Cigar Academy: Should You Relight?

Should I relight my cigarThis is one of the most commonly asked questions- should I relight my cigar or not? The answer isn’t cut and dried. Some cigars will be fine, others might not. And how you go about it will have a lot to do with whether it will work or not. Let’s look at these issues.

What cigars can be relit? The truth is, just about any cigar can be relit, but some will suffer more than others. Additionally, how you go about it will go a long way toward your success, but more on this later. As to which cigars are most problematic, it’s the opposite ends of the spectrum that present the biggest challenges. Very mild cigars have a tough time standing up to the harshness of a relighting as the flavor of the stick isn’t strong enough to overcome the bitterness. Strong cigars can easily become acrid because the spice becomes intensified and the stogie can easily become overpowering. Medium-bodied smokes seem to deal with relighting best. But in every case, how you go about the process makes all the difference.

Relighting, step-by-step. If you do everything possible to limit the negatives, relighting can be successful, but attention has to be paid to the details.

The proper relight is all about getting rid of contaminants. The first thing is to get rid of the ash, and I don’t mean just knocking the grey

ash off the foot. The charring that sits behind the ash is also to blame for the harshness of the cigar upon the next light. The traditional method is to use a matchstick to pick at the foot to excise the blackened tobacco. This isn’t necessarily wrong, but how it’s done is the problem. Usually, the matchstick jabs at the end, but this is where the difficulty begins. By picking and probing, the burnt tobacco gets pushed up into the cigar, and when the stick is relit, the carbonized leaf becomes an agent to foul the unlit tobacco. So, number one, don’t pick with the foot of the match, instead brush the foot with the side of the shaft, flaking off a bit of the black at a time being careful not to push any ash backup into the cigar, but start from the wrapper and don’t go past the center of the filler and repeat while rotating. Going right across the foot will crack the edge of the wrapper leaf causing the foot to burst like a blooming flower.

For many, the best way to remove the burnt tobacco is to use a double guillotine cutter to slice it off. The problem is that the inch or so from the foot is now the driest part of the stick,

Using a cutter to remove the ash from your cigar.

and cutting it will cause a bunch of cracks that will cause the same bursting effect as above. Some may try to solve this by blowing through the cigar to remoisten it. The issue here is that the moisture is more than just water. It contains biological elements, and the smell and taste of these will be quite bad when the cigar is relit.

So, how do you get rid of the dust and ash that is inside? Blow through it. I know that I said that it would contaminate the cigar, but there is a method that will work. Close off your throat and take air into your mouth by opening it wide and put the cigar in your mouth. Expel the air in your mouth by using your cheeks to push it out. By doing this, you’re using relatively fresh air that won’t have enough time to pick up much moisture from your mouth. By closing off your throat, the more moist air from your lungs never gets involved.

Now we get to the hot part. To properly light the cigar, you’ll need to toast the cigar again, but in a different way. This time, don’t toast the foot; toast the edge of the foot with a soft flame, never letting the flame touch the leaf. Blow on the edges to get a bit of a glow and some smoke, then put the cigar in your mouth and puff gently to get it going. The result will still not be like lighting a fresh cigar, but it should be less distasteful. If you absolutely have to use a torch lighter, aim it on an angle away from the foot while going around the perimeter.

It’s not elegant, and it’s not perfect, but it’s better than throwing away an otherwise good cigar. Of course, it might just be a better idea to buy shorter cigars, but, hey, what’s the fun in that?

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About Russ

Russ Ouellette is the blender/creator of the Hearth & Home series of tobaccos for www.pipesandcigars.com in Bethlehem, PA. He has been a pipe smoker and blender for over 30 years, and enjoys feedback from the pipe smoking public. You can reach Russ at russo@pipesandcigars.com or by calling 1-800-494-9144.