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4 Tips for Lighting a Cigar

For new smokers, lighting a cigar can seem as daunting as learning to choose a good single. Here are four tips to guide you in lighting a cigar for the first time.

1. Use cedar matches, if possible. If you prefer to use a lighter, make sure it's butane lighter to avoid strong odors.

2. Warm the open end of the cigar (aka 'the foot' of the cigar) slowly over the flame, without touching it to the fire. Let a black ring form around the end.

3. Place the cigar in your mouth and draw in slowly. Hold the cigar over the flame, about half an inch above it, again without touching. Continue to draw in until the cigar draws the flame. Turn the cigar slowly, spinning it to establish an even burn.

4. Once your cigar is lit, take it out of your mouth and observe the burn you have established. If the burn appears to be uneven, simply blow on the unlit sections to draw the burn, and then take one or two draws from the cigar to reestablish an even burn.

A Short History of Cigars and Tobacco

Have you ever wondered where cigars were first produced? It is widely believed that cigars were first produced in Spain. But before cigars became all the rage in Europe, tobacco was needed to make them. Tobacco is indigenous to the Americas, where native peoples have produced it for hundreds of years. It is believed that the Maya of Yucatan peninsula in Mexico and parts of Central America cultivated tobacco, and even smoked it! Tobacco use spread to other tribes, both north and south. It is believed that its first use in the United States was probably among the tribe along the Mississippi. It wasn't until Christopher Columbus sailed his famous voyage to the Americas in 1492 that the rest of the world came to know tobacco.

It is said that Columbus was not impressed by tobacco or its use among native peoples, but many sailors grew found of the strange plant. Soon it quickly caught on in Spain and Portugal. From there, it spread to France, where the French ambassador Jean Nicot lent his name to the scientific name for tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum). The origins of the word tobacco itself are still suspect, although many believe it is simply a corruption of the word Tobago, which is the name of a Caribbean island. Still others believe it comes from the word Tabasco, a region (and now state) in Mexico.

The first tobacco plantation in the United States was established in Virginia in 1612. More tobacco plantations followed in Maryland soon after. Although tobacco became a popular crop, it was only smoked in pipes. The cigar was not introduced to the United States until the late 18th century. Israel Putnam, an army general who had served in the Revolutionary War, is credited with introducing the cigar to the United States. He had traveled to Cuba after the Revolutionary War and returned with a box of Cuban cigars. Their popularity quickly spread, and soon enough cigar factories were established in the area of Harford, Connecticut, where General Putnam resided.

In Europe, cigar production and consumption did not achieve widespread popularity until after the Peninsula War in the early 19th century. British and French veterans returned to their homelands after years of serving in Spain with their tobacco pipes in tow. Among the rich and fashionable, the favored method of taking tobacco was the cigar. Cigar smoking remains a habit associated with the rich and discriminating of upper society.

Tasting the World: Cigar's From Different Countries

Most everyone is familiar with the much-lauded flavor of Cuban cigars. But how do you know if you're smoking a Cuban cigar, or a cigar from any other country for that matter? For those new to the world of cigar smoking, you should know that every cigar-producing country has its own unique flavor and character. The soil quality and the way the tobacco is produced and rolled contribute to the overall flavor of the finished product.

One must of course allow for significant regional variety, here are some very basic guidelines for getting to know the world's flavors.
The famous Cuban cigars are renowned for their smoothness and 'creamy' flavors. They are applauded for their rich flavors and overall premium quality. Cigars from Central American countries like Honduras and Nicaragua are known to be strong and rich in flavor. Caribbean countries like Jamaica and the Dominican Republic are known for their milder flavors.

Whatever country you purchase from, remember that a good way to gauge the overall flavor of a cigar is to note its diameter and length. In general, cigars with a thicker diameter will have a richer flavor. Longer cigars are generally cooler.