place the cigar in the cutter, slowly close the cutter around the cigar so it gently holds it in place and confidently snip the stogie to prepare it for lighting.

Stay tuned for the next part of this series on troubleshooting your cigar and lighter, followed by a guide on how to smoke a cigar from start to finish, a look at humidors and other accessories, and cigar etiquette.