Much has been already said about the “burn”, or combustion of a cigar. It is not our intent to debate or disagree, merely to add our perspective to the discussion. There are many aspects to a cigar’s burn, from length of time, to amount of heat, to whether a relight is advisable, and under what circumstances.
The main component of a cigar’s burn that concerns most aficionados is the speed, or how quickly a cigar burns. A cigar that burns too fast is going to move too much heat down the cigar, bringing with it unpleasant flavors and temperatures. Too much heat, too quickly, down the body of a cigar causes the tobacco to combust too quickly, making it bitter. There are two major contributing factors to the speed of a cigar’s burn: the construction (how tightly the filler tobaccos and binder leaves are pressed together), and how fast the cigar is smoked. This second factor is the only one that the cigar lover has control over. Cigars are meant to be enjoyed slowly, with patience and care. Not “speed smoked” like a cigarette. The flavors and aromas can be delicate and subtle. Smoking a cigar should be a journey, not a race.
Sometimes, a cigar’s burn can be interrupted by a “plug”, or tight bunching of the tobaccos and the cigar goes out. In cheap and/or machine made cigars, this happens quite often. Even in fine, 100% handmade cigars it is still a possibility, however. If this occurs, once again, patience is key. Rolling the cigar between the fingers, squeezing gently up and down the body of the cigar, might be enough to open the plug and allow you to continue.
Should a cigar go out completely but still have plenty left to enjoy, a relight is possible, but requires a little knowledge to be successful. If a relight is called for, gently tap off any ash holding on to the foot of the cigar. Start your torch or match and warm the foot like you would at a beginning light. The key now is once you get the foot nice and toasty, glowing red again, blow out through the cigar instead of drawing in, gently. The idea is to blow out any partially burned ash or gases that may be hanging around. Once this is done, draw and puff as you would normally. You should be able to continue your enjoyment of the cigar. It is preferable that the cigar still be warm for a relight, but it is possible to start up a cigar again that had to be put down previously. Your mileage may vary.
The most important key to enjoying a cigar is patience. As we said earlier, a cigar should be a journey, best taken slowly. A cigar should be a reward. Enjoy it, savor it… Just don’t rush it.