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Cigar 101

How to Light a Cigar With Matches

Shane K. K's picture

Shane K.

While the allure of sporty, high-performance torch lighters is unmistakable, old-school matches are hardly obsolete. They’re readily available, often free, and easy to use, but let’s not take their simplicity for granted when lighting a fine cigar. Because the way you light your cigar can impact its taste, here’s a quick review of how to light a cigar with matches.


Use Wooden Matches (Cedar Matches Are Best)

First, not all matches are created equal. Cheap convenience store matches in a paper-book are not desirable for lighting a cigar. They’re too short, their combustion is inferior, and they can make your cigar taste funny as a result.

Wooden matches are best. And, yes, there are special matches made just for lighting cigars. Cigar matches are extra-long (typically 3 ½ inches), sulfur-free, and they are often made of cedar. Cigar matches won’t impart a sulfuric taste into your cigar because their combustion occurs with cleaner oxidizing agents.

Strike Two Matches Together

When you strike a couple of matches together at the same time, they provide a wider flame. The idea isn’t to light your cigar faster, but rather to toast the entire foot at once to ensure an even burn. After striking, hold your matches at a slightly downward angle so the flame travels up the match stick(s). If you hold a match with the flame straight up, it will burn out quickly. Hold your matches in one hand and your cigar in the other. Gently toast the foot of your cigar and rotate it over the flame. Lighting a premium cigar may take two or three match strikes and a couple of minutes. Be patient and light your cigar gradually. If you’re smoking outside, try to light up where you are sheltered from the breeze.

Let the Match Head Burn Off Before You Light Up

While the combustion agents in cigar matches are less caustic than standard household matches, it’s best if you let them burn off before holding your cigar over the flame. Let your matches burn for a few seconds and then begin to toast your cigar. Doing so ensures the cleanest ignition possible.

Invest In a Pewter Matchbox

If you’re the gadget-obsessed type, consider picking up a pewter matchbox for your man cave. There are a few companies that still make them. You also might find an attractive antique matchbox. An ornate case for your cigar matches adds a classy touch on the coffee table in your favorite smoking room.

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