A Match Made in Heaven
Christmas is the perfect time to meet your match.
It’s a time of reflection and contemplation and the very pinnacle of cigar smoking enjoyment. Even Scrooge would look miserly if he moaned about your Christmas stogie.
When the kids are tucked up and the wife (or indeed husband) is peacefully occupied with a box of Quality Street and a film on the telly, you’re free to wile away a couple of hours – just for you.
Here and now is the perfect time to bring the humble match into the equation.
In everyday life, it’s a sad reflection to think that we’re mostly too busy to employ the services of a match to light our chosen cigar. So we reach for the torch or soft flame lighter instead.
It takes time to light a cigar properly with a match, you see. It takes concentration, deftness of touch, consideration, patience. In the same way that the Winter fly fisherman brings back mental images of mayfly and sipping trout as he lovingly ties a fly in his draughty shed, the cigar smoker owes it to the cigarmaker to contemplate the creation – and the demise – of his stick as he reverently brings flame to it for first time in its tumultuous life.
Take a good long look at the wrapper. Feel its gentle elasticity, the give in the well-rolled bunching of the cigar, the soft, velvety texture of the expensive wrapper leaf. Like haute couture, it’s expensive and alluring – of all the leaves in this little bundle of joy, it imparts among the least flavour – but is by far the most expensive to grow.
Smell the faint hint of the earth on the end of your cigar. Check the foot (lighting end) of the cigar and gaze inside at the ‘workings’ of the stick; the swirled mix of tobaccos, a dark and exciting collaboration of shamen’s spiritual magic and the farmer’s no-nonsense practicality which is about to burst forth in flavour.
This is why the match is the perfect Christmas partner. As stated, you need to take your time. Find your box of long matches and, having clipped the foot (mouth end) of your cigar, strike one. Let it flare and the sulphur burn off. Now – ever so delicately and trying not to let the flame actually touch the cigar – bring it to the foot and start to gently toast. Always keep your cigar dancing on the very cusp of the flame’s reach; the ideal stage is when an ephemeral blue line courts with the foot of your cigar as it warms and tries to combust those burnable particles it can reach.
The foot will gradually darken and take care – although it’s sometimes impossible not to leave the occasional scorch mark – not to damage the barrel of the cigar as you go. Keep up this sensual tango between unburnt and burnt. You may need to light another cigar. Take your time. This is your form of tribute to the smoke to come and the hundreds of pairs of hands which helped it reach you.
Occasionally stop and check the foot. Blow on it gently. You will find that patches of it will now gently glow of their own accord. When you’re satisfied the majority of the foot is alight, now comes the dramatic flambé moment. Carefully take the tip of your cigar an inch or so above the match flame and gently puff. As if by magic, the flame will eagerly leap from match tip to cigar foot. Rotate the cigar, gently puffing, check and blow on the foot – and you will have the perfectly lit cigar. It really does make a difference to the taste.
Let the cigar rest for a minute or so and then begin, slowly and contemplatively, to enjoy your cigar. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.