Handmade cigars don’t come ready to smoke. You must cut the head, then light. While types of lighters and cutters are open to preference, some basic rules are universal. For example, cutting too much off the top of your cigar is a no-no. What’s too much? If the wrapper of your cigar unravels after you lopped off the top, you’ve cut down too far. Normally, there’s a slight taper at the head of the cigar, referred to as the shoulder. We do not recommend cutting below the shoulder line. (Watch: How To Cut a Cigar.)
In the case of torpedoes and piramides, which taper drastically to a point, you shouldn’t cut off so much of the head that you actually lose the taper. It’s there for both functional and aesthetic reasons—to fit more comfortably in your mouth and to look nice. They are harder to make and require the work of a highly skilled roller. Also, they take longer to create, which is why they are generally more expensive. Cutting off too much defeats the entire purpose, both practically and artistically. Conversely, not cutting off enough can result in a firm draw and a build-up of tar in the head that will ooze into your mouth, something any sane smoker wishes to avoid. But it’s better to cut too little than too much—you can always cut more.
Lighting should be done delicately, similar to the way you might toast a marshmallow—with minimal direct contact. Too much direct contact of flame to tobacco and your cigar might end up tasting like pure char. It’s always better to light in low-wind conditions. On top of the obvious reasons, the breeze might also cause you to compensate by using too much flame just to get a burn going. Again, this will result in an unpleasantly charry aftertaste. (Watch: How To Light a Cigar.)
The risk is even greater with powerful torch lighters, which burn at a much higher temperature than soft, natural flames. While we certainly appreciate the wind resistance and surgical control of a torch flame, your goal is lighting a cigar, not welding pipes.
Excerpt taken from Cigar Aficionado online magazine.