Big Ronnie’s Cigar 101: Cutters and Lighters

Big Ronnie is back smoke fans. In my last post, we reviewed some basics about cigar care and aging. We also reviewed ways to store premium hand-rolled cigars and some basic humidor types. Assuming that our readers have the basics down and are now ready to get a little flashy, the topic of this post will be accessories (cutters, lighters, etc).

What’s the difference between a soft flame lighter and a torch?
Why wouldn’t you use a punch cutter on a torpedo?
How much do I have to spend to get a blah blah blah blah….

All your questions will be answered grasshoppers. After this post, all you have to do is pick the price range for your new goodies and infuse your own personal stye into your choices. Floss. Go fancy. Get extravagant. Or not. Completely up to you.

Many cigar accessories are geared to either personal or shared use. We’ll review what is reasonable to share and travel with, and what is best for home or club use. Will you share your new toys? I think you will.

Cigar accessories serve a greater role than merely prepping your cigar to be enjoyed. They are a reflection of your own style and often inspire more conversation than cigars themselves. Pick up any copy of Cigar Aficionado magazine, you will see pages of accessory reviews, from affordable, entry-level items, to items that are to be wished about as they are unattainable to most.

OK Big Ronnie, I think I’d like to purchase a quality cigar lighter, what should I get?

Before you make any accessory choice, you have to consider the lifestyle of the owner and try to estimate the actual (not intended) use.

Where will you keep it?
Will you travel with it?
How often will you use it?
Do you want it to be a conversation piece?

Depending on the user and preference of style, you have several different lighter types available. There are many manufacturers of many lighter styles. Some manufacturers have large lines of varied lighters, others only specialize in the high end. Even though it may seem counter-intuitive, cigarette lighters should not be used to light cigars. Cigar lighters typically have larger/multiple flames and require more butane than cigarette lighters. Even traditional lighters like Zippos, while about as Americana as it gets, are not well suited to handling cigars due to using liquid gas, as the smell that may be transferred to your cigar.

  • There are 2 flame choices when it comes to lighters. Soft flame and torch.
  • Soft flame lighters are like candle light and have a soft orange/yellow flame.
  • Torch lighters are jet based (and have a hissing noise when lit) and use more butane than soft flame lighters and typically have more than one jet. Three or even five flame torches are common.

My favorite torch cigar lighter is the Rocky Patel 5 Burner Torch. Technically, a table lighter (to be used by multiple smokers at a time), it has 3 different size cigar punches (cutters) in the base and holds a ton of butane (I unfortunately lost mine to the TSA when I forgot it on a carry-on flight back from Vegas in ’05. Booooo). Basic, single flame torches start at about $5 for disposable models and about $25 for refillable, more presentable models. The most expensive (generally available) torch out there is about $120.

Soft flame lighters are the most popular choice and are offered by every manufacturer. You can purchase basic soft flame lighters from manufacturers like Colibri or Prometheus. Prices on basic soft flame lighters start at about $20 and will cost upward of $120 for premium models. There are literally hundreds of styles to choose from and you really are only limited by your imagination and budget.

What about nicer than premium Ronnie?
Well, if you want to go crazy, or just hit the lottery, there are may ways you can floss with cigar accessories. Gold plated, hand inlaid cigar bands, jeweled, Chinese lacquer, and about 50 other unnecessary options are available. I went a little nuts about 10 years ago when I bought the lighter I still carry. The company is S.T. Dupont and my gunmetal finish solid brass lighter is a beast. This Ligne2 (dual flamed cigar lighter) is a favorite and has never clogged or let me down. My Dupont is a discontinued model and is currently selling for more than the $650 I paid for mine.

Also, keep in mind that when you buy a quality lighter, you should make sure you pick up the case. The matching crocodile skin leather case for my S.T. Dupont Ligne2 lighter is $150. Yes, $800 is unnecessary for a cigar lighter, but in my position as the sexiest Ambassador for the Cigar Rights of America out there, I light a lot of cigars and I insist on impressing. One piece of advice for those investing in a quality cigar lighter – do not fly internationally with them in your carry-on. Domestically, the TSA recognizes cigar accessories and will not confiscate them, but internationally it’s the wild West. Play it safe and check your lighters every time.

What about cutters Big Ronnie, do you have some crazy cigar cutter you roll with?
Of course, but we”ll get to that in a minute.

A cigar cutter is a device with a blade of some sort that prepares a cigar to be lit. The goal for most cigars is to remove the smallest amount of tobacco possible in order to draw the smoke through the cigar. Most cigar cutters accomplish this through the use of blades. Single blade guillotine-style cutters have been popular and classy for over 100 years. Double blade cutters are the most popular styles among affordable ($10-$50) cutters. Some manufacturers even make crazy, geometric-looking three blade cutters. Another type of blade cutter is cigar scissors, very much like they sound, using two sharp blades a la handheld scissors.

Non-blade cigar cutters are in the form of a punch. A cigar punch is a small circular blade used for poking a perfect hole in the head of your cigar. This was the preferred method of cutting for Big Ronnie for a long time. I liked the consistency, and the relatively small amount of loose tobacco at the end of a cigar after a cut (compared to blade cutters). I also enjoyed the ability to pick the proper size punch for the cigar, as punch cutters come in various sizes. Punch cutters are not perfect for all smokes, as you cannot simply trim the head of a small ring gauge cigar, or punch cut a torpedo (pointy head) type cigar. Scissor and blade type cutters do not have this limitation, and can cut/prepare any cigar for lighting.

As for the cutter that I carry with me: It is a Xikar Havana Collection (in blue) with hand inlaid cuban cigar bands by artists in Paris, France.

Necessary? No.
A conversation piece, and one that gets admired every time I hand it to someone? Yes.
Badass? Absolutely.

All Xikar cutters come with a lifetime warranty. This means that when (not if) your cutter gets dull, send it to Xikar, no receipt necessary and they will clean it, sharpen it, and ship it back to you with a free inexpensive & durable leather case. I’ve sent my Xikar cutter in for maintenance several times without issues. Xikar’s warranty, combined with their crazy materials (e.g. Carbon Fiber, Mammoth Ivory, Pave’ Diamonds, Rare Woods, etc.) make them my favorite and most recommended accessory company. I never hear complaints about their products, and they are continuing to expand their line quickly.

While nice, my Xikar won’t break the bank, and there are many similar styles from Xikar, starting at about $30. My Blue Xikar Habana cutter cost $200, before the cost of the case. No regular case, mind you either. The $75 stingray skin leather case is a conversation piece in itself.

Big Ronnie's Toys
Big Ronnie's Toys' Cases

What about those funny wood sticks I see people light cigars with?
Those sicks are called spills, and they are typically made of Spanish Cedar, the same type of wood that most quality humidors are made out of. They theory is that by keeping a liquid gas flame (not butane) away from your cigar, you won’t impart any taste from the gas. I don’t necessarily buy this theory (though I would never light a cigar with a Zippo for the same reason), though I do think the practice is sound. It is very cool lighting your cigar with spills once you get the hang of it. Controlling the size of the flame is key, don’t let it get too big or the wood will burn quickly and you will have to use more than one. Cedar spills are sexy, just make sure you know how to maintain the sexiness during the light. This comes with practice, and I am not perfect. I’ve accidentally burnt my moustache once or twice. If you want top of the line cedar spills, head over to Commonwealth Cedar Spills – they’ll even engrave your name on their beautiful spill boxes.

There you have it, my smokies, Big Ronnie’s overview on how and why to purchase a new cigar accessories.

As always, please drop me a line with questions or comments and for God’s sake, join the Cigar Rights of America!