lighting up a cigar with cedar shavings

Lighting up a Cigar: Nothing to it

Let’s be quite clear: lighting a cigar is not an art form. But, still, from time to time even experienced cigar smokers have a hard time lighting them.


The wrong instrument, unfavorable wind conditions or unbridled haste before smoking suffice to denature the pleasure of enjoyment. In the last three and a half years, I’ve seen people light their beloved cigars in the strangest of ways … from the stove technique to using the barbecue.

But we don’t want to go into that further here. I just want to recap on some basics for the sake of completeness. Don’t light your cigar in the flame but on the flame. Depending on the intensity of the lighter/flame, one rotates the lighting end, at a slight angle, just over the top of the flame – about three millimeters (1/8 inches) above a soft flame, or about 12 to 25 millimeters (1/2–1 inches) above a jet flame or torch. Using a torch, one can also – the other way around – hold the cigar still and move the flame in a circular motion so that the burning end is made to glow from outside to inside.

xikar torch lighters allume pearl single flame black white

Photo: Xikar, Inc

When lighting a cigar, there are actually only two things to be aware of. First: we want to create the most even glow possible. Second: under all circumstances, we want to avoid charring the outside of the wrapper. That’s it. Should the cigar go out during smoking, simply remove the loose ash and repeat the lighting process.

The Instruments

Matches: The head of a match contains sulfur (actually odorless; only the gaseous sulfur compounds smell), which releases sulfur dioxide when it burns, and which then smells quite strong. If you’re going to use a match, then only use those made from wood, and please wait until the head of the match is completely burning.

Candles: Ninety percent of all candles are made from paraffin and release substances such as toluene, benzene and, above all, carbon – all of which are substances that we don’t want in our cigar because they smell terrible. That’s why cigars and candles don’t mix!

Cedar shavings: a harmless instrument, albeit somewhat complicated and tedious to use.

Lighters: Gas: no! It doesn’t matter how nice the lighter sounds, the gas smell in the cigar ruins the pleasure. There are numerous types of gas lighters that are constructed for all kinds of imaginable situations: so-called soft-flame lighters (those with a soft flame) and jet-flame lighters (also called torches). Both kinds come with one, two or even three flames.

In several print issues of Cigar Journal (e.g. 2/2014), we present an overview of the various models, their value for money, use and maintenance. One important aspect I’d like to dedicate space to here, though, is namely the “right” gas, because the functionality and lifespan of a lighter are closely linked.

The Best Gas?

Lighter fluid normally consists of butane, isobutene, propane and vaporized butane. A misconception that persists among cigar smokers is that the more often the gas is refined, the better the lighter works. In truth, however, the number of refining processes alone is no testimony to the quality. It depends on whether and what kinds of foreign substances or impurities there are in the gas. (Note: the purest gas loses quality if it is filled into a dirty container).

It depends on whether and what kinds of foreign substances or impurities there are in the gas.

While researching the quality of the refills available on the market I noticed that not many providers give exact details about the purity of their gases. One exception is Xikar; the company communicates the values openly on their website. This creates trust.

A British test laboratory found residual amounts of between one and several hundred parts per million (ppm) of foreign substances in various products. A product by Ronson, with 224 ppm, faired quite badly in this field. In comparison: in the Purofine by Xikar, there is less than 15 ppm, according to providers. In various forums, the preferred products seem to be those from Colibri, Lucienne, Vector and Xikar. But good gases are not cheap. You can spend between EUR 3.50 and 12.50 per 100 milliliters (1.9 oz.). The larger the container, however, the cheaper the contents.

How To

There are any number of “how to light a cigar” videos on YouTube. The instructions from the Xikar founder for various lighter types are also very enlightening. Just search for the name Kurt van Keppel on Xikar’s Youtube Channel.


Xikar, Inc.



Vector Lighters  – KGM Industries Co., Inc.


This article was published in the Cigar Journal Spring Edition 2014. Read more

His journalistic career began in 1979 as a freelancer for German-language newspapers in the US, and later for Austrian media including Die Wochenpresse and Das Wirtschaftsblatt. For ten years he also produced programs for over 60 radio stations around the world. In 1994, Reinhold C. Widmayer devoted himself to all things cigar, publishing technical articles in cigar magazines. He began working for Cigar Journal in 2001 and became editor-in-chief in 2005; under his auspices the journal has established itself as the world’s leading cigar magazine.


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