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Which Side of a Cigar Do You Light: Essential Tips for Beginners

Which Side of a Cigar Do You Light

Which Side of a Cigar Do You Light: Essential Tips for Beginners

For cigar enthusiasts and those new to the world of cigars alike, lighting one correctly is essential to fully appreciate its rich flavors and the craftsmanship of a hand-wrapped tobacco. Understanding which side of a cigar to light is a crucial step in the process because it ensures an even, satisfying burn. Typically, the side of the cigar that is designated for lighting is known as the “foot,” while the end that goes in the mouth, meant for puffing, is called the “head.”

Before lighting a cigar, it is essential to recognize its anatomy and prepare it properly, such as cutting the cap. Various lighting techniques exist to achieve an even burn and ultimately enhance the overall smoking experience. Similarly, being aware of and avoiding common mistakes, such as cutting too much of the cap or lighting the wrong side, is crucial to fully enjoying your cigar. Regular maintenance of the light contributes to a consistent and pleasant smoke.

Key Takeaways

  • Knowing which side to light, the “foot” of a cigar, is essential for a satisfying smoking experience.
  • Familiarizing oneself with different lighting techniques and preparatory steps helps achieve a proper and even burn.
  • Avoiding common mistakes and maintaining a consistent light ensure a pleasant and enriched cigar-smoking experience.

Basics of Cigar Anatomy


The cap is an essential part of a cigar, which is located at the head. It is made using a small piece of tobacco applied to keep the wrapper from unraveling. Typically, the cap is the section that needs to be clipped before smoking a cigar, and it must be handled carefully to maintain its integrity.


The body of a cigar encompasses its main structure, starting from the cap down to the foot. The body consists of three crucial components:

  • Wrapper: This is the outermost layer of a premium handmade cigar, which gives the cigar its unique appearance. The wrapper is responsible for making the cigar look appealing, and it can contribute to 60% to 90% of the cigar’s flavor. The color and texture of the wrapper can provide clues about what to expect from the internal blend of tobaccos.
  • Binder: Playing a vital role in holding the cigar together, the binder is a layer of tobacco leaf that is wrapped around the filler. Binders must possess a strong structure and good combustion to allow the cigar to burn evenly and produce an enjoyable smoking experience.
  • Filler: The filler is the core part of the cigar, composed of different tobacco blends that are tightly rolled together. The filler’s characteristics can greatly influence the flavor, strength, and overall experience of smoking a cigar.

    It is essential to understand the anatomy of a cigar to determine which side to light. In general, the foot of the cigar, where the filler tobacco is openly exposed, is the side that needs to be lit. Lighting the foot ensures a proper burn throughout the entire cigar, allowing for a more enjoyable smoking experience.

Preparing to Light a Cigar

Before you can light a cigar and enjoy its flavorful experience, there are a few important steps to take to ensure a proper and enjoyable smoke.

Cutting the Cigar

The first step in preparing to light a cigar is cutting it. This process removes the cap of the cigar, creating an opening to draw the smoke through. There are several tools you can use to cut a cigar, such as:

  • Guillotine cutter: A single or double-bladed cutter that makes a straight, clean cut across the cap.
  • V-cut cutter: A cutter that makes a wedge-shaped cut into the cap, creating a smaller opening that concentrates the draw.
  • Punch cutter: A small, circular cutter that removes a small, circular piece of the cap, creating a small opening for the draw.

It is important to cut the cigar carefully and not too deep, as it may unravel the wrapper and cause the cigar to burn unevenly.

Checking the Draw

After cutting the cigar, you should check the draw, which refers to the airflow and resistance when you inhale through the cigar. To check the draw, simply bring the unlit cigar to your lips and take a gentle puff. The draw should feel smooth and comfortable, without too much resistance. If the draw feels too tight, you may need to cut the cigar a bit deeper, or try massaging the cigar gently to loosen any tightly packed tobacco.

Remember that every cigar is unique, and the ideal draw can vary from person to person depending on personal preferences. Follow these steps and make adjustments as needed to ensure a pleasurable smoking experience.

Lighting Techniques

Using a Match

When lighting a cigar with a match, it’s essential to pick the right type. Wooden matches, also known as strike-anywhere matches, are preferred for their longer burn time. To properly light your cigar using a match, follow these steps:

  1. Wait for the sulfur on the match to burn off after striking it, as the sulfur can affect the taste of the cigar.
  2. Hold the cigar horizontally and place the match at a 45-degree angle to the cigar’s foot (the end you’ll be lighting).
  3. Rotate the cigar and the match over each other to ensure even heating of the tobacco’s edges. This process is called toasting.
  4. Lastly, gently puff on your cigar while heating it with the match, ensuring that the flame spreads evenly around the foot of the cigar.

Using a Butane Lighter

A butane lighter is another great option for lighting a cigar, as it provides a clean, odorless flame. Additionally, butane lighters (also known as torch lighters) are easy to use and can maintain a consistent flame, which prevents uneven burning. Here’s the process to light a cigar using a butane lighter:

  1. Hold the cigar horizontally and the lighter at a slight angle away from you.
  2. Turn on the lighter and bring the cigar’s foot close to the flame, making sure not to let it directly touch the flame.
  3. Toast the cigar’s foot, evenly rotating it in your fingers to ensure the edges are heated properly.
  4. Gently puff on the cigar while continuing to rotate it above the flame.

Using a Cedar Spill

A cedar spill is a thin strip of Spanish cedar wood that can be used to light a cigar. This method gives you a longer burn time and imparts a pleasant aroma to the cigar. To light a cigar using a cedar spill:

  1. Light the tip of the cedar spill using a match or lighter.
  2. Hold the cigar horizontally and gently toast the foot of your cigar with the cedar spill without allowing direct contact between the flame and the cigar.
  3. Rotate the cigar in your fingers for even heating of its edges.
  4. Puff gently on the cigar as you continue to light it with the cedar spill, making sure the foot’s edges catch the flame evenly.

Each of these methods ensures a quality lighting experience, allowing you to fully enjoy the flavors and aromas of your cigar. Remember to take your time and follow the steps meticulously to guarantee an even and satisfying burn throughout.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

When it comes to lighting a cigar, one must ensure to do it correctly to enhance the overall smoking experience. Avoiding common mistakes can help in achieving a smooth, even burn. Here are some common pitfalls and how to steer clear of them.

1. Lighting the wrong end: Cigars have two ends – a capped end and a foot. Make sure to light the foot (the wider, open end) and not the capped end, which is meant for your mouth. Lighting the wrong end may result in a compromised taste and an uneven burn.

2. Using the wrong lighter: The type of flame used to light a cigar can greatly impact its flavor and burn. Here are the top three flame sources recommended for cigars:

  • Butane Lighters: Do not produce any chemical odors, produce consistent flame, and are perfect for outdoor lighting.
  • Wooden Matches: Once sulfur is burnt off, they provide a chemical-free flame, though they’re not suitable for windy conditions.
  • Cedar Strips: Known as “cedar spills,” provide a perfect aromatic solution for lighting cigars. However, they may not be as convenient as other options.

Avoid using candles, petrol lighters, or paper matches as they may compromise the flavor of the cigar.

3. Ignoring the ‘toasting’ process: Toasting the foot of the cigar helps to warm it up before lighting properly. This step ensures an even, consistent draw and burn. Hold the cigar at a 45-degree angle above the flame and rotate it gently until the foot is evenly toasted.

4. Applying direct flame: Refrain from placing the cigar directly into the flame when lighting. Instead, maintain a small distance between the flame and the foot of the cigar, gradually drawing the flame towards the cigar by taking gentle puffs.

5. Over-puffing: To maintain an even burn, avoid puffing excessively, which can cause the cigar to overheat, resulting in harsh, undesirable flavors. Aim for around one puff per minute to ensure a pleasant smoking experience.

By being mindful of these common mistakes, one can successfully light a cigar the right way, ensuring an enjoyable experience with a perfect burn.

Maintenance of a Proper Light

Choosing the Correct Side to Light
When lighting a cigar, it is essential to light the correct side to ensure an even burn and a pleasurable smoking experience. The side that should be lit is known as the foot of the cigar, which is usually pre-cut and slightly exposed, revealing the tobacco packed inside.

Proper Lighting Techniques
There are several methods and tools to achieve a proper light of a cigar. Here are some popular ones:

  • Soft flame lighter: A preferred choice among cigar enthusiasts due to its low-temperature flame, which reduces the risk of overheating the cigar.
  • Torch lighter: This type of lighter generates a hotter flame, perfect for toasting the cigar foot evenly. Take care not to overheat the cigar.
  • Cedar spills: Traditionalists often use strips of cedar wood to light their cigars, imparting a unique, pleasant aroma from the burning cedar.

Toasting the Foot
Before fully lighting the cigar, gently toast the foot by hovering it above the flame without direct contact. This process helps to prepare the tobacco for an even burn. Rotate the cigar to ensure all edges are toasted evenly.

After toasting the foot, gently blow on it to remove any potential debris. Then, while holding the cigar slightly above the flame, take a few puffs without inhaling. As you puff, rotate the cigar to ensure even lighting. The cigar should now be adequately lit, producing an even and enjoyable burn.

Fixing an Uneven Burn
Should the cigar begin to burn unevenly, there are a couple of solutions:

  1. Rotate the cigar so that the slower burning side faces downward. Gravity will help channel heat and promote even burning.
  2. If rotating doesn’t solve the issue, gently tap the ash off the cigar and use a lighter (preferably a soft flame) to touch up the slower burning section. Be cautious not to overheat the cigar.

Following these guidelines will help ensure a proper light and an enjoyable cigar smoking experience.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the proper end to ignite when smoking a cigar?

When smoking a cigar, you should ignite the foot (the wider end) of the cigar, which is opposite the head that you will be drawing smoke from. The foot is typically pre-cut and has an exposed tobacco end that makes it easier to light.

How should a beginner light a cigar effectively?

For beginners, the following steps can be followed to light a cigar effectively:

  1. Hold the cigar at a slight angle, with the foot above the flame (but not touching it).
  2. Toast the foot of the cigar by slowly rotating it around the heat source until the edges are evenly charred.
  3. Gently blow on the cigar’s foot to ensure an even burn.
  4. Puff on the cigar while holding the flame close to the foot but not touching it, and continue rotating to maintain an even burn.

Is the cutting and lighting end of a cigar the same?

No, the cutting and lighting ends of a cigar are different. The cutting end, called the head, is where you place your lips and draw smoke into your mouth. The lighting end, referred to as the foot, is where the tobacco is exposed and easier to ignite.

Can you light a cigar with both a lighter and a match, and if so, how?

Yes, you can light a cigar using both a lighter and a match. When using a lighter, it is recommended to use a butane torch lighter, as this produces a clean flame that won’t affect the flavor of the cigar. When using matches, opt for long wooden matches specifically designed for cigars, which have phosphorous tips instead of sulfur.

To light a cigar with a match, strike the match and hold it under the cigar’s foot while slowly rotating the cigar. Do not let the cigar touch the flame directly.

What are the steps to properly smoke a cigar once lit?

To properly smoke a lit cigar, follow these steps:

  1. Puff gently on the cigar, drawing the smoke into your mouth without inhaling it into your lungs.
  2. Savor the flavors of the cigar by swishing the smoke around your mouth before exhaling.
  3. Take your time between puffs, allowing the cigar to cool and prevent overheating.
  4. Ash the cigar gently by tapping or rolling the ash off, rather than forcefully flicking it.
  5. If the cigar begins to burn unevenly, rotate it in your hand to help correct the burn.

Do you ever light both ends of a cigar, or only one?

You should only light one end of a cigar, specifically the foot. Lighting both ends would make it impossible to smoke, as the smoke is drawn through the head of the cigar, and lighting both ends would burn the part you put in your mouth.

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