The Knack: How to smoke a cigar, by Gordon Mott

"Select the cigar and roll it between your fingers to make sure the wrapper has not become cracked or that there is some flaw. There are three ways to cut a cigar - guillotine, V-cutter and a piercer - but the best is a double-bladed guillotine. This cuts all sides of the cigar, allowing the smoke to travel the entire length. When I was learning to smoke cigars in Central America, I had a friend who was adamant that you could not light a cigar with fewer than three four-inch cedar matches. Anything less and you clearly had not lit your cigar properly! Actually, you can use anything from a cedar spill - that's a thin slice of cedar that you light with a match - to a disposable lighter. My preference is a long match, preferably cedar, and it will take more than one though I don't know about three! You hold the cigar about a half-inch to an inch from the top of the flame and roll it slowly so that the flame lights the outer edge. Once the outer ring is lit, then you can bring the cigar to the mouth and draw in lightly.

You shouldn't inhale or smoke it like a cigarette - ie, repeated puffs as quickly as possible - as it can get too hot and affect the flavour. It's not a bad idea to take a puff, set a cigar down and let it burn for a minute or so and then have another puff. Everyone has their own rhythm. You can let it go out but after the second or third relighting, the smoke gets harsher. The main thing is not to rush it: if you can smoke in a relaxed way, that's when the true nature of a cigar comes out." Ann Treneman

Gordon Mott is managing editor of `Cigar Aficionado' magazine

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