Ever wonder what to do with those flimsy-ass sheets of cedar stuffed between each row of stogies inside a cigar box?
They sure don’t seem to do much outside of keeping each layer of smokes separated from one another. And they s don’t seem to offer squat in the humidor humidification, cigar wrapper protection, and internal appearances department.
But they sure do smell good and appear to be of the same stock as many of those cedar-wrapped cigars we adore. Oh, what do, what to do?
If you are anything like the roguish gents down at Klaro Cigars and Case Elegance, you might grab your Xikar torch lighter with the deep intent of setting fire to a piece of wafer-thin Spanish cedar instead of a cigar foot.
It may sound like a heaving bosom graphic novel from the 1970s, but wielding an “incendiary shard of cedar” as your cigar torch of choice brings with it both great risk and great reward. Much like the tale of that lonesome mistress in the aforementioned piece of pulp fiction.
Meet the all-ubiquitous and often discarded “cedar spill.” An old-fashioned, utterly unsung hero in this ever-evolving cigar saga, that in a select few eyes is considered the best method of lighting a long-filler premium cigar blend.
Built to Spill
For the complete sake of transparency, it’s worth noting that, yes, those dinky sheets of Spanish cedar we see stuffed between the rows of cigars in a fancy humidor box or basic wooden cigar box are indeed the real deal.
According to a Google Patents filing from 2011, the following most accurately describes what a cedar spill is and does.
“The present invention is a cedar spill having defined dimensions which are optimized for lighting a cigar. In a preferred embodiment, the cedar spill is produced from a Spanish cedar sheet and has a relatively long, tapered body.”
Yup, that’s right folks. People are selling what many have long considered to be an unwanted sliver of scrap wood, which in the eyes of old-school stogie smokers, is laughable.
That scrap of cedar is useful for a multitude of different reasons, with the following three being the most prominent.
Deviation, and Aromatherapy
As previously mentioned, the vast majority of the sheets of cedar you encounter within the confines of a cigar box smell absolutely divine.
Cedar divider sheets also help keep lower layers of cigars in place during packaging, upon opening, and even during a sale as well.
Don’t think these dinky pieces of wood make a damn bit of difference? Imagine trying to quickly and neatly pack 50+ cigars into a single box, layer after layer, each with its band prominently aligned and displayed. All without mixing things up or dropping a cigar that is worth more than a day’s worth of work.
Now imagine trying to grab a cigar from a box and accidentally snagging an extra stogie from the lower row, only for it to crack as it hit the floor of the walk-in humidor. See? Told you these little scraps of cedar matter.
Even the cleanest combusting torch lighter loaded with atmospheric gasses pulled straight from the glowing rings of Uranus will add some form of unwanted chemical to a premium cigar blend. It may not affect the cigar flavor profile in any specific way, but sometimes you can’t help but wonder what really went into refining that can of butane…
While a cedar spill will put off a fair deal of soot-rich smoke, it is still widely considered to be one of the most neutral methods of lighting a cigar. In fact, Spanish cedar tends to imparts a very nice cigar flavor profile, causing many purists to prefer this form of light over all others.
Lighting a cigar with a badass-looking, heavily armored multi-torch lighter is awesome. But nothing compares to seeing someone take a flaming slat of wood and toast the foot of their cigar. Part James Bond villain signature calling card, part cowboy campfire methodology, the act of lighting a cigar with a cedar spill is undeniably raw and suave looking at the same time.
Tobacco Nerd Note: Not everyone has the financial means or interest in buying an entire cigar box at a single time. Also, more and more people are opting for the convenience of online cigar of the month subscription services, asking for a sheet or two of cedar is pretty much mandatory.
Order Alert: While the average smoke shop often stocks spills, those ordering a 5-pack of cigars from Klaro Cigars are also eligible for free cedar spills. Just include a note on your order form that you like a sheet or two, and we’ll throw them into your next order, free of charge.
Using a Cedar Spill to Light a Cigar
To get started, break off a strip of cedar that’s about a thumb’s width wide. If you are lighting a particularly large cigar, you may want a spill that is slightly larger than this and tapered to one end. It is the slimmer of the two ends that you will hold, as this will prevent too large of a flame from developing toward the end, which could potentially sear your knuckles.
Light the fat end of the spill and hold it in one hand, the cigar grasped in the other. Keep the spill at a slight downward angle so that the flame can slowly climb toward the hand that’s holding it. A completely vertical orientation will cause the spill to go out, so bear this in mind at all times.
Toast the foot of the cigar over the flame, remaining patient and vigilant at all times, like a premium tobacco blend ninja on the prowl for some sweet action. Foot thoroughly lit and glowing hotter than the molten core of Earth itself, begin the puffing process in earnest, knowing full well that you are the superior cigar smoker in the immediate vicinity at that particular moment.
Just note that larger cigars may require multiple spills to achieve complete combustion and superior cigar flavor profile potency. So don’t skimp on the cedar spills when packing that travel humidor. Running out of spill halfway through the ignition process is only going to make you look and feel like a complete jackass.
Don’t Be a Twisted Firestarter, Wield Your Cedar Spill With Care
As the classic flame-filled Kurt Russell flick clearly illustrated, playing with fire can be really freaking dangerous.
So even though it might have the density of a dollar bill, that cedar spill in your hands is going to burn like all hell once you give it the goose. This can create any number of the following unique, and potentially hazardous scenarios from occurring.
Going from lighting the foot of a certain cigar type, to charring entirely too much of the cigar barrel is a surprisingly easy line to cross. This is a sizable flame we’re dealing with here, not some tightly controlled blue torch jet that’s impervious to sudden wind gusts. Don’t be that guy who renders his premium cigar blend utterly unsmokeable, and keeps that flame tamed at all times.
Kicking Ash All Over the Place
Due to their slender size and highly combustible evergreen genetics, cedar spills tend to combust faster than a dried-up Christmas tree on the bonfire in February. There are a million different places all of that wispy cedary ash can go, so bear that in mind when lighting a cigar, because it could pose a fire hazard if you aren’t careful. Safety third people. Remember that.
Burning Hair Stinks… Literally
Every now and then you’ll see someone attempting to light the foot of their cigar with a cedar spill, the stogie clenched between their teeth, and flame dangerously close to their forehead.
Singed nose hairs and flaming locks of glory are a smelly way to ruin a perfectly good cigar session. So unless you like the one eyebrow look, remain mindful of your lighting etiquette and toast carefully.
Spanish cedar is everywhere in the cigar world, and without it who knows what we would be lining our cigar humidors and stogie boxes with in their absence?
Utilizing the unwanted remnants from the cigar box production process, and repurposing them as first a means of separating and storing cigars, then lighting them in turn isn’t just good business, it’s a winning environmental stewardship trifecta. It also tastes really damn good, especially when a certain cigar flavor profile is just getting started.
So the next time you are thinking about chucking that wafe of a cedar sheet in the dust bin, stop for a moment and think about potentially lighting your next cigar with its remnants. It may just change the way you light and smoke your cigars forever.