How to Smoke a Cigar: The Essential Cigar Etiquette Guide

A pair of cigars from Havana House

If you are going to become an aficionado, then it’s essential that you know the basics as far as etiquette is concerned. It’s the norm, and certainly expected in most lounges around the world that these timeless sets of unwritten rules should be adhered to if you are to become a fine stogie representative.

We aren’t suggesting that a cigar lounge is only reserved for anyone who conducts themselves with that stiff upper lip approach, however, there is a certain degree of ‘healthy’ guidelines that will instantly assist in you evolving into a more refined and well-educated cigar smoker.

Let’s delve into the world of cigars and take on board the essential cigar etiquette tips every smoker needs to know:


Cigar Preparation

As far as preparing your cigar is concerned, you need to start by cutting the cap with a genuine cigar cutter such as a cigar punch, double blade cutter, or a V-cutter. There should never be any excuse for the use of a Stanley or pen knife, and an ultimate faux pas would be to bite-off the cap – just, no! – and to reinforce this point, it’s simply bad taste, and biting the cap? Well, it’s uncouth and can also bring about a host of issues that will affect your cigar, predominantly unravelling complications.

When you are toasting the foot of your stogie, don’t rush things and ensure you hold the flame as far away from the foot as you can get away that still allows your cigar’s tobacco to char. For torch lighter users, take extra precaution, as your cigar can quickly become a wreck if you get too close with one of these flames.

Your cigar should remain in your hand, not in your mouth, when lighting as this gives you full scope in terms of what you are doing. Once the foot takes on a red glow, gently blow on the glowing area which will help to spread the heat evenly. Expect to put in some extra toasting on some brands, particularly for those who have selected a cigar with a lot of oily ligero tobacco as part of their blend; the black-looking leaves, in case you needed to know.

The notes to take away here are to relax, and show attention to detail. If you just whip it out, stick it in your mouth and light up cigarette-esque, overcooking can occur, more often than not resulting in a less than impressive light, paired with an undesirable bitter smoke.

The actual smoke

Whether you are an existing smoker, or you are new to the world of the stogie, you should aim to draw on the cigar at least once every 60-120 seconds. By doing this you are allowing your cigar to cool down a little, while also opening up the chance for you to pick-up the aromas and flavours that your cigar’s blender envisioned. Aside from the technicalities, one of cigar smoking’s main appeals is its purpose of relaxation, so just take your time and enjoy. The last thing you want to happen is to get to the end of a cigar that you were looking forward to, only for it to come up short of the mark because of your hasty approach.

The approach to ash

You’ll find many a stogie smoker enjoys little more than seeing how long a stretch of ash on their cigar they can get. There are literally no benefits to this and you’re just lining yourself up to get ‘ashed’, which is not a good look and is easily avoided. As a rule, it’s worth just allowing yourself to live by the rule of ‘any more than an inch of ash is too much’. As soon as you reach the one inch mark, gently give the stogie a tap over the ashtray to remove the ash. Rolling the ash on the wall of an ashtray as a means to shape a tidy cone is a nice tip too. Tapping on the floor is absolutely off limits, in fact that goes for your hand, your empty whisky tumbler, or the plant pot as well! 

Watch Jimmy Fallon break all of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Cigar Rules: 


Extinguishing your cigar

There are those who want to savour everything they can from their cigar, and that can mean smoking it all the way down to the very last point possible. However, this isn’t always a good thing to do as the flavour can be lost, and although it is perfectly fine, you don’t want to be drawing on a smoke that has begun to turn bitter within in the last inch or so.

Once you have reached the end of your cigar, all you should do is lay the butt in the ashtray saddle and your stogie will extinguish by itself. If you proceed to snuff it out personally, it will cause a sour odour to arise as well as leaving an unsightly mess.

Chain Smoking

Our final point is associated with the quick-fire lighting of a cigar following the previous one being finished. This isn’t frowned upon, but it’s a good idea to let your palate enjoy break! Ideally, you want to give a minimum grace period of 30 minutes prior to preparing your next cigar. Consider cleansing your palate with a refreshing beverage such as a lime and soda. If you opt to chain smoke you will quickly suffer palate burnout, which is avoidable and unnecessary, and regardless of how alluring that first stogie was, they won’t taste the same if you don’t allow for a suitable rest period.

As we have touched on previously, and will do so again, smoking a cigar is tied closely to relaxation and allowing oneself to enjoy the rich base of aromas and flavours. Choose to take your time while smoking as well as during palate-cleansing periods. Treat your cigars like fine wine and not the bargain booze 8-pack on special offer! Give your smoke the respect it deserves and reap the benefits.

We hope this will start you on the path to success in the cigar world and try to remember to follow these guidelines.  As they say, if something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing properly!


Video courtesy of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon/YouTube.

2 thoughts on “How to Smoke a Cigar: The Essential Cigar Etiquette Guide

  1. Pingback: The Complete Guide to Cigar Smoking for Beginners | Havana House

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