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Cigar 101

How to Smoke a Cigar Properly

Shane K. K's picture

Shane K.

For many, smoking a cigar is an occasional indulgence. And, everyone who tries a cigar experiences a first time. Enjoying a cigar is a simple process, but for the uninitiated, it can be intimidating at first. Let’s dispel any confusion or bashfulness about smoking with a clear account of how to smoke a cigar properly in five easy steps.


How to Choose a Cigar

First and foremost, choose a cigar. For this, there is no “right” or “wrong” selection. If you’re in a premium retail cigar shop or shopping online, choosing a cigar is like ordering dinner at a restaurant – a restaurant with an extensive menu of choices. Where to begin? It’s always wise to consider the best cigars for beginners, so something milder at first.  Ashton Classic, Arturo Fuente Chateau, Montecristo, and Romeo y Julieta 1875 are all great options. The best cigar shops will carry most, if not all, of these iconic brands. Macanudo is another mild cigar that is easy to access thanks to its wide distribution, everywhere from premium smokeshops to convenience stores. You don’t have to spend a fortune to get a great cigar, either. Start off with something affordable.

How to Cut a Cigar

With the exception of a handful of less common shapes, all premium handmade cigars have a cap. The cap is the part of the wrapper leaf that covers the end of the cigar that goes in your mouth (the end that is closed). A faint line circling the closed end of the cigar outlines the cap. Consider this a boundary line of sorts for where to cut your cigar. If you’re using a traditional guillotine-style straight cutter, you simply snip the end of the cigar off above the cap line. Cutting below the cap line – or too deep – is wasting part of the cigar and can result in a messier smoke. You can wind up getting loose tobacco in your mouth and the wrapper is also prone to unravel while you’re smoking.

Besides a straight cut, there is also a V-cut, and a punch cut. Both a V-cut and a punch cut will concentrate the flavor and the smoke directly onto your palate for a perceived increase in intensity. A straight cut, however, will deliver the coolest, easiest draw. That’s why it’s our first choice for new cigar smokers.

NOTE: Should You Remove the Cigar Band?

This is a common question. While it boils down to personal preference, we recommend leaving the cigar band on until the ash is roughly an inch away. Cigar bands are often very colorful and intricate and they identify the cigar. They are also affixed to the cigar with a dab of adhesive where the band overlaps itself. The adhesive is not harmful, but if you tear the band off before you start smoking, you can risk tearing part of the wrapper leaf – a definite no-no. By smoking the cigar for a time, the heat from the lit end will loosen the adhesive under the cigar band for an easy, uninterruptive removal.

How to Light a Cigar

Put the end that you’ve cut in your mouth. Take a few puffs from it. This is called the “cold draw.” Gently toast your cigar by rotating the end over the flame before you start puffing. Don’t get too close to the flame, especially with a torch lighter. You don’t want to overly char the wrapper leaf. Cigars are handcrafted with humidified tobaccos. As a result, they take longer to ignite than the chopped-up, dry-cured tobaccos found in cigarettes. After the end has been toasted a bit and begins to produce smoke, start puffing. Initially, the flame will swell as you puff on your cigar. Spin your cigar over the flame momentarily, or rotate the flame around the end – you want to insure that you’ve achieved an even light.

How to Smoke a Cigar

Sit back, relax, and follow the most important rule from here on out: do not inhale! Gently draw the smoke into your palate and absorb its flavor for a moment before releasing it from your mouth. Premium handmade cigars impart a wealth of tasting notes that can include cedar, leather, fresh ground coffee, hickory, almonds, cashews, cayenne, cocoa, black pepper, dark chocolate, and much more.

Outside of the flavors you taste directly, cigars produce a tremendous range of aromas. We often to refer to a cigar’s aroma as its “room note.” Every few puffs, it’s nice to push some of the smoke out through your nose and directly experience the complexity a cigar’s room note offers. It will register more intensely than if you were simply taking in the scent of a cigar someone else is smoking.

The ash on a well-made cigar can stay intact for long durations. After an inch or so of ash develops, you can gently roll it off into an ashtray. Don’t wait until it’s ready to fall in your lap or on the floor and make a mess. And, you don’t want to bang the cigar against the ashtray. You’ll end up cracking the wrapper leaf, causing it to unravel. Be gentle when ashing and don’t give into the impulse to ash after every draw. If you’re wondering what to do with your cigar in between puffs, check out our advice on how to hold a cigar.

Smoking a premium cigar is all about the passage of time. There’s no need to rush. Smoking slowly guarantees the nicotine won’t surge in your system and cause you to get woozy. If you do overdo it for a puff or two, just put the cigar down for a bit and come back to it after the feeling recedes. One trick is to eat a piece of chocolate or something sugary to neutralize the effects of the nicotine in the event it overwhelms.

How to Put a Cigar Out

When you reach that bitter sweet moment and you’re finished smoking, let your cigar go out gracefully. Don’t smoosh or smash it out. That will only lead to a big mess in your ashtray and it can produce the unwanted aroma of smashed-out cigar. Because cigars are made from humidified tobacco, they will naturally burn out. Simply set your cigar down in the ashtray and it will go out on its own. After it’s done burning, cleanse your palate to remove the cigar’s aftertaste before you get home.

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