Zippo lighters are damn near ubiquitous, and the attractive design can be customized to meet any style. All of which makes them popular among smokers, but because the lighter fluid used in their standard mechanism can easily taint the flavor of a cigar, they have remained basically unusable for us cigar smokers. There are aftermarket inserts available to convert Zippo lighters to use clean and tasteless butane, but Zippo itself has never offered them as an option. Until now.
I’ve been using the Top-Z Zippo butane insert that I’ve previously reviewed for years. It works, it’s cheap, and it’s reliable. A few weeks back, Zippo announced that they were getting into the game with a line of butane inserts of their own and I grabbed a two-flame version to directly compare to the existing Top-Z product.
First impressions: the build quality of the Zippo mechanism is much better than the competition. Instead of a plastic butane container, it’s encased completely in metal. The adjustment knob on the bottom is more robust and operates more smoothly. And the faux wind screen is more visually appealing, rounded like the traditional Zippo design instead of the blocky design on the competition.
Over on the reverse side, it’s more of the same story. Both lighters use a piezoelectric mechanism that uses the force of pushing down on the button to charge a capacitor and generate the spark needed to ignite the butane. That mechanism is visible in the Top-Z version, but it’s completely enclosed on the Zippo product. I haven’t noticed any reliability issues with having this exposed, so I’m not sure how much impact that design decision will have but it’s indicative of the extra care and attention that Zippo gives their products.
In terms of function, it works pretty much how you’d expect it to work. It slots into Zippo lighters (and knock-offs like this 1960’s Penguin) with ease. The Zippo butane lighter produces two pristine jets of blue flame on demand and is just as functional as the third-party insert.
The only possible issue I spotted is that one of the prongs on the spark generator in the top of the lighter seems to wiggle and move as the button is pressed. This is something that the Top-Z product doesn’t do, and might indicate a quality control or reliability issue, but I haven’t had any issues with it whatsoever in the couple of weeks I’ve been using it.
Which is better? Honestly, I think I’d prefer this new Zippo brand lighter insert. It’s only a couple dollars more than the aftermarket inserts, and considering it’s something that you’re going to be regularly using, that feels like a small price for better construction. I personally like the all metal construction, which makes it feel more high quality than the competition. I’m not thrilled that there’s only a two year warranty on this part — but again, it’s cheap enough that it doesn’t make a huge difference.
That said, you can’t go wrong with either option — the Top-Z version gets the job done as much as this shiny new Zippo version. This one just looks and feels a little nicer.
Zippo Butane Lighter Insert – Double Torch
Price: $16.95 ($13.02 on Amazon at time of publication)
Overall Rating: * * * * * (5/5)
It’s a little bit cleaner and a whole lot more trustworthy.