Cigar 101

Cigar Etiquette: The Do's and Dont's

Holt's Staff Cigar's picture

Holt's Staff

Cigar etiquette is topic of great debate among bona fide aficionados who deploy the utmost in tact and civility in the enjoyment of their prized cigar collections, as well as truckers, lumberjacks, cigar lounge lizards and herf hounds whose motors are constantly revving in the direction of more cigars. Whether or not you wear white gloves when you break out your crystal ashtray in your chandeliered man cave, or you find enough ceremony in tearing through the glove box of your big rig for a half-beaten stogie, there’s an undeniable art to smoking your cigars. As first-rate cigar fiends, your pals at Holt’s aim to deliver all the know-how you need to smoke like a pro in any circumstance.

We’ve seen it all. From cigar-obsessed aristocrats who practically nose every cigar in their humidor on a daily basis and even talk to them at bedtime to curmudgeonly ogres who aren’t afraid to swipe random, half-smoked stogies from a giant stinky ashtray, terrified by the thought that any tobacco could go to waste–maybe you fall somewhere in between, but we’re A-OK with your protocol. As long as a modicum of respect for your fellow cigar lovers accompanies your love for fine cigars, we’ll count you on our team. Just remember one thing: it’s your cigar, you paid for it, smoke it like it’s the last cigar on earth, or whichever way makes you happiest, son!

What to Do

The Fine Art of a Perfect Cut:

Perhaps you’re accustomed to biting the end of your cigar off, sawing it with a steak knife, or stabbing it with a toothpick. As long as you can get a decent draw, good for you! However, your cigar may be more comfortable to smoke if you use a more traditional method like an actual cigar cutter. There are a million mirco-arguments over what kind of cutter to use, too. Some folks swear by straight cutters, others won’t budge from a bullet cutter, certain aristocrats can’t stoop past a $300-pair of hand-forged palladium cigar scissors, and it’s impossible to reason with anyone who’s been converted to a V-Cutter. In any case, whatever school you’re in, we’re in your corner. We’re not about to tell you your cigar must taste funny because you didn’t show off enough when you were prepping it to smoke. There’s no bones about it, you’re smoking a cigar. That automatically makes you look cool.

Lighting Up:

There are some cigar enthusiasts out there who like to make a noticeable spectacle when they light up. If you need to pull 7-inch cedar matches out of a monogramed pewter match box to fire up because your thousand-dollar ST Dupont is in the shop, we’ll send in the paparazzi to take your selfie. Make sure your pocket-square is color-coordinated. Or, if you have the precision to get close enough to the Bunsen burner on your stovetop without roasting your eyebrows, go for it. However, most folks prefer a reliable butane cigar torch or soft flame lighter, be it a sporty high-tech brand like Xikar, or a simple Bic. They all get the job done and we’re willing to bet your cigar will burn just fine either way. The key is to be a little patient and make sure you get an even, consistent ash around the end. Don’t incinerate the darn thing or roast it like a hotdog. You can cause your cigar’s fine flavors to taste like the tailpipe on a diesel truck if you use too much juice in the lighting process. Toast it just enough to get it going, take in the room note, and tantalize your taste buds ‘til the cows come home.

You also may have an aversion to relighting cigars thanks to the relentless wisdom advising against such a faux pas. We’re here to tell you, don’t even give it a second self-conscious thought. If it still burns and you can tolerate the taste–or even better–you can’t bear to let the last few inches go because that cigar tasted so amazing when you were blazing through it 48 hours ago, by all means light that sucker back up and finish what you started. We’re not telling you to guzzle down a two-day-old opened can of beer, but heck, if it hits the spot, it’s your tongue. Cheers!

Man, How Do I Look Holding This Thing:

It’s not uncommon for a cigar lover to integrate his or her cigar into a number of physical gestures for the purpose of making a point, deflecting a challenge, or even calling attention to a diamond-encrusted pinky ring. Bear in mind, it’s not a light sabre, it’s a cigar. Therefore, we recommend getting in touch with your surroundings to avoid smoldering a hole in your buddy’s shirt or the leather seats in his car (since he only smokes behind the wheel when his wife is out of town). It’s also fairly easy to destroy some expensive furniture with a great-tasting cigar when you’re not a little bit careful with how you wield it. It’s not necessary to whack the end when it’s time to ash, either. Be a little gentle with your cigar. Save the hostility for your golf club. Cigars are all about relaxation. It’s totally cool to gingerly twist the ash off into your ashtray without striking it like a fly-swatter. Your cigar will stay intact, burn correctly and your pals will look up to the gentlemanly prowess you possess. We’re not saying you have to place a doily under the ashtray, though. Also, if you can only smoke with your sunglasses on, use a bright white ashtray so it’s easy to see where you should park your cigar in between puffs. We’re just sayin’.

How Long Should I Let This Bad Boy Burn:

Maybe you like to huff your cigar down in a single elongated puff or two, until your face turns purple. Or, maybe you prefer to take a gazillion mini-puffs because it’s intermission at the opera. Or, maybe you only take one puff every ten, twenty, thirty minutes to make sure every tasting note resonates to the core of your being before the next puff is in the pipeline. Just don’t lose your cookies. No one wants to see that. Premium cigars will go to your head if you wolf them down too fast, so we recommend averaging your draws at a measured pace that tastes great and gives your cigar plenty of opportunity to ruminate on your palate. But hey, if you’re in a hurry, we’ve all been there before–and no one, we mean no one, wants to see a tasty premium cigar go to waste.

What Not to Do

There are plenty of opinions floundering around about what to do, or not to do, with your cigars. Don’t lick it. Don’t dip it in your whiskey. Don’t take the band off. Don’t relight it. Don’t cut it in half. Don’t grind it out in the ashtray (we actually favor this one). Whatever cigar rules you subscribe to, we can cope with, as long as you’re enjoying the heck out of the cigar you’re smoking. Heck, we’ve even seen a curmudgeon or two smoke the nub in a corn-cobb pipe to make sure every last drop is savored. Generally, though, we tend to recommend not blowing smoke in someone’s face, leaving a blizzard of ashes in your wake, or falling asleep with a cigar in your mouth. With an undeniable shortage of cigar-friendly establishments these days, we’re always fans of respecting any host who is kind enough to let you light up, or any place of business we can count as one of the last bastions dedicated to the preservation of cigar-smoking. Employ a bit of street-smart common sense and mutual respect whenever and wherever you’re smoking. If you can jive with that, we’ll put you on the guest list for our next herf, pal!

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