Comprehensive Cigar Reviews

Cigar 101 - Cigar How-to, Tips & Techniques

Cigar Tasting

Toasting & Lighting Cigars

Why toast your cigar before lighting it?  In short, it allows the tobacco to warm slowly enough to be able to light the cigar without making it taste bitter.  (Sounds strange but you don't want to scorch your cigar)  It also helps the burn start and remain even throughout.

When toasting hold the foot of the cigar away from the direct flame but close enough to start to toast/char the edge of the tobacco at the foot. If you hold the foot too close to the flame or right up to the flame you will not only scorch the foot,  you also will change the flavor of the wrapper.  Most people toast between 30-60 seconds.  Make sure you toast the edge of the cigar evenly.  (Rotate while toasting)  My preferred approach to toasting is to toast the cigar to the point where it is basically lit completely.  If done so correctly, the cigar will keep its intended flavor.

If you choose to toast your cigar in the standard way, now you are ready to light the cigar.  First, the lighting should be quicker now that the cigar is toasted.  Light the cigar with indirect heat from the flame on the tip of the foot.  (You don't need the flame close)  Now draw on the cigar while lighting for about three or four draws.  Make sure you rotate the cigar while drawing to allow for an even burn.  No need to over light your cigar!!

I like to blow on the foot after lighting to ensure the light is good and to even the burn.  (The foot of the cigar will glow evenly.)  I prefer to then take the first draw to check the flavors.  Now you should be set up for a great smoking experience.


Notice the darker tobacco seam to the left of the cutter blades.

Tasting Tips & Tools

It may sound silly but tasting cigar flavors is harder than it seems.  With a few tips and tools you too can taste the full compliment of flavors your cigar offers.

As we have stated, the lighting process is important to ensure you don't start off with bitterness.  But once you light your cigar, how do you get all of these flavors people talk about?  Below are hints to improve your smoking fun...

  • Draw slowly on your cigar and don't overheat it
    • Often people draw too many times at once and draw too often
    • Draw once a minute or less...each cigar is different but some are best to sit for a 1-2 minutes before the next draw
  • Move the smoke around in your mouth to get to your taste buds
  • Release smoke from your nose as well as your mouth
    • I often have mouth only, nose only, and combo mouth and nose draws
      • The combo tends to provide the best flavors
  • Focus on the flavors
    • Take your time, close your eyes once in a while and enjoy the flavors
  • Pair carefully
    • If you pair a strong drink with your cigar it will likely overpower the cigar flavors
  • Look at a list of flavors while you smoke
    • This is very important as your mind may need a little extra help to identify all of the flavors your cigar provides

To help our community, Cigar Audit is posting a Cigar Tasting Checklist.  This is one step beyond the typical flavor wheel...  Now you can check off the flavors you are noticing each third you smoke.  Feel free to rate your cigars Cigar Audit style. 

The most important thing to remember is to relax and enjoy cigar smoking, that is what it is all about. 


Cutting A Cigar

Cutting Your Cigars

What can be more important than cutting your cigar correctly?  Not much! 

If you do not cut your cigar correctly it will either unwrap, draw poorly, build up tar, and potentially allow loose tobacco to pull from the head of the cigar. 

First you need to start with a good tool.  Cheap cutters only risk your cigar so that is something not to go cheap on.  Xikar and Colibri tend to make the best cutters on the market and are very sharp which is key!

Now line up your cutter blades to be placed above the cap with moderate pressure.  (Closer to the end of the cigar vs. the middle.)  The cap can be found at the head of the cigar usually with a distinct line or two (or three) going about 1/8 of an inch from the head of the cigar.  It is very important NOT to cut the cigar below the cap as the cigar will likely unravel.  Once the blades are lined up cut the cigar with a quick strong motion.  Be careful not to pull the cutter away while cutting as that can create issues with the wrapper. 

Now that you have a clean cut on the head of the cigar, lightly blow on the cut edge to help remove loose tobacco.  Another trick I was taught by a Cuban roller what to lightly dampen your thumb (It's my cigar so I quickly lick my thumb) and dab the cut edge to remove the remaining tobacco.  (Nobody wants to eat tobacco) 

Now check the draw of your cigar.  If you feel as if you need to cut the cigar a little more due to a tight draw, repeat the steps above.  Just be careful not to cut below the cap! 

Now it is time to toast and light your cigar to enjoy a great experience.