How to smoke a cigar

Many may have once smoked a cigar, whether at a wedding or to see in the New Year. But it takes true understanding to light and smoke a cigar properly to get maximum flavor from the tobacco blend. It doesn’t matter whether you have one or hundreds of stogies occupying space in your humidor — every cigar is smoked in the same way, no matter its shape or size.

Toasting and tasting a cigar for the first time can be intimidating for cigar novices. But once you’ve mastered the basics, the cigar world is your oyster. Learn how to smoke a cigar to enjoy your passion to the full. Not only will it make every puff worthwhile, but it will contribute sophistication and style to your pastime.

Before we look into the best way to smoke a stogie, let’s look at some tips for beginners to help you choose a cigar that makes your first time smoking a cigar even easier.

How to choose a cigar for a beginner

Light cigars are a beginner’s best friend and a great (and affordable) way to ease into your new hobby. Full-bodied smokes are often too strong for a first-timer, so put them on the back burner until you’ve developed your palate.

It’s important not to be swayed by the look of a cigar — instead, focus on its taste and aroma. Ask your cigar retailer for a few recommendations, bring each stick to your nose, and take a deep breath. The aroma of a cigar is a good indicator of the cigar’s flavor profile, so try a few to gauge what kind of aromas and flavors pique your interest.

New smokers are best off with a classic parejos. Their traditional cylindrical cigar shape with straight sides gives an even burn throughout, and most come with an open foot for easy lighting.

Once you’ve decided on your cigar, inspect it for quality. It should feel smooth when you roll it in your fingers, with no cracks or discolorations. Give it a gentle squeeze to make sure there is a uniform solidness to it. Any soft or hard spots point to inconsistency and poor construction.

Now you’ve picked your stogie, let’s light up and get smoking.

Important cigar smoking preparation

Before you take your first draw, there are several accessories you’ll need to get the cigar prepped for smoking. Use a butane gas lighter or matches to light your cigar — the foot is the end you toast, while the cap or head is the where you bring it to your mouth.

Cut above the cap with a cigar cutter before smoking — cut too low, and you risk getting loose tobacco in your mouth. To complete your smoking experience, you’ll also need the humble (and sometimes overlooked) ashtray. Offering a place to rest your cigar in between puffs and contain the ashes, it’s essential for any budding cigar enthusiast.

How do you properly smoke a cigar?

Now you know the basics of a well-constructed cigar and the items you’ll need to prepare it for smoking, it’s time for the main event. Ironically, the first thing you should do isn’t to puff in the smoke but to blow the “old” smoke out. This will make your first draw extremely enjoyable, as it eliminates ammonia and other bitter substances that gather on the foot of the cigar.

If this is your first time toasting a stogie, we’d recommend starting with a clear palate. This is because lingering traces of drink or food can contaminate the cigar’s taste.

How do you hold a cigar?

Hold your cigar between your index finger and thumb on your dominant hand. Before lighting, test the draw by placing the cigar in your mouth and inhaling. If no air moves through the stick, try cutting the cigar more to improve the draw.

Do you inhale cigars?

One of the most important things to remember is not to inhale cigar smoke. Inhaling cigar smoke is detrimental to your health, and the horrible coughing due to the thick and potent smoke will mar your experience.

The key is to draw in through your mouth like you’re sucking on a straw. Let the smoke sit in your mouth for a few seconds so you can enjoy the scent and taste before gently releasing it.

Cigars are meant to be enjoyed, so take your time between puffs. A puff a minute for beginners is spot on, but do whatever makes you feel comfortable. Remember to extend the time between puffs once you’re halfway down the stogie, as this is when things heat up.

Smoking too fast can cause burn issues, so closing off your nasal passage and puffing every 60 seconds ensures the filler tobaccos burn consistently and enhance the expected flavors. Most importantly, it prevents cigar nausea. 

When to ash a cigar

Avoid the instinct to tap off the ash. Ash on the end of the cigar prevents your stick from overheating or burning too fast. At the very least, let the ash grow to about an inch before gently tapping it against the ashtray.

Tapping too hard on the ashtray can break the wrapper, so enjoy the fun of seeing how long you can retain the ash.

What should I do if my cigar stops burning?

A common issue for beginners is knowing what to do if their stogies stop burning. Don’t worry — this is normal, especially when you’re past the halfway mark. To fix this issue, make sure the ash isn’t loose or about to spill on your lap, and if necessary, make it fall by following the instructions above.

You’ll then be required to purge or “refresh” the cigar by gently exhaling through it to get rid of the cold smoke. You’re then good to light up the cigar as you would a new one.

When to stop smoking a cigar

Never feel pressured to finish your cigar, particularly if it’s your first. Your body isn’t likely to be accustomed to the amount of nicotine, which could make you sick. Smoke your cigar and enjoy it. If it becomes unpleasant or you begin to lose any sense of enjoyment, quit while you’re ahead and put it out. Place the cigar in the ashtray lit-side down and let it slowly burn away.

Of course, if you can’t get enough of your first time smoking a cigar, you can enjoy it down to the nub. The time to put it out is generally during the last two inches when the cigar begins to give off too much heat and leaves an unpleasant aftertaste in your mouth.

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