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Cigar 101

How to Light a Cigar With a Cedar Spill

Shane K. K's picture

Shane K.

If you’ve been smoking cigars for a while, you may have encountered the occasional spectacle of a fellow cigar lover lighting a cigar with a cedar spill – a long thin strip of cedar. Sometimes it’s tough to tell if an aficionado is lighting his or her cigar with a cedar spill for improved flavor or simply for dramatic effect in front of others. It may seem bourgeois at first, but there is a practical purpose to lighting your cigar a cedar spill. We’re shedding light on the practice here.

What is a Cedar Spill?

There are handful of companies that manufacture long thin strips of cedar, or cedar spills, for lighting cigars. But, the most common source for cedar spills is found in a box of cigars. Most premium cigars are packaged in cigar boxes with thin sheets of cedar in between each layer of cigars. These cedar sheets can easily be folded and broken apart into thin strips a quarter-inch to a half-inch wide. If you enjoy lighting your cigars with cedar spills, save the cedar when you buy a box of cigars. If you don’t buy cigars by the box, ask your local cigar retailer for some cedar. Most shops keep a stash of sheets behind the counter for customers who like to light their cigars with cedar.

Why Light a Cigar with a Cedar Spill?

How you light your cigar can affect its taste. That’s why it’s critical to use the cleanest butane possible if you’re using a torch lighter and why you should avoid lighting your cigars with lighters that take liquid fuel, like Zippos. Fuel impurities and sulfur from matches can interrupt and ruin the flavor of a premium cigar. A cedar spill eliminates these unwanted scenarios entirely.

When you light a cedar spill on fire and light your cigar from the spill, no residual contaminates can pass into your cigar as you toast the foot. Purists who swear by cedar spills also enjoy the added hint of cedar flavor the spills impart to their cigar’s taste. They view cedar spills as old-school, not old-fashioned.

Toast Your Cigar Slowly

The idea behind lighting your cigar with a cedar spill is to light your cigar slowly. Light the spill and hold it in one hand while you hold your cigar in the other. Technique is important. Hold the spill at a slightly downward angle because the flame will burn in an upward direction. If you hold the spill straight up, it will simply burn out before your cigar is lit. Make sure you’re not in proximity to any flammable substances or surfaces. Gently toast the foot of your cigar over the flame as the spill burns. Lighting your cigar with a cedar spill is a gradual process and requires patience. Puff on your cigar after the foot is thoroughly toasted. You may have to use two or three spills to fully light your cigar.

Watch the Mess

There’s a fine line between lighting your cigar like a traditionalist while curious onlookers gaze at your skills versus setting fire to your buddy’s sofa. You have to pay attention. Cedar spills can burn quickly and leave a flutter of ashes and embers in your lap or on unwanted surfaces like your laptop or an expensive oriental rug. If you’re smoking in the car, a cedar spill may not be the safest route for firing up. Safety first.

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