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Cigar 101

Cigar Etiquette Guide: The Do’s & Don’ts

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Holt's Staff

Cigar etiquette isn’t an exact science. But, there are a few unspoken rules fellow cigar lovers follow. It doesn’t matter if you’re a lumberjack or a doctor. Knowing the do’s and don’ts of cigar smoking is helpful, especially for newbies who don’t want to embarrass themselves when they’re smoking. Cigar etiquette isn’t simply aimed at aristocrats. Fit in at any cigar lounge or backyard herf by observing a bit of common cigar smoking sense.

The Do’s of Cigar Smoking

1. Making the Cut: Do Cut Your Cigar Correctly

There’s an art to cutting your cigar correctly. Luckily, you can master it fast and easy. It’s best not to saw the end of your cigar off with a steak knife or snip it with a fabric scissors. Cut your cigar with cigar cutter. Cutting your cigar with a straight cutter, or guillotine-style cutter, is the most common method. A straight cutter provides more airflow and an easy draw. Cut the cap above the shoulder of your cigar – where the head begins to taper. In other words, don’t cut your cigar too deep, or you’ll get loose tobacco in your mouth and the wrapper leaf can unravel while you’re smoking.

If you prefer a tighter draw, you can use a punch cutter or a V-cutter. The intensity of your cigar will increase slightly because the smoke and the oil are concentrated through a smaller opening with a V-cutter or a punch.

2. Lighting Up: Do Properly Light Your Cigar for the Perfect Burn

There’s a trick to lighting your cigar correctly, too. Toast it but don’t over-roast it. You can light your cigar with matches, a butane lighter, or cedar spills. Regardless of what kind of lighter you use, hold the flame an inch or two away from the foot of your cigar. If you bury your cigar in the flame, it won’t burn evenly and you’ll taste a nasty mix of butane fuel and charred tobacco in the first puffs. If you singe your facial hair, the flame is too close.

Be patient. Rotate your cigar over the flame so that the circumference of the foot is lit evenly. Take a few puffs as you slowly turn your cigar. If you have a high-performance butane torch, you can precisely touch up any areas on the foot of your cigar that aren’t burning evenly.

Once your cigar is lit, flip it around in your hand and gently blow on the lit end. You should observe an even red-orange glow over the entire foot. The goal is to create a firm, even ash as you smoke your cigar. Well-made cigars burn straight while the ash stays intact for a few of inches.

3. Does Your Lap Look Like an Ashtray: Do Ash Your Cigar Gently

Hopefully, you don’t have to ash into an empty beer can, but ashing your cigar is important. It’s easiest if you’re smoking inside and sitting in front of a nice ceramic or glass cigar ashtray. Cigar ashtrays have a deep dish for holding lots of ashes. Most of them also have cigar rests, or stirrups, where you can set your cigar down in between puffs without the worry it will roll off the edge.

Do not whack your cigar against the rim of the ashtray like Wiffle ball bat. When you aggressively knock or flick your cigar to ash it, the wrapper can crack and begin to unravel and you will be left with a messy uneven burn. Gently twist the ash off in the dish of the ashtray. Some guys like to get a long ash, but, don’t push your luck if you’re in the car or sitting on a sofa you don’t own. Cigar ashes are easy to brush off, but you could wind up having to vacuum a big pile out of your chest hair if you wait too long to ash.

4. Sharing is Caring: Do Bring Enough Cigars to Share

If you’re hanging out with some pals, keep few handouts on hand. You don’t have to spend a fortune, but poker night is always more fun when you can get your buddies to fire up with you. Add an affordable bundle to the coolerdor. There are plenty of high-quality bundles and clearance brands you can buy for less than $3 per cigar. 

The Most Common Cigar Don’ts

1. Don’t Lick Your Cigar

Some guys feel the need to treat their cigars like popsicles before they fire up. You’ll see the occasional connoisseur lick the length of his cigar or stick the whole thing in his mouth like a banana. It’s totally cool to take a cold draw from the cigar after you cut it. You’ll get a real sense of cigar’s flavor from the cold draw, but you don’t have to suck on it like a Jolly Rancher.

And don’t ask to borrow a buddy’s cigar cutter after you’ve already had your cigar in your mouth. Only borrow a cutter before you put your cigar in your mouth.

2. Don’t Dip Your Cigar in Your Whiskey

Dunking the end of your cigar in your whiskey like it’s a doughnut won’t improve the flavor of your cigar or your whiskey. You can potentially plug your cigar’s draw by wetting the end of it. A cigar with a plugged draw is unsmokable. Take a sip of your bourbon or single malt in between puffs of your cigar and the flavors will meld sufficiently.

3. Don’t Take the Band Off (Until You Get Near the End)

Obviously, you don’t want to smoke the band, but you don’t have to take the band off your cigar before you light up. Smoke your cigar until the lit end is roughly an inch or two away from the band before you remove it. The heat from the cigar loosens the adhesive on the inside of the band, and you can gently peel it off without tearing the wrapper leaf. Many cigar bands are aesthetically pleasing and they provide a helpful record of what you smoked when you want to buy another one.

4. Don’t Cut Your Cigar in Half

We’re not passing judgement on unapologetic cigar curmudgeons out there, but cutting your cigar in half to get two cigars is a bit extreme. Part of what you pay for in a premium cigar is its construction. By cutting a cigar in half, you’ve ruined its construction. Luckily, we’ve got the perfect solution: buy shorter cigars, or smoke Nub.

5. Don’t Put a Half-Smoked Cigar in Your Humidor

We’ve all been there. The clock runs out before you’re done smoking. Nobody wants to toss out half of a cigar, especially if it cost twenty bucks or more. Can you save a cigar for later? Sure, but know that it won’t taste the same as when you first lit it up. Your best bet is to let it go out, cut the ash off, and place the cigar in a ziplock bag until you can finish it (but not for more than a day or two).

Don’t put a half-smoked cigar in your humidor, jacket pocket, or the glovebox in your car. And god forbid, never ask your wife to stick a half-smoked cigar in her purse. The pungent aroma of a charred burnt-out cigar will overwhelm any area where you store it.

6. Don’t Grind Your Cigar Out in the Ashtray

When you’re done smoking, let your cigar burn out gracefully. Don’t grind or smoosh it out in an ashtray. Cigars emit a smoldering stale aroma if they are mashed or twisted into the bottom of an ashtray like a cigarette butt. Because handmade cigars are humidified, they will burn out in a few minutes on their own. And, always make sure your cigar is full extinguished before you leave.

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