Smoking a premium hand rolled cigar is a meticulous experience.

Smoking a premium hand rolled cigar is a meticulous experience.

Let us consider for a moment the premium hand rolled cigar.

For those unenlightened, neither the Black and Mild nor Swisher Sweet Cherry flavored tobacco products are “premium cigars”. A premium cigar is compose of numerous distinct parts. You have the filler, binder, and wrapper, all of which were hand selected. A skilled torcedor, cigar roller, assembles it all by hand.

Those who understand the art of smoking a fine, premium cigar understand that you need more than just the cigar itself to have best experience possible, you need a sharp cutter to trim the tip and a hot flame of some sort. You see, even the finest cigar in all the world cannot achieve its full potential until it have been properly trimmed and ignited with high flame.

A cigar cutter should have a sharp and finely honed edge. A rough or dull edge will not clip the “stick” cleanly and you run the risk of tearing the wrapper leaf. If the wrapper is damaged, it will unravel when heat is applied and ruin the cigar smoking experience.

Hot Flame Required

A very hot flame is required in order to draw out the full potential of the cigar. Premium cigar smokers will use large wooden matches or a blue-flamed butane torch to properly toast the tip of the cigar. Unlike a cigarette, you should not immediate draw on the cigar but first allow the tip to be toasted evenly. The wooden match or the torch is hot enough to toast the end evenly. This is essential for a quality smoking experience.

Some neophytes will use cardboard matches or a kerosene lighter to ignite their cigar. Matchbooks do not offer enough heat to properly toast the tip evenly and kerosene lighters infuse the premium tobacco with a lighter fluid residue thus greatly diminishing or ruining the flavor of the hand rolled cigar.

There are those who would say that fire is fire and as long as you get the cigar lit it will take care of itself, but the initial lighting process is a critically important part of the overall experience. These folks may offer that at long as the cigar is burning and there is smoke that it is all the same. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Nurturing the Cigar

After the premium cigar has been properly toasted and lit, it must be nurtured properly. If the smoker draws on the “stick” too rapidly the fire within will become too hot and the taste will turn foul or the the wrapper may crack and begin to unravel. The cigar is then essentially ruined.

If the cigar is lit and then set aside without being nurtured, the fire will die out. The greatest care must be taken to relight it but the flavor can be fouled and the taste ruined. Also, constant tapping or flicking of the ash, as cigarette smokers tend to do, will again risk cracking or breaking the wrapper leaf or the internal flame can be disrupted.

Premium cigars require your time, you cannot rush them

Premium cigars require your time, you cannot rush them

Premium cigar connoisseurs will recommend toasting and lighting the cigar, enjoying a puff or two and then waiting a minute or so between puffs. Set the cigar down occasionally and let it be, just don’t forget about it. Never try to rush a cigar. Premium cigars require dedication and time. If you only have a few minutes for a smoke, do not bother to light a hand rolled stick, revert back to the Black and Mild or an El Producto.

Smoking a fine hand rolled cigar is a process, and part of the enjoyment is proper application of all the above techniques. You cannot achieve a premium cigar experience in ten minutes.

Sadly, many who use kerosene lighters, puff incessantly, and flick and tap their cigars unceasingly, will never achieve the premium experience. Regardless of how much they paid for the cigar or the initial quality of its construction, these people never allow the hand rolled cigar to reach its full potential. Having smoked their cigars in that fashion habitually, they believe the taste of the poorly prepare smoke is actually the pinnacle or the best is can be.

The Student

The student need high flame training to draw out their potential.

The student needs high flame training to draw out their potential.

While pondering the proper way to draw the full potential from a premium cigar it occurred to me that getting the greatest performance from a student is a very similar procedure. Consider that with me if you will.

When a physically capable young man or woman steps onto the field or into the arena (football, baseball, wrestling, etc.) what we have is this case is the embodiment of potential. In order to draw out that potential and assist the student in being the most that they can be, the coach must see to it that the proper methods are employed.

The Flame 

Allow me to go back to my early high school years and my experience with organized football. Before the season began we had two-a-day practices. During the heat of late August, the team would arrive early in the morning and run through at least two full hours of conditioning (no pads). Stretching, running, push-ups, sit-ups, sprints, you name it. Before noon we were dismissed and then returned in the afternoon. After the true hear of the day, we would run through another two full hours of skill drills (full pads); formations, plays, tackling, special teams, kicking, passing, etc.

Our coaches needed to heat us with a high flame, burn off the softness brought on by summer vacation, and draw out the full potential to get us ready. For the first week or so we were constantly sore, tired, scraped and bruised. We cursed the coaches under our breath as we forced ourselves to finish a long run or do ten more push-ups, but they knew what was best for us, not we the players. We slept deeply at night and soon the soreness turned to toned muscle. Our skills were sharpened. By the time the first game rolled around we were ready to go.

Imagine if the coaches settled for the low flame method and “cut the tip” with a dull edge. The result would have been an entire team of comfortable, weak, out of shape players for the season opener. We would have all been dressed up to look the part of football players, but under the uniform (the wrapper) there would be an inferior product. The full potential would still lie dormant or at least be unfulfilled.


Coaches need to nurture to keep the fire burning.

Coaches need to nurture to keep the fire burning.

After the high flame of two-a-day conditioning practices, the coaches no longer needed to apply the flame. The layman might think that if two-a-day practices achieve such positive results, why not keep them going all season long. But, as with the cigar, if you overheat the student, you run the risk of burning them out, cracking “the wrapper” and ruining the process.

If the high flame training was applied properly, the coach needed only to nurture the player. The men were monitored and encouraged, without being neglected. If the fire of a cigar is left alone and neglected it will go out. The player/student needs regular encouragement. We don’t stop the skill drills and conditioning exercises, we simply modify their intensity.

The same principles are applied to young Marines when they enter the Corps. Basic Training and then Infantry School is a high flame, intense experience to prepare them and ensure their are ready to serve. The “boot” may not understand the need for the intensity and high flame, but the Drill Instructors and NCO’s understand the purpose. Never once did my DI ask if we would like to run less, march a shorter distance, or do fewer push-ups.

After the Marine is sent to their unit, there is no longer a need for the high flame boot camp, instead the NCO’s and officers monitor and nurture the men. If the men are neglected their flame will extinguish, instead their flame is kept alive through regular conditioning and training.

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Parting Thoughts

I told you all of that to tell you this. There is a movement afoot to modify training and how we prepare students for the real world and how we draw out their full potential. Some so-called enlightened folks would offer that the same results can be had with low flame, more comfortable and easy approach. They think that the player or the student should be consulted and asked just how intense they would like the training to be. These people would use the kerosene lighter/low flame and taint or ruin the true flavor of the student.

There are students or players who will deliberately seek out the low flame/low intensity training. These folks fall prey to their own selfish desires to remain comfortable. They fear the soreness, exhaustion, and productive pain. These students delude themselves into believing that the same results can be achieved from low flame, comfortable training. Even if they have true potential it will remain locked up and undiscovered.

Low flame, comfortable training does indeed exist in our world. After that training process is completed the student is dressed up to play the part and they appear on the outside the same as those who experience the high flame training. However, like our football analogy, the graduated student would only look the part. Under their uniforms will be weak, soft, unprepared and inferior products. When the reality of the first game/ real world comes along, the low flame players are doomed to fail.

The finest steel in the world is tempered under intense heat. Premium coffee can only be brewed to perfection with extremely hot water. Human beings can only achieve their full potential and excel when high flame training and conditioning is applied.  Low flame, half-hearten, comfortable training only leads to people who look the part. Underneath it all, their true potential lies dormant and when the real world arrives to test them, they will most likely fail.

Paul G. Markel - Student of the Gun

Paul G. Markel – Student of the Gun

About the Author:

Paul G. Markel has worn many hats during his lifetime. He has been a U.S. Marine, Police Officer, Professional Bodyguard, and Small Arms and Tactics Instructor. Mr. Markel has been writing professionally for nearly twenty years with several #1 best-selling books and hundreds of articles in print. In addition to hosting Student of the Gun TV & Radio, Paul is a regular guest on nationally syndicated radio talk shows and subject matter expert in firearms training and use of force.

Mr. Markel has been teaching safe and effective firearms handling to students young and
old for decades and has worked actively with the 4H Shooting Sports program. Paul holds
numerous instructor certifications in multiple disciplines; nonetheless, he is and will remain a
dedicated Student of the Gun.

Below are some of the #1 Best-selling Books Paul has written:

“Team Honey Badger: Raising Fearless Kids is a Cowardly World” 

“Faith and the Patriot: A Belief Worth Fighting for”

“The Patriot Fire Team: Preserving the Republic Four Men at a Time” 

“Student of the Gun, a beginner once, a student for life”.

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