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Cigar 101

Cigar Bands: If & When to Remove Them

Shane K. K's picture

Shane K.

Should you smoke your cigar with the band on or take it off? What to do with the cigar band inspires passionate debate among aficionados. Some guys think leaving the band on is bourgeois. Others treat cigar bands with extraordinary reverence, collecting them in scrap books or wall-papering their man caves with them. The history of cigar bands goes back a long way. Premium cigars enjoy much distinction from the colorful and ornate bands and boxes they are packaged in.

While there are no hard-and-fast rules regarding the removal of your cigar’s band, we’ve compiled some logic you should consider before you instinctively tear the band off before you light up – or, before you burn it up smoking the nub.

You Can’t Smoke Cigar Bands

For all the novices out there, let’s clear up one detail quickly: you cannot smoke the band. Yes, a cigar’s band will inevitably burn, but most bands are made of paper or foil and feature intricate filigree and vibrant ink colors – the kind of material that’s best not burned. You can leave the band on while you smoke, but don’t smoke the band itself.

You Can Tear the Wrapper if You’re Not Careful

At the other end of the spectrum is the cigar lover who tears the band off the second he’s a got a cigar in his hand. Some guys think leaving the band on is for aristocrats who want to show off what they’re smoking.

Pump the brakes. You don’t have to take the band off right away. In fact, it’s best if you wait a while after you’ve started smoking a cigar to take the band off. You can tear your cigar’s wrapper if you rip the band off a cold unlit cigar. One exception to this suggestion exists – if the cigar’s band is applied to the foot, you should remove it before smoking. When a cigar’s band is on the foot, gently slide it off.

Loosen the Band after the Glue Heats Up

Cigar bands are fastened over your cigar with a touch of gum Arabic (or cigar glue). The glue isn’t applied to the cigar itself, but only to the portion of the band that overlaps on the back of the cigar. However, when the band is placed on the cigar, it’s common for a tiny smudge of the glue to coat the cigar’s wrapper leaf. As a result, when you remove the band, you can unintentionally tear part of the wrapper leaf off which will negatively affect your cigar’s burn and draw. The wrapper can also unfurl and render your cigar unsmokable.

Leave the band on and smoke your cigar for a while before you take the band off. The heat from the foot of the cigar eventually warms the gum. When the cigar is sufficiently hot, the gum on the cigar band loosens and you can gently peel the band off. For best results, we recommend smoking your cigar until the lit end is about an inch away from the band. It should easily come off at this point.

Can I Smoke a Cigar Past the Band?

You can smoke a cigar past the band, but you’ll want to remove the band if you’re smoking your cigar down to the nub. As we explained above, cigar bands are made from paper, foil, and ink. A cigar band will burn, but it won’t taste good and it will emit an unwanted aroma. Take the band off when the lit end of your cigar is an inch from the band.

The last inch or two of a cigar (the nub) will be the hottest and the most intense portion, so smoke cautiously. For a lot of cigar lovers, they love to smoke a cigar down to its nub because the flavors crescendo with tremendous concentration at the very end.

Don’t Leave the Band in the Ashtray

The coolest cigar bands are works of art. It’s tough to watch them wilt or shrivel up in an ashtray when you reach the end of your cigar. Peel the band off and toss it out or keep it. Discarding your cigar’s band outside of the ashtray is a classy touch. That way, others who may be smoking with you won’t have to suffer through the unwanted aroma of a burning cigar band.

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