I can remember a time when the only option for lighting a cigar, pipe, cigarette, gas stove, etc. was a wooden kitchen match. Lighters were very rudimentary and not very reliable in those days. My mother and grandmother used to keep a small metal box with a lid next to the stove and strike a match to fire it up. My father and grandfather only used matches for their cigars and/or when smoking pipes.
Having been a cigar and pipe smoker for the better part of 30 years, I’ve owned my share of lighters. That being said, I actually prefer wooden matches for lighting my pipe. However, when outside or driving, butane lighters are much easier and safer to use. Butane burns clean and does not impart any flavor or aroma of fuel.
The match flame burns “cooler” in respect to a butane lighter and you have greater control over the flame movement when lighting a pipe. Butane burns at a temperature of between 2,000° F to 3,500° F. Typically a match will burn at 1,000° F to 1,400° F. Plus, a match will less likely scorch the rim of the pipe.
While I sometimes use matches to light a cigar, I prefer using those one, two or three (sometimes even four or five) flame torch butane lighters. They are easier and faster. The down side I find to these fancy butane torch lighters is that they don’t work very well and are expensive ($15 to $100+ range, sometimes even as high as $400 to $800 for the Dunhill or Davidoff lighters). I’ve owned several Colibri butane pipe lighters and have not had the best of luck with them.
I own five or six IMCO G77R lighters and a Corona Pipemaster (brass) with Pipe Shapes on the sides. These lighters have been very reliable and have provided excellent service over the years. The IMCO lighter is made by Prometheus and are very reasonably priced at around $15.00. They use the old flint style lighting method, which in my opinion is be better than the “electronic” lighting system found in many of the torch lighters. The electronic function seems to be the “Achilles’ Heel” to these lighters. Plus they tend to suffer from air locks, so you have to bleed the lighter before refilling and using…way to temperamental for me.
In all honesty I can’t discuss lighters without mentioning Zippo. Zippo lighters have been around since the 30’s and have a long and wonderful history in the US and worldwide. They manufacture all kinds of themes and are very reliable and highly collectible. However, I’ve never really got into Zippo lighters. The fuel used can impart an unpleasant flavor and aroma. Even with improvements in the quality of the fuel, there are still flavor issues.
For Father’s Day in 2010, I received a cigar lighter from my wife. It’s an Eternity ZR-88, which I’d never heard of, but it’s very attractive and works nicely. I found out that this brand and model of lighter cost around $40, not bad! I’ve paid double that for other butane lighters, only to have them stop working six months after purchase.
The long running debate over what’s better, lighters or matches will likely continue. As for me, I use both depending on the situation. When lighting my pipes I prefer wooden kitchen matches, but there is a time and place for butane and fuel lighters.