Like many cigar smokers, you're relegated out of doors whenever you want to savor your smoke. But lighting cigars outside can be tricky. Although cedar strips and matches are sometimes the preferred tools to light a cigar, they can be difficult to use when the wind is blowing fiercely and you are fumbling for match after match. Fortunately, several top accessory companies have designed high-powered, butane-based lighters to combat this problem.
From new designs to old standbys, companies such as Alfred Dunhill, S.T. Dupont, Colibri, KGM and Savinelli are taking lighter design to the next level. Each company has a unique take on the market and its customers' wants and needs. Cigar Aficionado has put lighters from the five companies to the test for design, function and reliability.
Alfred Dunhill, the British-based firm known for its innovative designs, has created several pieces of quality craftsmanship. The Charleston Collection Giant table lighter with clock is an imposing sight. Based on an Alfred Dunhill clock lighter from 1929, Dunhill has made 200 of these faithful reproductions, constructed of solid brass and plated in both silver and gold. It is a magnificent decoration piece that would complement any home or office.
Although this lighter runs on petrol rather than butane, it will light cigars adequately if you avoid placing the cigar directly into the flame. But overall, it certainly has a distinction all its own. $2,800.
Conceived "exclusively for the cigar smoker," the Alfred Dunhill Unique cigar lighter is made of silver hobnail with gold trim (you can choose from silver, gold, or gold and silver plate). It has an anti-lock flint chamber and employs Dunhill's "antique open mechanism." The flip cap has a lip that makes it easy to open.
The Unique is smooth and easy to grip and operates with two simple motions. This is a solid piece that is easy to spark. The hobnail finish is very tactile and the design is classic. $330-$415.
Dunhill has also developed the Charleston companion sets. These sets--lighter, cuff links and fountain pen--are also based on original Alfred Dunhill designs from the 1920s. Constructed of sterling silver, they are beautifully lacquered in an Art Deco motif of sky blue or black geometric patterns. Unlike antique Dunhill lighters, these lighters operate entirely on butane, not petrol.
The lighter works easily and employs the same methods as all Dunhill lighters. Due to its silver jacket, it is a little heavy for its size. Dunhill's English craftsmen constructed these sets with infinite care and detail. $2,900 for the set.
S.T. Dupont of Paris has been fashioning lighters for upscale clients for more than 50 years. Dupont takes a very traditional approach, favoring simplicity and elegance over more avant-garde designs. Its newest additions are variations on original Dupont designs from the Second World War.
Two of Dupont's top sellers are its Gatsby and Montparnasse lines. Introduced at Cigar Aficionado's November 1995 New York Big Smoke, the popular Gatsby macassar ($575) is a flint lighter wrapped in Chinese lacquer. The lacquer is dyed in brown and ivory pastes, to give the lighter a wood-like finish. It is small and fits well in the hand. The Montparnasse ($645) is made of brushed palladium with gold.
The Montparnasse is heavy for its size, making it more difficult to grip in a small hand, but both lighters are beautiful and work quite well, throwing a reliable flame. They lit cigars adequately. These lighters have the easiest flame adjustment mechanism of any we tested--just a twist on the tiny lever on the bottom of the lighter. Both lighters have the characteristic Dupont 'ping' when flipping open the cap.
Although not a global marque, Colibri has been creating lighters for more than 26 years. Unlike the traditional designs of other companies, Colibri's lighters boast some of the most modern designs around.
One of Colibri's top sellers is its cutting-edge Quantum series, which includes the Prime Minister ($100-$125) and the Diplomat ($130). Lightweight and compact, these lighters are made of brass with jewel-tone finishes, and each comes with a Colibri crest.
Colibri's forced flame system offers a strong and reliable flame with the flick of a finger and the push of a button. According to Colibri, "A broad circular flame is produced through eightindependent gas jets in a platinum grid. The grid is heated bythe release of butane in a jet stream, which retains heat at such a level it will immediately reignite if blown out." One benefit of a forced flame lighter is that it can work quite well outdoors, so it keeps its flame even under windy conditions. One problem with this lighter is that if you forget to open the cap before pushing the button down, the lighter won't ignite on your first attempt when you do open the cap.
The Quantam series lighters feature a large butane chamber window so you can easily see when a refill is needed. The Prime Minister comes in four finishes: black matte, stainless steel, burlwood lacquer and gold satin pearl. The Diplomat comes in a choice of two-tone silver diamond cut with gold accents, two-tone gold diamond cut with silver accents, gray marble lacquer or brown lacquer. All lacquers are hard, over-baked epoxy. By the end of May, Colibri has planned to offer an expanded selection of lacquers.
Another popular Colibri series is its Elite Collection. The Elite Classic is a flint lighter constructed of brass with a smooth finish. Compact and lightweight, it is a very attractive piece. With a flame set at a 45-degree angle, the Elite lights a cigar very adequately. Another benefit is the visible flint chamber, which allows the user to monitor the flint level. The only drawback to the lighter is that the cap sits a little too close to the flame; it should go a little further back. It comes in gold satin, gold engine-turned, green marble lacquer, gold diamond cut or brown marble finishes or a stainless steel look with gold accents. $100-$135.
The California firm of KGM Industries is known for its modern turbo lighters. Like Colibri, KGM prefers ultramodern designs. KGM's Prometheus line of lighters, named after the hero of Greek mythology who brought fire to mankind, are avant-garde in design and operate via a high-tech lighting mechanism. According to KGM, "The butane gas is discharged with high pressure by built-in suction bores. The rapidly discharged butane gas is ignited by the electrode discharged by the electronic piezo and completely combusted inside of the internal burner cylinder." Made of brass, these flameless jet turbo lighters are KGM's latest designs.
The turbo Apollo lighter ($59.95) is funky and sleek. You can choose from 12 finishes, including satin gun metal, black matte, high polished chrome, polished gold and a combination of black matte and chrome.
The Renoma lighter ($79.95) boasts dual-flame technology. The combined strength of the regular visible flame and the invisible turbo flame makes lighting cigars a breeze. Attractive and streamlined, the Renoma is made of brass and comes in six finishes: satin silver, satin gold, satin gun metal, black sandstone, grey sandstone and antique gold.
The Neptune ($85) lighter is KGM's most expensive and most high-tech of its turbo line. Although it has a standard lighter design (resembling a classic Zippo), the Neptune incorporates flameless technology with traditional flint mechanisms. This lighter lights like a torch and goes out only when you close the cap, making it ideal for lighting cigars under windy conditions.
KGM also offers a unique combination pen and cigar lighter called the Faulkner. Extremely lightweight, it is eminently functional as well. It works like a charm.
The Prometheus lighters tested very well; they are reliable, with cutting-edge designs. But we noticed two small drawbacks. The lighter caps are too close to the flame , so they heat up quickly. With the Renoma lighter in particular, the proximity of the lighter switch to the flame may cause the user's thumb to become hot.
Savinelli is a well-known name to pipe and cigar lovers. Now it is known for its lighters as well. In conjunction with the Japanese firm of IM Corona, Savinelli has designed a number of new lighters for cigars and pipes.
Its top seller is the Old Boy, resembling an old Dunhill design. It is constructed of solid brass, with an Italian briar-style jacket that is very attractive. The angled flame makes it easy to light pipes but it also works quite well on cigars. It is easy to grip and lightweight. It is very reliable and goes a long time between refills, making it easy to maintain. $80-$135.
Introduced at the 1995 Retail Tobacco Dealers of America convention in Orlando, Florida, Savinelli's Double Corona lighter is fast becoming one of its most popular models. The design is very simple, yet elegant. The split-flame flint lighter creates a huge flame that makes it ideal for lighting cigars, although the force of the flame sometimes fluctuated in our tests while lighting. Constructed of solid brass, the Double Corona comes in eight finishes: black matte with gold accents, chromium barley diamond cut with gold accents, pewter-etched cigar design, gold-plated barley finish, gold barley diamond cut, gold-plated cocobolo wood panel, burgundy lacquer and gold with crest, and black lacquer and gold with crest. $135-$275.
Regardless of your preference, a good lighter should follow three important rules. First, it should be compact and lightweight. Second, it should light in an easy, fluid and consistent manner. Last, it should be attractive.
When lighting your cigar with any of the new turbo lighters or the more traditional flint lighters, keep your cigar one to one and a half inches away from the center of the flame. This insures that you won't char the wrapper of your cigar and, especially with the flameless turbo lighters, it helps to prevent cigar ash and tobacco from dropping into the working mechanism of the lighter; this would diminish the size of the flame and eventually impair the ignition spark. And never take apart the lighter; if it malfunctions, bring it to your dealer. Follow these rules and your flame will burn brightly. Whether you prefer a classic model that looks like something your father owned, or a style that looks straight out of 2001, there is a cigar lighter right for your needs. Finding The Flames
All of the lighters tested are sold through reputable tobacconists. For the store nearest you, contact the following manufacturers.