Cigar smokers all across the world often argue what is the best fuel to ignite a cigar. Some like wooden matches in that they burn cleanly with no gas that can contribute to the taste of the cigar. Others like the convenience that flame lighters provide over matches and do not feel that proper gas contributes to the smoke. While others prefer torch lighters which burn strong, more evenly and are resistant to wind, others argue that torch lighters burn too hot and often scorch the cigar. Then you have a different class of purist smokers that prefer to light a stick of cedar with a match, and then light the cigar from the burning stick of cedar to get a little bit of spice from the cedar.
While there are many types of flames that can be used to light a cigar, the proper way to prime a cigar is generally less debated. With the flame of your choice lit, slowly rotate the open end of cigar (also known as the foot of the cigar) just above the flame. Priming a cigar heats up the tobacco's natural oils, evenly distributing them across the end of the cigar. Next, without allowing the flame to touch the cigar, hold the flame ½ inch from the end of the cigar while gently rotating the cigar and beginning to puff it. This allows the heat of the flame to slowly and evenly be drawn into the cigar, creating a slow, smooth and even burn. Direct exposure to the fire, rapid puffing during the initial light, or not rotating the cigar can cause the cigar to light too quickly, ignite unevenly, and burn too hot. Burning a cigar too hot, also known as 'roasting' a cigar, can create a harsh taste which can carry through until the end of the cigar. Slow and steady wins the race!
While smoking the cigar, it is important to pay attention to the ash of the cigar and handle it properly. Unlike cigarettes, it is not considered proper etiquette to frequently flick or tap the ash of a cigar, as that can interfere with the even and consistent "cherry" of the cigar. Rather, smokers should be patient with their cigar -- not ashing until the ash is about an inch long, or a crack in the ash begins to develop. When ashing, rest the side of the ash of the cigar gently against the inner part of the ashtray, and gently rotate the cigar while slowly pressing the ash into the ashtray. This should allow the ash to break off evenly, almost in a twisting-off motion without it breaking off unevenly or being pressed into the 'cherry' of the cigar could affect the way the rest of the cigar smokes. While it is generally good to smoke a cigar all the way through to completion, if you need to take a break, avoid extinguishing the cigar as you would with a cigarette. Rather, place the cigar down in an ashtray and within a couple of minutes it should slowly put itself out.
With lighting and ashing of the cigar down to a tee, you can now enjoy the cigar like a connoisseur. While smoking the cigar, gently puff and take note of the flavors. Move the smoke around in your mouth and slowly exhale taking note of the richness, complexity and spices of the cigar. Do you notice any interesting flavors? Chocolates, cognacs, vanillas, or caramels? Is the cigar spicy, sweet, roasted, or smooth? Does the cigar have any earthy, woody, or nutty flavors? What about fruity and sweet flavors? How does the construction of the cigar feel in your hand and your mouth and you puff and enjoy the cigar? Is there a nice color and build up of oil as you smoke it? How does the color, sturdiness and evenness of the ash look?
It is generally best to smoke the entire cigar in one sitting, as letting a cigar go out for an extended period of time and then relighting it can provide stale and harsh flavors. As you progress through the cigar, flavors will change with the cigar smoking a little bit hotter and richer as it gets shorter, and the oils from the first half of the cigar building up into the second half of the cigar. As a result, many connoisseurs consider the remaining ½ to ¼ of the cigar to be the best part, as it contains the buildup of oils and flavor from the rest of the cigar, while others may find the end of the cigar a little bit too strong for their liking.
Avoid the temptation to smoke the cigar too fast and "hot-box" it. Similarly, do not smoke the cigar too slow or you will not be maintaining an even temperature and distribution of oils burned off of the cigar which will lead to the cigar going out and a less even flavor. And most important of all, kick back with some good company, tell a couple of jokes, relax and enjoy a nice drink with your cigar.