Going Old School — Commonwealth Cedar Spills

September 13, 2012

Commonwealth Cedar SpillsThe process of lighting your cigar is maybe the most overlooked part of the cigar experience. The vast majority of people will take whatever flame source is handy and hold the flame against the foot of their cigar to get it lit. But, those people are often times ruining their cigar in the process.


No matter what flame source you use to light your cigar you need to take a few extra seconds to do it right. Scorching and torching the foot of your cigar leaves it charred, effecting the flavor of your smoke from the very first puff through the last. When you hold the flame against the cigar foot you incinerate the foot and perhaps char the wrapper leaf, which accounts for 50% to 75% of the flavor of the cigar. The char flavor embeds in the body of the cigar and is present throughout the rest of your time smoking.

By moving the flame source just a few 8’s of an inch away from the foot and drawing the heat to the cigar with a few puffs, you move from scorching and torching to roasting and toasting. It really only takes a few seconds more to achieve a fully lit foot, but the effort is worth it in generating a truly fine experience.


At Chesapeake Cigar, we limit your available cigar lighting choices intentionally.  We refuse to sell or provide flame sources that can ruin the flavor of a cigar even when you roast and toast. That’s why we don’t sell fluid-based lighters or provide paper book matches.

You HAVE TO avoid any flame source that carries a flavor into the cigar — fluid lighters, candles, citronella tiki torches, paper matches, etc…

We recommend the following flame sources in this order:

  • Spanish Cedar spills
  • Soft-flame butane lighters
  • Torch or hard flame butane lighters
  • Wooden match sticks (Wooden match sticks are a little further down on the list because they are undependable and don’t work well in almost all outdoor settings.)
  • Lasers (could be #1 if they existed in the “real” world)

Each of these options produces a clean flame source that allows you to roast and toast your cigar foot properly.


Lighters are easy to obtain and almost always handy, but, that wasn’t always the case. Before the lighter, flame sources were limited to candles, fireplaces and burning wick-based pools of liquids like kerosene. (Lighting your cigar in a fireplace is problematic because you’d have to get up, bend over and lean into the fire — roasting and toasting your whole head in the process.) None of these flame sources was clean enough to allow you to light your cigar without effecting the flavor.

So, in the old days, sticks that look much like the bamboo skewers we use today for grilling kebabs and Spanish cedar spills were used to take the “unclean” or “inconvenient” flame and bring a clean convenient flame to light the cigar. Many cigars come packed wrapped in thin Spanish cedar or with a thin slice of Spanish cedar in the box.

Unlike a match, the spill was easier to keep lit in outdoor settings and more just more dependable. They also look more elegant in use.


Before matches, torch lighters and industrialization spills were used to light cigars. Wood of various lengths, thickness and species were torn into narrow strips and lit with whatever flame source was handy. Cigars were slowly roasted and toasted allowing the oils and water within the tobacco leaves to slowly smolder, ignite and reveal almost immediately the full flavor and aroma of the cigar.

Commonwealth Cedar Spills began with the intention to return to this worthy tradition. A Commonwealth Cedar Spill is specifically designed for the cigar smoker to get the most out of their cigar by enabling the ignition process to start slowly and enabling the true flavors and aromatics of the tobaccos to come forth as the cigar maker intended. A Commonwealth Cedar Spill is Spanish Cedar; just like that in your humidor, and since it contains very little oil or resin (compared to other types of cedar) when lit there is little to no introduction of other substances or aromatics to interfere or contaminate your cigar.

We use the highest grade A and AA quality Spanish Cedar wood; which is actually Mahogany (the same species of wood that is used in humidors to protect your cigars) to light your delicious smokes. Since it contains very little oil or resin compared to other types of cedar, there are almost no other substances or aromatics to contaminate or interfere with your cigar.

There are many different types of cedar, like Western Red Cedar, Incense Cedar or those cedar chips you place in a pet cage. Using any of these to light a cigar could release the oils, water and resins that naturally occur in the wood and penetrate your cigar, altering the flavor.

Our Spanish Cedar spills preserve and protect the taste or flavor of a cigar, compared to lighting with a chemical head matchstick or butane lighter. Either of these could scorch or contaminate the tobacco, oils and water within a cigar. They can also contain gelatin, wax, clay, butane or other chemicals that could interfere with the flavor of your cigar.


We have a supply of samples here at the shop for you to try before you buy. Come in and go “Old School” today!

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