Learning how to smoke a cigar properly will add to the enjoyment of the hobby, and allow you to fully appreciate cigars. Most people smoke cigars for the pleasure and relaxation effects they offer, not for a nicotine fix. Smoking a cigar, to some, is a ritual. The one thing to remember is only enjoy a cigar when you have the time to enjoy it, not just smoke it. Much like fine wines and scotches, cigars offer many characteristics to appreciate.

 Some things many cigar aficionados appreciate by properly smoking a cigar are:

  • Overall construction of the cigar.
  • Pre-light aroma, how does the tobacco smell?
  • Firmness of cigar – it should be slightly spongy. If it cracks when slightly squeeze the foot (the end that’s already cut), then your cigar is too dry and most likely no good.
  • How well it cuts when you snip the head off.
  • Pre-light draw – does it draw nice and easy, or is it a challenge to suck air through?
  • Pre-light flavor – notice anything interesting?
  • How easy/well it lights up.
  • How are the first few puffs of the cigar?
  • What flavors are you picking up during the first 3rd?

That’s just a few things many cigar smokers think about when preparing to enjoy a cigar. As you can see, there’s more to just smoking a cigar; it’s a true indulgence and experience.

Let’s start from the beginning… Let’s assume you picked out a good cigar. Follow the below steps to understand how to properly smoke a cigar…

  1. Before you do anything, remove the cigar from the cellophane or cedar wrapper. If your cigar didn’t come wrapped in cellophane or a cedar wrapper, then you’re already one step closer to enjoying your cigar!
  2. Give the cigar an overall sniff. How’s it smell? Are you picking up any flavor aromas? Sniff the foot (the end that’s already cut) – again, notice any particular aromas? See tasting notes below.
  3. Look at the cigar, what do you see? Is the cigar wrapped neatly? Notice any veins in the wrapper of the cigar? How does the overall construction of the cigar appear? You’re probably wondering if you should remove the band. My advice, leave it on, especially if you want to save it. You can remove the band as the cigar burns down towards it. Attempting to remove the band while the cigar is not lit and “cold” will cause the band to wrap. If you wait until you’re smoking the cigar, and as the cigar burns near the band, then you may remove it. The glue that hold the band together generally looses up (due to the warmth of the lit cigar), allowing you to easily un-peel it. Sliding the band off may very well damage your wrapper, so best to un-peel the band.
  4. Now that you’ve carefully inspected your cigar, it’s time to cut the head. Using a guillitine cutter (one of the most common ways of cutting a cigar), snip a port of the head off. You only want to remove enough of the head so that you can draw smoke through the cigar. Generally, no more than 1/8″ should be plenty to snip off.
  5. Give it a pre-light draw. How’s the draw? Is it smooth and easy, or do you find yourself struggling to get air through? If it’s difficult trying to get air through, then snip off another 1/8″. If it’s still a tough draw, then your cigar might be wrapped too tight. If that’s the case, there is nothing you can do, as whoever made the cigar wrapped the binder too tight. You can use a tooth pick and poke a hole down the foot of the cigar to help loosen up some of the tobacco.
  6. You’re now ready to light up your stogie! With your torch lighter (or wooden matches), toast the foot of your cigar. Do not puff on it yet… Simply run the flame around the bottom of the foot, to warm it up. Do this until the foot is good and toasted, usually about 10 seconds of toasting is enough.
  7. Now begin to puff softly while you touch the foot of your cigar with the tip of the flame. Rotate the cigar slowly as you take gentle puffs. Do this until the foot is evenly lit.
  8. Now that your cigar is fully lit, let it sit for about 30 seconds before taking another puff. Smoking a cigar too fast will cause it to burn uneven, burn too hot, or worse, tunnel. If a cigar tunnels, that means you’re smoking it way too fast, as the tobacco on the side is burning faster than the wrapper.

A cigar is divided into thirds: the first third, second third, and third (or final) third. You’ll notice that the cigar will generally change flavors throughout. As you enjoy your cigar, try to pull out those flavors that you’re tasting.

It’s usually a good idea to purge cigar once you get the second third (if it ever begins to taste bad). To purge your cigar, simply blow lightly through the cigar for about 3 seconds. This will remove any harsh flavors that built up in the cigar. Only do this when necessary.

Do not ash your cigar as if it’s a cigarette. A cigar’s ash should be long, and fall off on it’s own. A good solid ash helps keep the smoke cool, and adds to the overall enjoyment of the cigar.

Once you are finished with your cigar, do not stomp it out like a cigarette! If you do that, it will release some foul odors, and others nearby will find it offensive, especially fellow cigar smokers. Always allow a cigar to extinguish on its own.

That’s all there is to enjoying a cigar! You can certainly pair your cigars with different beverages, such as spirits, beer, wine, sodas, lemon water, carbonated water, coffee, etc… Some people even pair cigars with food, such as chocolate. However you enjoy your cigar is up to you. Now go enjoy a good cigar…

Common Cigar Tasting Notes:

  • Caramel
  • Toffee
  • Cocoa
  • Chocolate
  • Bittersweet
  • Sugar
  • Vanilla
  • Molasses
  • Honey
  • Buttery
  • Creamy
  • Fresh Fruit
  • Dried Fruit
  • Black Cherry
  • Blackberry
  • Coffee
  • Licorice/Anise
  • Pepper
  • Cloves
  • Nutmeg
  • Cinnamon
  • Ginger
  • Orange Peel
  • Salt
  • Cedar
  • Oak
  • Wine/Tannic
  • Grass
  • Moss
  • Nuts
  • Floral
  • Citrus
  • Dirt/Earth
  • Peat
  • Tobacco