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Cigar Cutting and Lighting Tips

cigar-cutterCutting and lighting a cigar is like any other skill: it takes practice to perfect it. First, I recommend that you get a good cutter that will not become dull after repeated use. A dull cutter will simply maul the cigar, not cut it, and you can easily ruin an otherwise good smoke. A double-edged guillotine cutter is perhaps the best method of cutting. Place the cigar firmly against both blades, and clip the head off with a quick stroke. The double-blade setup achieves the cleanest cut possible with t he least amount of damage to your cigar.

A single-blade guillotine achieves the same kind of open-ended cut, but the cutting edge can press unevenly against the cigar and distort its shape, sometimes even tearing the wrapper.

Using your teeth is acceptable if you don't have any other cutting device. Try not to tear the wrapper, but otherwise, there is no real safety procedure you can follow with a blind bite. Chow down! (you may want to practice your technique a few times on a White Owl or Swisher Sweet before attempting to bite into an expensive Macanudo or Davidoff)

Now we're ready to light. Whichever method you select, there are some precautions to take. Never let the flame actually touch the cigar. Rotate the cigar slightly over the flame tip so that you light the entire foot of the cigar. Blow through the cigar after embers appear on the end to blow out any odors that may have come from the lighter or match.

Wooden matches are one of the best ways to light a cigar. Always let the sulfur burn off before you attempt to light the cigar. Bring the tip of the flame about 1/2 inch under the cigar's foot. Try using two or three matches at once to get a broader flame, and a better light.

Butane lighters work well, and they are more common among cigar smokers today. They burn with an even flame, and some lighters, made specifically for cigars, actually come with two burners to increase the size of the flame. Some lighters are windproof, making them more portable and useable for outdoor smokes.

Some lighters are less than ideal. A fluid-fuel lighter must be used very carefully: If you draw the fumes through the cigar it can affect the taste.

Puff gently, rotating the cigar as you take your first 4 or 5 puffs. Keep an eye on the cigar throughout the smoke, making sure it burns evenly. An uneven burn (called "tunneling") will cause the flavors to clash, resulting in a sour or bitter smoke. I f necessary, apply light flame to the unburned edges, evening out the burn. Relighting is ok, but try to relight within an hour or so of the cigar going out. Anything beyond that usually results in a harsh smoke. When relighting, use the same care and safety as when lighting for the first time.

These rules are, of course, subject to preference. The most important thing is to light the cigar completely, and keep the burn even. Following these rules will help you enjoy your smoke to the fullest. Most of all, remember to relax. This isn't a test. This isn't a class. You won't be graded, so kick back and focus on the flavors and aroma, and you will soon be left with heady enjoyment.

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