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Cigar 101: Top three cigar myths

An unorthodox method for cigar lighting indeed... but acceptable as long as the flame doesn't touch the tobacco.

Despite living in an age of unprecedented access to information, some cigar myths persist. By now most of us know that a great cigar does not have to be Cuban. But there are a handful of untruths that continue to plague blogs, cigar catalogs and message boards wherever aficionados congregate. Here is our list of the top three cigar myths as we’ve observed:

1. Pure white ash is the mark of a high-quality cigar.
We’re not sure how this one got started, but it’s entirely untrue. White ash is a sign of large deposits of phosphorous and calcium in the soil that the tobacco was grown in. Cigars with dark ash were grown in soil with lots of magnesium. It’s not rocket science, people. Cuban cigars, renowned for their quality, hardly ever have that blinding white ash since their soil does not contain much calcium. We hear there’s a lot of lithium in Cuban soil as well. Could that explain why their cigars “decrease abnormal activity in the brain” as those prescribed lithium seek to do? Nah, that description fits any good cigar. Now, if the ash isn’t white, black OR gray… you might have a problem.

2. Don’t light a cigar with anything other than a match, burning cedar or a butane torch.
Coming from a company that wants to sell you cigar accessories, it may be a shock for us to expose this myth, but that’s just what it is — a myth. Aficionados avoid Bic lighters, Zippos and kitchen matches like the plague. They’re afraid it will impart a nasty flavor to their smoke. If it does, they’re not lighting their cigar properly. The cardinal rule of the light is: don’t let the flame touch your cigar. The only way the flame can impart a fuel flavor to your tobacco is if you’re rolling your cigar around in it. Rather, the proper technique is to keep the flame just far enough from the foot to generate enough heat to get your stick burning.
This is not to say you shouldn’t buy a badass triple-torch lighter, it will certainly kick a Bic’s butt in functionality. As long as you’ve got the proper lighting technique, you’ve got nothing to worry about… except for the people laughing at you for using a gas station lighter on a $10 stick. But you’ll be chuckling on the inside knowing they’re compensating for a lack of something else…

3. Licking the cigar is necessary to keep the wrapper intact.
This myth goes back to the days when quality assurance on cigars was in its infancy. About a century ago people wet the tip of their cigar every time to make sure the wrapper stayed together. But these cigars were rarely properly humidified. Today’s cigars, for the most part, are conditioned well and no licking is necessary. It can’t hurt the cigar unless you absolutely soak it in saliva, but it might gross your friends out.