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Cigar 101

Soft Flame vs. Torch Lighter for Cigars

Shane K. K's picture

Shane K.

There are a ton of great cigar lighters out there. How you light a cigar is important and the kind of lighter you use matters. What’s the difference between a soft flame versus a torch lighter when it comes to lighting cigars? Both beat rubbing two sticks together, but many cigar lovers prefer one over the other. If you’re deciding what kind of lighter to buy for yourself or as a gift for someone, we’ve broken down the pros and cons of soft flame and torch lighters. In both cases, we’re talking about butane lighters, not liquid fuel models which can taint the taste of a premium cigar because liquid fuel is less refined.  

Torch Cigar Lighter: Pros & Cons


Torch lighters are sporty, innovative, and attractive. There are many brands to choose from, including Xikar, Jetline, and Visol. Cigar smokers love torch lighters because you can light a cigar quickly and thoroughly with an ultra-hot flame. You can toast the foot of your cigar without puffing or drawing on it. If you’re into gadgets, new and high-performance models come out every year. You’ll find single, double, triple, and quadruple-jet flame torch lighters. Some are designed with angled jets to deliver a more concentrated flame. Torch lighters are great for the outdoors. Wind-resistant and windproof models make it easy to light your cigar if you’re smoking in the wind.

A torch is ideal for performing touch-ups on cigars that burn unevenly too. You can precisely zero in on any areas where a cigar’s wrapper leaf is burning out of sync with the rest of the cigar. Convenient features like a built-in cigar cutter, window for monitoring your fuel level, and a protective cap are common today. Some torches are designed for communal use, like table-top lighters with oversized fuel tanks that require infrequent refills.


While a super-hot flame is desirable for lighting your cigar fast, it can be too much if you’re not careful. Torch lighters burn at roughly 2300 degrees, about twice the temperature of a soft flame. The biggest mistake most cigar smokers make with a torch lighter is holding the flame too close to the foot of the cigar and for too long when they’re lighting up. Because the top of the flame on a torch is invisible, you want to hold your lighter back from the foot of the cigar to avoid incinerating it or making it taste bad with an aggressive blast of butane. When components like ignition switches and batteries wear out, you may have to send your torch out for repair. If you carry your torch in your jeans or jacket, lint and debris can clog the jets. Blow the jets out occasionally with compressed air to ensure optimal performance and a consistent flame and to avoid common butane lighter problems.

Soft Flame Cigar Lighter: Pros & Cons


Because soft flame lighters burn around 1400 degrees, the flame is less intense than a torch. You’re less likely to sear your cigars and impart the unwanted taste of butane into the blend. It takes a little longer to light a cigar with a soft flame, but a cooler and slower light preserves the natural flavor of the premium tobaccos in a fine handmade cigar. Most cigar-makers swear by soft flame lighters for this reason. You have more control over how hot the end of your cigar gets because you have to draw on the cigar to ignite it when you’re using a soft flame. Some soft flame models feature a double flame – one that is extra wide for lighting cigars, especially bigger ring gauges.

Excluding disposable brands like BIC, soft flame lighters can last a long time. If your lighter takes a flint, changing it is fast and easy. Soft flame lighters generally require less maintenance because they have fewer components that can malfunction. There are no jets to clean. Many ultra-expensive, high-end lighters are soft flames due to their low maintenance and longevity. Soft flame lighters are easy to travel with. If you accidentally leave your torch in your jacket pocket on your way to the airport, prepare to have it confiscated due to TSA restrictions.


The single biggest drawback to a soft flame lighter is the wind. If you’re lighting a cigar outside, the slightest breeze can blow the flame out. Soft flame lighters simply require more patience. Gently rotate your cigar over a soft flame to fully ignite the foot. For many cigar lovers, part of the joy of smoking is tasting the initial transitions of flavor when a cigar is lit slowly. If your wife is tapping her watch while you smoke, get a torch.

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