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Pre-Light Ritual

We all have a ritual when it comes to enjoying a premium cigar. For me, it includes scotch and the daily newspaper at the end of a long day. Where, how, and what we smoke has become a standard routine for aficionados to enjoy. In preparing your cigar prior to the initial light, there is a certain romance to the selection and pre-light process that many overlook. Enjoying your cigar starts long before you touch a flame to the foot. Using all of your senses can tell you a great deal about what you can expect from your selection before the cigars are even lit. By the time you complete all of the steps below, you will be extremely well acquainted with your cigar. Such preparation yields more enjoyment as the cigar’s flavor, draw, burn and complexity will be even more noticeable and easier to detect.

First, pick up your cigar, feel it using your hands, and then roll it through your fingers. Does it feel heavy or does it feel loose? This will give you a great sense for how well the cigar is filled.

Second, gently pinch the cigar between your thumb and index finger and work the entire cigar inch by inch. Do you notice any soft or hard spots? If so, you may have potential draw or burn problems.

Third, hold the cigar up to your ear and roll between your fingertips. Do you hear any crackling from inside the cigar? Over-humidified cigars create combustion problems. The filler should quietly pop when pinched.

Fourth, gently cut the cap off the cigar and place it on your tongue. This small piece of tobacco should have a pleasant and clean taste. If not, then the cigar is too tannic and needs further aging.

Fifth, put the head of the cigar in your mouth and draw as you would if the cigar were lit. Is the cigar drawing well? What do you taste? These nuances tend to be a more subtle variation of the cigar’s actual flavor. Aficionados refer to this as the "pre-light flavor and draw."

Sixth, put the foot of the cigar up to your nose and take in the aroma of the premium tobaccos. Can you detect several competing smells? This is referred to as the "pre-light aroma." These competing smells are a great indicator of the cigar’s desirable complexity.

Seventh, thoroughly inspect the cigar visually. Do you see any green or white spots? Is the wrapper heavily marbleized or discolored in places? Quality handmade cigars typically utilize the highest-grade wrappers and do not usually reveal these aesthetic qualities.

Published Wednesday, January 07, 2009 4:40 PM by Alex Svenson



clearlysuspect said:

I tried this last night and it really increased my cigar experience.  Thanks for the tips.
July 16, 2009 8:39 PM

adimeshort said:

Yes, a good middle line scotch like fiddich 15 or a nice peaty islay :) (though may be too much smoke for combo)

though i'll have to disagree with the newspaper ha ha, i'd prefer a breezy day with some nice tree's dancing or birds thermaling :)

good  article, well said, #4 is a interesting idea i hadn't considered.
I apply a similar ritual to all my other wonderful favorites (beer, scotch, espresso, green, dark chocolate... and now i think they are complete with tobacco leaf :)
Life can be damn good no?
September 30, 2009 11:17 AM

facawi said:

There is nothing better than sitting out on the deck or the roof, overlooking everything, and noticing the small nuances of the world after a good day and night.
May 12, 2010 3:44 PM
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About Alex Svenson

I enjoy at least one premium cigar everyday and have the privilege of working directly with every major cigar maker in the industry. I love developing new and exciting cigar blends and bringing only the best this industry has to offer to our Cigar.com clients.

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