by | Dec 19, 2023 | Cigars, Leisure

Cigar enthusiasts can be intimidating. The confident, lived-in way they handle a cigar conveys sophistication and experience. And their textbook knowledge of the etiquette and practices surrounding a fine stogie can feel inaccessible to a newcomer.

But here’s a little secret that every budding cigar lover learns at some point: It’s not that hard to handle a cigar. Storing, cutting, lighting, holding and smoking a cigar – like you know what you’re doing – is well within reach for novice smokers. In this article, let’s review a few straightforward tips to keep in your back pocket.

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Proper storage for maximum freshness

The first thing to know is that you need to store your cigar correctly. If you show up to a cigar room or swanky business event holding a dusty, dried-out stogie, people will notice. If they don’t notice visually, they’ll be able to tell once you light that tinder box of a cigar.

Always store your cigar in a dedicated humidor, tupperdor or cigar bag. And always add Boveda humidor packets, which dial in the relative humidity to keep your cigars somewhere around the sweet spot of 65% to 72%.

Smelling, cutting and lighting the cigar

Just like in the movies, the first thing a cigar appreciator will often do is sniff their cigar. This is the same for any fine product – wine, scotch whisky, a Piedmont white truffle, etc. You’re aiming to take in the subtle aromas of the wrapper while getting a sneak peek at what you can expect from the smoke.

Next, you cut your cigar. For this, you’ll need a quality guillotine cutter that slices swiftly and precisely. You can read Cigar Aficionado’s roundup of the best cutters at this link.

Finally, you move on to the main event: lighting your fine cigar. Put away that dollar store lighter and find a butane torch lighter, which won’t leave any off-tastes behind. Gently twist your cigar clockwise and counterclockwise as you light the foot of the cigar, gently drawing air from the cut cap. When you see an even ember, your cigar is sufficiently lit.

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How to hold a cigar

We won’t spend too much time on this point because, at the end of the day, few modern cigar smokers care how you hold a cigar. It used to be a matter of etiquette in the olden days. Now, as long as you aren’t munching on the end of the cigar or holding it with your mouth, you can grasp the stogie however you please. Common holds include the scissor hold (between your index and middle fingers), the pinch (between your thumb and index) and the full-fingered hold (using all your fingers as if you’re holding a hot dog).

Smoking your stogie

As you smoke your cigar, remember two cardinal rules (and an optional third). One, puff gently. It’s not a race, and overly aggressive puffing can lead to a fast burn, while obscuring the subtler flavor notes.

Two, never inhale. Unlike cigarettes, cigars aren’t meant for inhalation; breathing in cigar smoke can leave you feeling sick and looking amateurish. Finally, many cigar enthusiasts will take the band off their cigar after a handful of puffs – it allows you to smoke the cigar without a flashy distraction, and makes for a neat collectible afterwards.   

Follow these steps, and your fellow cigar smokers will assume you’ve been doing this for decades.

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