In the world of lighters and other cigar accessories, manufacturers seem to always be aiming for some perceived sweet spot where price, style and performance meet at a point that is agreeable to a large enough number of consumers to make the product worth bringing to market. With so many options to light a cigar already on the market, that can certainly be a challenging proposition.
The Lotus Group/Integral Logistics has introduced several new lighters this year that seek to hit a number of sweet spots for consumers, and in the case of the new Excaliber, it’s a well-built, multiple flame torch lighter that is available for a reasonable price.
The design of the Excaliber isn’t revolutionary; in fact it looks and feels quite familiar immediately upon picking it up. The ignition button serves to release the lid, start the flow of fuel and ignite the flame in a single action, something that should be familiar to most cigar smokers. A bit of texture on the ignition button and you screened vertical air flow slots are the only distinct features of the lighter, and even those aren’t particularly unique. There is also a punch cutter tucked into the base of the lighter that is accessible via a sliding metal button that stands out both for its placement and color.
The lighter weighs a respectable 3.2 ounces, giving its all-metal body some good heft in the hand. It’s just over three inches in length, 1 1/4 inches wide and just shy of 3/4 inches thick, a size that is comfortable if noticeable in the pocket while also being able to tuck away in a travel humidor, snugly in a five-count with smaller cigars but comfortable in a larger format.
The familiarity of the Excaliber’s design is a good starting point, as all it takes to get the lighter running is a simple push of the button. Assuming the tank if full and flame adjustment set properly—more on that in a moment—the three jets, arranged in a triangle configuration, will put out plenty of flame power that will quickly toast the foot of any cigar, particularly larger ring gauges.
Even though the jets all fire straight up instead of being focused to a single point, the collective flame is tightly focused. It’s also a rather long flame, reaching about an inch and a half or two inches above the lighter, with the usable amount of heat stretching beyond that so you’re under no obligation to hold the flame unnecessarily close to the foot of the cigar and risk charring the tobacco. I do find it a bit much for lanceros and cigars with ring gauges in the low 40s, though it’s not completely unusable on these vitolas. Rather, it just takes a bit more of a watchful eye and careful approach.
Something that I need to give the Vertigo Excaliber credit for is how cool the ignition button stays during the lighting process. Not once did I feel my fingers getting even the slightest bit warm from the lighter, something on which I place a pretty high amount of value. That’s not to say that the lighter itself doesn’t get hot; I don’t recommend touching the top of the Excaliber after toasting up a cigar, but everything below the jets stayed quite cool.
Silly as it may sound, one aspect of the Excaliber that I found myself drawn to is the lid, and in particular the satisfying sound it makes on both opening and closing. It may not be as distinct as an S.T.Dupont ping but one that I found myself quickly honing in on as I used the lighter. For idle fingers, it’s also something to fiddle with, something I found myself doing quite regularly.
One of the areas where the Excaliber is most finicky is the flame adjustment setting. Located on the bottom of the lighter as is the norm, it’s a traditional adjustment mechanism meaning you will need a flat tool such as a screwdriver to adjust it, though I found I was able to use my thumbnail in a pinch, but it’s not my recommended way to tackle the task.
The dial rotates a bit over 180 degrees to travel from fully closed to fully open, with only a sputter of flame at best produced by the Excaliber if it’s set to anything less than about two-thirds of the way open. At that point, flame is strong and plentiful—almost too much, in fact—but better than nothing at all. Opening the fuel flow beyond that doesn’t provide much in the way of returns and only figures to deplete the fuel supply faster. Thankfully the lighter doesn’t burp fuel and spew flames at its highest setting as has been seen with other lighters.
But the specificity of the setting can come down to literally a matter of just a few degrees in the setting, something that once you find it is fine, but trying to remember that exact setting after purging and refilling the lighter can be a bit frustrating.
The fuel tank is decently sized, easily holding enough fuel to last me through several days worth of cigars, or upwards of about half a dozen assuming I don’t burn up an inordinate amount of fuel relighting one of them. The large fuel window makes it easy to see how much fuel you have left in the tank, and the red-tinted window only enhances that ability, an appreciated add-on for a lighter that skews to the lower-priced segment of the market.
As is the norm, for ideal operation it’s best to purge the fuel tank of air before refueling it, a process carried out by turning the flame adjuster all the way to the right, it’s lowest setting, and then using an implement to push down on the fuel valve and release all the air pressure that has built up. Both my XIKAR MTX cigar scissors and JetLine cigar and lighter tool did the trick, as did a small screwdriver since it’s a standard size valve and no special tool is needed. With the air purged and the adjustment still set to its lowest setting, fill the lighter back up with good quality butane, reset the flame adjustment knob and as long as the fuel has had a chance to warm up, you’ll be back in business.
While I’m not a big fan of a punch cut, having a built in punch cutter is an appreciated touch that will certainly find some fans and can come in handy should you not have your regular cutter handy. The handful of cuts that I made with it were clean and easy, and while I initially wanted the blade to protrude a bit further away from the base in its locked position, it ended up being more than enough to ensure a good cut. It might not be as easy to manage as using a stand-alone punch cutter, but it’s by no means difficult or an impediment to the goal.
After about a month’s worth of everyday use, the Vertigo Excaliber has done everything I’ve asked it to and performed well, which is about all I can truly ask of any lighter. While I didn’t throw it against a concrete wall or run it over with a car, it has held up to my kind of usage, which is more than I can say for a number of lighters, including one of the company’s new value lighters, the plastic-bodied Vertigo Spectre. While it feels like the metal body may have loosened up just a touch since I first started using the lighter, it’s not enough to be concerning, and given the price I’m not looking for a one-piece body or something with rock solid welds. My biggest concern—-the lid—hasn’t been a problem whatsoever.
Even though the built-in punch cutter is a non-starter for me, I know a number of cigar smokers who would find it quite handy; whether or not that’s you, I maintain that the Vertigo Excaliber is a lighter worth considering. For an MSRP of $30, you’d be hard pressed to find a lighter that offers as much flame in as solid of a body and with the reliability I’ve experienced. I wouldn’t mind a bit more control over the size of the flame, but it’s a trade-off I’m willing to accept in light of everything of the Excaliber offers.
The Vertigo Excaliber is available in matte black, gunmetal or brushed chrome finishes, each with an MSRP of $29.99.
The lighter for this review was provided by The Lotus Group/Integral Logistics.