I’m a predictable man of habit during the summer. If I’m home for the weekend, I’m in my stock tank pool enjoying a cigar and watching the Mets game. Or if I’m on vacation, I’ve probably found a quiet café where I can enjoy a cigar and a beer (as pictured above from my recent vacation in France).
In either case, enjoying the moment means having the right tools on hand. And after years of trial and error, I have some thoughts and favorites, so whether you’re new to the world of cigars, looking for a gift for a loved one, or just wanting to upgrade their experience a little bit… this guide is for you.
Best Cigar Case
There are some places you can reasonably expect to be able to buy a cigar on the spot — cigar lounges, tobacco shops, those kinds of places. But anywhere else… you probably want to bring a couple yourself. That’s where a cigar case comes in handy, as it allows you to pop a couple sticks in your pocket and carry them around without having to worry about them getting damaged in the process. (Especially if your cigars don’t have a cellophane wrapper to protect them.)
The trick here is that you want the case to be slim enough to fit comfortably in your pocket, but not constricting to the cigars or else they will fall apart. Rigid enough to protect the cigars, but with enough play to get the cigars in and out of the sleeve. It’s a tough challenge, and this two-cigar leather holder has done a great job for me over the last four years.
CIGAR IN STYLE Brown Leather 2 Ct Adjustable Cigar Case Travel Holder
There are some things about it that I don’t like (like the somewhat tacky Cohiba head brand logo on the side of the case — completely unnecessary, and probably just a little bit copyright infringing as I suspect that they don’t have the rights and aren’t actually working with the folks at Cohiba on this cigar case). But otherwise, this works just fine.
For those who want a different option without the logo, this case has the same general dimensions and style without the logo or branding on it. And for a little over $20, it might be worth checking out.
Best Cigar Cutter
Now that you’ve got your cigars in hand, the next step is to cut the cap and get it ready to light. For that you’re going to need a good cigar cutter.
Before we dive in, I do want to note that I prefer what’s called a “straight cut” on my cigars. It’s the more popular and seemingly default way to cut your cigar, but there are other options like a v-cut or a punch out there as well. So if you prefer either of these, my advice might not cut it for you.
The goal here with a straight cut is to get a clean, even, shallow slice across the cap of the cigar. If you go too deep, you snip past the reinforcing on the cap and the cigar can start to unravel; too shallow and you won’t really get a good draw.
For most cigar cutters, the way they are designed means that you will need to guess and estimate where to place the cutter to get that perfect slice. And even then, you’re going to need to hold it perfectly still and level the whole time — not really an optimal experience.
I’ve tried numerous cigar cutters over the years in all shapes and sizes, but I keep coming back to this one style of cigar cutter time and again. In fact, the picture above is from about a decade ago when I first bought it.
Cigar Boulevard Perfect Cigar Cutter Star 20 Stainless Steel
What I like about this cigar cutter is that it has a built-in shelf on the back where you rest the cap of the cigar as you cut, ensuring the perfect depth every time. It also captures all the cuttings making clean-up much easier. And, in the case where you need a deeper cut, you can always snip it a second time.
For full transparency, I do want to note that the item linked isn’t actually isn’t the original manufacturer of this design — these folks did it first. The problem is that the original manufacturer recently changed their design, removing a hole in the center that allowed for torpedo style cigars to be more easily snipped. On their latest design, that hole has disappeared leaving a solid back plate, which I (personally) found annoying. Hence, I had to find an alternative manufacturer.
A close follow-up is the Benchmade 1500. Not because it’s the best at easily cutting cigars, but just because it’s an odd duck and a fun conversation starter.
Best Cigar Lighter
Generally speaking, there are two kinds of lighters.
There’s an older version that uses lighter fluid stored in the body of the lighter which is drawn up through a wick, and a spark ignites the wick to create the needed fire. This is how the traditional models of Zippo work… and should be avoided at all costs. The flame coming off that lighter is oily and foul tasting, and will taint the flavor profile of your cigar.
What you want instead is the clean burning butane-based lighters. These lighters produce an odorless and flavorless jet of flame that directs a large amount of heat towards the intended target in a short period of time. Which is exactly what we want for our cigar. As an added bonus, the fuel won’t evaporate out of the lighter like it will with a traditional lighter, meaning you can store it almost indefinitely and still get a reliable ignition.
Butane lighters are typically described by how many burners or jets they have. In my opinion (and after much experimentation(, it seems like three burners is the right number. Any fewer and you might not get a good light, while any more is either a waste or a hazard.
Another consideration here is the size of the lighter. Some people will get a huge butane lighter that’s more of a desk ornament than a practical tool, which only really makes sense if you have your own indoor cigar lounge. If you’re going to be carrying this thing around even for a few minutes, or if you’re going to have to be able to hold it in one hand to use it, you want something light and compact without being too small (you still need it to hold a decent amount of fuel and have a big enough flame).
You also want something relatively inexpensive — because no matter what you think when you buy this lighter, you are going to lose it, a friend will run off with it, or you might just want one in every room of the house.
Vertigo by Lotus Cyclone Triple Torch Cigar Lighter
Price: $24.49 / 3 pack
Of all the torch cigar lighters I’ve tried, I keep coming back to this one. It fits right into that sweet spot of being just big enough to get the job done but small enough to be portable, and one fill lasts me about a full box of cigars. The flame is adjustable, and the whole mechanism just feels solid and reliable.
I have never had any problems with this lighter. Ever. It has been rock steady and lights every time.
Best Pocket Cigar Lighter
You may have noticed that, even though the Vertigo lighter is my #1 choice, it isn’t the one that appears in most of my pictures. That’s because it mainly stays at home and performs most of its service when I’m enjoying a cigar in the backyard. The size is absolutely small enough to fit in a pocket and you could carry it around if you’d like, but personally I prefer a flatter and slimmer lighter for carrying around town.
A few years ago, there weren’t many good choices for slim, portable, attractive lighters. But then Zippo stepped up to the challenge and in my opinion changed the game.
Zippo Chrome Lighters
Zippo Butane Torch Lighter Insert
This requires just the slightest amount of DIY putting this together — you’ll need to buy a Zippo lighter and the butane insert separately and put them together yourself. But in the end, you get the most enjoyable, useful, and reliable lighter I’ve ever kept in my pocket for cigar smoking.
The slim design disappears into your pocket (just as it has since 1932), opening and closing with that reassuring and enjoyable click. You can also customize the lighter to your liking, getting all sorts of engravings or other designs on the outer shell and swapping them whenever you want. The inner double jet butane torch is a self contained unit that slides easily in and out.
Personally I went a bit old school and found a vintage Pan Am Penguin lighter from the 1960’s (which dimensionally is nearly identical to a Zippo) and slotted the new butane insert inside. Pretty much whenever I leave the house, that lighter is in my pocket.
Best Cigar Ashtray
There’s one last consideration in smoking a cigar, and that’s having a good place to rest it and a good place to put the ash.
A good ashtray will do both of these things, and keep the two from meeting. Getting ash on your cigar can be annoying, and might ruin the flavor. Some cigar ashtrays try to achieve this by having a large open surface for the ash to keep it away from the cigar, but those can be susceptible to wind and might not have enough volume to accommodate multiple cigars.
Another consideration: if you leave this outside, the ash collection area is going to turn to sludge and be disgusting. It’ll basically mix with the rain and create almost a concrete like substance that sticks to the walls and will look awful. Having some way to hide that section is ideal.
Vintage Metal Small Cigar Ashtray
In my opinion, this ashtray is the best. Not only does it have an enormous capacity to hold the ash from multiple cigars, but there’s plenty of room on top to lay your lit cigar while you smoke it and still let the ash drizzle into the bottom. It looks great, keeps your smoking area clean, and won’t be an eyesore that your wife yells at you about.
Not every cigar smoker is the same. Everyone has their particular preferences about how they like to enjoy a good smoke, and opinions about the best way to do it are as varied as the stars in the sky. Based on my years of slow puffing enjoyment, these are my humble thoughts about the best accessories to make your cigar more enjoyable, but if you have different opinions I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!