For the bulk of its 42-year history, the name Elie Bleu was familiar with a singular thing in the world of cigars: high-end humidors. While that is still the case, for the past several years the company has been expanding into other products, most notably lighters and cutters.
At the 2016 IPCPR Convention & Trade Show, the company rolled a slew of new products that the company released as part of its 40th anniversary celebration that seemed to not just be a milestone, but the start of a new chapter in the company’s history. Included in the new products was the J-12 Plano Flat Flame Lighter, a flat flame torch lighter that was available in five finishes, eached priced at $200:
- Gold/Blue lacquer
- Platinum/Black lacquer
- Platinum/red lacquer
Seemingly lost in the announcements of the new accessories was that Elie Bleu was including a flat flame option in their collection, which at the time was still somewhat of a rarity among the numerous other options with which to light your cigar. Since that time, however, there have been more models coming to market from other manufacturers, and the design seems to be gaining traction.
WHAT IS IT?
At its core, the Elie Bleu J-12 is a single, flat flame torch lighter. If you’re not familiar with a flat flame lighter, the flame has been spread out and comes out wider than a typical jet lighter, which puts out a longer, more pointed flame. Compared to other flat flame lighters, the J-12’s flame feels a bit smaller but is still capable of lighting pretty much any size cigar, though it seems better suited to smaller cigars. It is used just the same way as any other torch lighter, though the effect of the flame makes it feel like you are painting the foot of the cigar with a paint brush.
WHAT MAKES IT SPECIAL?
When talking about Elie Bleu, craftsmanship is certainly one of the first things that should come to mind, and the J-12 appears to be built quite well. It’s solid in the hand without feeling artificially heavy, while the side-squeeze ignition mechanism conveys the feeling of solid internal construction. The design is certainly on the more elegant side, and the color of the red paint on this particular unit is bright, vibrant and eye-catching.
- It’s an elegant lighter that manages to remain quite functional; there doesn’t seem to be any trade-off in terms of looks versus performance.
- The compact size is a real plus as it fits easily in a travel humidor or your pocket.
- The blue-tinted fuel window on the side of the lighter is a welcomed addition to a compact lighter.
- The flip-out flame adjustment mechanism is very helpful; it’s still quite small but was quite usable and much easier than having to get out a small flathead screwdriver or a similar device.
- While I’ve been sort of agnostic about side-squeeze ignitions, this one didn’t do it for me. It feels a bit awkward, but most importantly, the other side of the lighter—which my index finger either curls around or rests against—can get very hot, very quickly.
- Given the firm build of the J-12, it takes a bit more muscle to squeeze the ignition, and holding it in place requires a decent grip.
- If you have bigger hands, this may feel a bit too small for your liking. I certainly don’t profess to have large mitts, but at times it did feel a bit small.
- The ignition wasn’t quite as consistent on this as I’d like, though it was far from problematic. There were a few times where I need to give it two or three clicks to get it firing, but it seemed to get much better towards the end of the review process, enough that I was beginning to question whether it belonged in the pros section.
- The fuel window doesn’t always seem to be accurate, and inverting the lighter and then returning it upright often results in differing amounts of fuel being displayed.
- The finish showed a fair amount of wear, though I have to think this could have been avoided if I had been using a case or sleeve. That doesn’t come with the lighter, however, which is disappointing.
As noted in my review of the XIKAR Verano, this has quickly become a segment of lighters with a number of options.
- XIKAR Verano — While I haven’t used every flat flame lighter on the market, this one earned high marks for its build quality, reliability, and performance. At just under $80 it’s not a value-oriented lighter, but is one of a few that deserve serious consideration.
- S.T.Dupont Slim 7 — One of the slimmest lighters on the market, this very compact lighter works quite well though comes with a price tag comparable to the Elie Bleu ($185) and does sacrifice fuel capacity for the sake of size. While it works quite well, it does feel a bit under-matched at times.
- Porsche Design Heber — Given the name on this lighter, it should be no surprise that it has some distinctive design aesthetics. Specifically, there is a flip-down tab that fires the ignition as opposed to a push-button or slide-down mechanism. This is on my list of lighters to review before long, and one I’m intrigued by both for its design and that it will be the first Porsche Design lighter I’ve used on a regular basis. It’s priced at $150.
- Lotus Citadel Flat Flame 3 — a familiar column-style design with a push-button ignition, retractable lid and a built-in punch cutter on the bottom. With an MSRP of $120 it’s one of the more expensive lighters in the category.
- Lotus El Presidente — a different body style that drops the cutter and uses a pull-down ignition while staying in an all-metal housing. It’s also a bit cheaper, with an MSRP of $100.
SHOULD YOU BUY IT?
No. While functional, there are some fundamental problems with this lighter as noted above, and that’s before taking into account the price to performance ratio. Factor in that XIKAR has shown it can produce a flat flame lighter for less than half the cost, and it makes it even harder to recommend. Plus, early use of the Porsche Design Herber has shown you can get a fancy, well-designed flat flame for just over half of the Elie Bleu’s price. Unless you really want a showpiece to light your cigar, and aren’t opposed to spending $200 on a lighter, you can do much better than the Elie Bleu J-12 Plano Flat Flame Lighter.
The lighter used for this review was purchased by halfwheel.