In our previous instalment, we attempted (hopefully with success) to pull you away from those cheap cigars at the convenience store counter and introduce you to the world of real tobacconists.  Your first cigar should be a good one if you can help it.  We hope you took our suggestion and purchased a high quality premium cigar, preferably on the mild side and in the £2-7/$3-10 range.

Now you just need to know how to smoke the thing!  If you get this wrong, you may end up missing the joy in life which cigars should be able to bring you.  A lot of beginners have some serious misconceptions about cigar smoking.  For example, they try to inhale.  This is a quick way to get yourself sick. Smoking a cigar is not the same as smoking a cigarette.  Here’s how to go smoking your first stogie!

First, you’ll need a cutter to cut about 2/3 of the cap off your cigar. The cap helps holding the wrapper – the outer leaf, responsible for a significant part of the cigar’s flavor – together.  You can either use a cheap £3/$5 guillotine cutter (sometimes you might even get one for free at a B&M) or a more sophisticated tool from brands like Xikar and Palio. You can also use a punch for “fat” cigars or scissors if you really want to stand out.

Not everyone holds a cigar one single way, but typically you would use your index finger and thumb.  It’s a good idea to remove the band for reasons of smoking etiquette (no need to show how much your cigar is worth) and also so that it doesn’t interfere with your smoking experience later.  It’s easiest to pull off the band several minutes into your smoke since the heat will reduce the adhesion.

To light your cigar, the most orthodoxal way is to use a cigar match (it’s longer than a regular one). Hold the cigar horizontally and, as you light it, rotate the foot (the end that you are supposed to ignite) so that you get a nice, even burn. Toast it well before putting it in your mouth. However, I prefer using a butane torch lighter, it gets the job done faster. Again, work on the foot so all the surface is burning, then enjoy.

The most important thing you can probably learn from this is do not inhale, at all.

The most important thing you can probably learn from this is do not inhale, at all.  It will just make you feel ill. Just keep the smoke in your mouth for a while, savor all the flavors, then slowly exhale. A couple of puffs a minute is the rate at which you will probably want to smoke most cigars.  Again, a cigar is not like a cigarette.  A cigarette is something quick you squeeze into your lunch break in the middle of the day.  A cigar is a chance to unwind, relax, and really immerse yourself in an experience.  Most cigars take about an hour to smoke, give or take.  If the cigar goes out while you’re smoking, don’t fret. Just shake the ash off, relight, and exhale through the cigar to eject the cold smoke.

Another etiquette question which often comes up is what to do with the ash.  There aren’t any rules here, but generally speaking the longer the ash which sticks to a cigar, the better made it is, which is why shaking off ash prematurely is sometimes seen as discourteous.  If you feel like it is starting to obstruct burn or draw, then it’s time to shake it off.  When is the cigar finished?  The last couple of inches usually burn too hot and leave an unpleasant aftertaste. Don’t believe the nonsense that only the first half of a cigar is good – most premium cigars offer a satisfying experience right up until those last couple of inches.  So now you’re ready to go smoke your first cigar – don’t be afraid of making mistakes; most people do but hopefully now you’ll be less likely to.

About the Cigar Inspector

Denis has been blogging about cigars on since 2007, right after he started enjoying this pastime. Over the years, the blog has become a multi-author platform with over 500 cigars reviewed by aficionados from all over the world.