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Cigar 101

What Not To Do When Smoking a Cigar

Shane K. K's picture

Shane K.

While we know to avoid obvious activities like pumping gas or holding a baby when we’re smoking cigars, there are a handful of common missteps new cigar lovers can pick up that are best not practiced. Because premium cigars cost money, it’s worth it to develop good cigar-smoking etiquette. Why ruin a great cigar because you stored it, cut it, or lit it the wrong way? Here are the top bad habits to avoid when you’re getting into cigars.

Don’t do the following:

#1 - Cut Your Cigar Too Deep

At the head of your cigar, you will find a seam where the cap was applied. The rounded area where the cap begins is called the “shoulder.” Always cut your cigar above the shoulder, or the seam of the cap. If you cut your cigar too deep or below the shoulder, you will remove the entire cap and the wrapper can unravel while you’re smoking. You will also get loose tobacco in your mouth. Always give your cigar a shallow cut, at least to start. If the draw is tight, you can always cut a little more off needed.

#2 - Light Your Cigar at Close Range

It’s tempting to show off by blasting the foot of your cigar up-close with a high-performance triple or quad-flame torch lighter. This isn’t a good idea, though, unless you like the taste of butane and you like your cigars to start off with a smoldering note of burnt tobacco. To light your cigar properly, hold the lighter away from the foot of the cigar so that the flame is at least a few inches away. Gradually toast the foot until you have an even burn. Puff on the cigar as you rotate it over the flame. Rely on patience instead of blistering hot proximity to the flame when you’re lighting your cigar.

#3 - Use Low-Quality Butane in a Cigar Lighter

The best way to light a cigar is with a butane lighter or wooden matches. Stay away from lighters that take liquid fuel (like traditional Zippos). Because cigars are highly absorbent, the fuel or lighting source you choose can interrupt their taste. The best butane for cigar lighters is at least triple-refined. That’s a fancy way of saying the unwanted impurities in the butane have been removed so that your lighter will ignite with a clean flame that won’t impact the taste of your cigar. Clean-burning fuel also greatly extends the lifespan of your lighter.              

#4 - Puff Too Fast

If you smoke your cigar too fast, it can overheat and taste bitter. Savor your cigar and pause for around 30 seconds or longer in between draws. Your cigar will exhibit an even burn with more balance and integrity. You will also perceive more flavor because your cigar will not be overwhelmed by heat.

#5 - Inhale While You’re Smoking

The number one cigar-smoking rule of all time is don’t inhale. Premium cigars are made with humidified whole-leaf long-filler tobaccos. Cigars are meant to be enjoyed for their taste and aroma. Inhaling them like cigarettes will make you cough and you’re likely to become nauseous from inundating your system with too much nicotine. When you smoke a cigar, draw the smoke into your palate but don’t inhale it into your diaphragm.

#6 - Grind Your Cigar Out in the Ashtray

Don’t grind your cigar out in the ashtray. A premium cigar will burn out on its own once you’ve stopped puffing on it. Because the tobaccos in a premium cigar are humidified, your cigar will stop burning naturally after a few minutes. If you smash or grind out a cigar in an ashtray, it will smolder and emit an unwanted musty aroma.

#7 - Store Half-Smoked Cigars in Your Humidor

No one wants a fine cigar to go to waste just because you ran out of time to finish it. It’s not sacrilegious to save a cigar for later, but there’s a right way and a wrong way to preserve a half-smoked cigar. Don’t put it back in your humidor. Half-smoked cigars exude a burnt charry smell even after they’ve stopped burning. Your entire humidor and its contents will readily absorb the unwanted aroma of a half-smoked cigar – so will your jacket pocket, glove box, or your wife’s purse. The best way to save a half-smoked cigar is to isolate it inside a heavy-duty ziplock bag, seal it, and store it where it cannot permeate the environment.

#8 - Store Cigars in the Refrigerator

Another common misconception is that it’s okay to store cigars in the refrigerator. Cigars should be stored in a consistent environment of 70 degrees and 70% relative humidity. Your refrigerator is cool and dry, and it will dry your cigars out rather quickly. Cigars lose their flavor and their consistency is threatened when they are dried out.

Never put your cigars in the refrigerator to keep them fresh. There is one rare exception when you should refrigerate cigars: if you have a case of cigar beetles. It’s an unfortunate situation, but cigar beetles can hatch if the temperature and humidity are just right for the condition to occur. If it does, temporarily freezing your cigars is the only way to eradicate cigar beetles. Even in the case of beetles, cigars are only refrigerator for a period of days before they are returned to a 70/70 equilibrium. Refrigeration is not a long-term storage option.

#9 - Use a Cigar Box as a Humidor

Inexperienced cigar lovers often assume their cigars will stay fresh in the box they’re packaged in. Wrong. Cigars need to be humidified. While the boxes your cigars come in are made of wood, they are not humidors. They do not have a proper seal or a humidification source to sustain a consistent level of 70% relative humidity. Some manufacturers will package their cigars with a Boveda pouch on the inside of the box, but this is only intended as a temporary humidification solution for transport purposes and won’t keep your cigars fresh indefinitely. Even if your box of cigars is shrink-wrapped in cellophane, you’ll want to put the cigars in a legitimate humidor within a few days or a week at the most, or your cigars will gradually dry out.

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