As cigars get bigger, so do lighters and cutters, and the triple flame torch that once seemed overkill is now dwarfed by four and even six-flame lighters that have infiltrated the market. On the four-flame front, the Vertigo Spectre promises a big punch in a compact, affordable package. It’s a quad-flame torch lighter with a single-action ignition and a built-in punch cutter, all with a suggested price tag under $15.

Once you get the Vertigo Spectre in your hands, you can immediately feel the difference between it and other lighters, as it weighs in at a very light 1.8 ounces and is made almost completely out of plastic with the punch cutter and lid being the two main exceptions. It’s a familiar shape however, with a single action ignition that flips the lid open, starts the flow of fuel and ignites it by way of pressing the button down with your thumb.

Jumping right into the ignition process, it’s easy and the button offers a fair amount of resistance. The four jets are arranged in a square configuration that creates a flame wide enough to make fairly quick work of anything over a 50 ring gauge; anything smaller can be lit quickly as well but will be overmatched by the firepower of the Spectre. As your fingers will find out if you misaim the lighter, this pocket-friendly unit can put out quite a bit of heat.

Once the butane is burning, it’s easy to see that the Spectre doesn’t put out the same level of flame from each of the four jets, something that has me a bit concerned about the quality of the lighter’s guts. Despite that, there is a solid, strong flame offered, at least for the first couple of weeks that I used the lighter, and when the tank had just been filled.

vertigo-spectre-burner

I bring that up because it’s not long after I start using the lighter that I notice the flame becomes inconsistent, sputtering at times and struggling to produce a solid flame at any setting lower than almost completely wide open. It’s this flaw that begins me down the path of finding a number of things that I quickly come to dislike about the Sceptre.

vertigo-spectre-flame

When the lighter is less than about two-thirds full, there seems to be a disconnect between getting enough fuel flowing to sustain the flame after a brief flash of fire. The result is needing to crank the adjustment knob more open and getting a flame that is much too big for lighting a cigar, or having to deal with several misfires before things finally work in unison to produce a more manageably sized flame. Given how quickly the Spectre goes through fuel, this a problem that comes along quite soon after the lighter is refilled.

vertigo-spectre-fuel-window

Speaking of the flame adjustment mechanism, like on many if not most all lighters it is found on the base, and in this case is best accessed by flipping up the metal punch cutter. While it looks fairly standard at first glance, it is also a frustrating one for me for a couple of reasons. The gap between the two notches is wider than what I’ve found on seemingly every other lighter I’ve used. For someone who is never far away from a pair of XIKAR MTX cigar scissors and multi-tool, they are my default tool to adjust the flame on a lighter. The two screwdriver tools are both too small to fully engage with the adjustment knob, and trying to make the larger of the two work is difficult at best and ends up scuffing what feels like quite soft plastic.

vertigo-spectre-punch-cutter

In something I never thought I would say, the part of the MTX that seemed best capable of adjusting the flame is the handle, simply because it is wide enough to engage the adjustment knob, though awkwardly at best. I ended up resorting to a dime or penny in most cases, something I don’t always have on hand when not at home. A slightly larger screwdriver would do the trick as well, though again, it’s not something I’m willing to carry around with me.

Additionally, there are a few other spots where the Sceptre shows its flaws. The first is the lid, which began to get misaligned and wobbly as the pin that holds it to the body began wiggling out. While a simple push back into place remedied the problem, it started wiggling out within a week or so, and I am of the mindset that once something gets out of whack, it will eventually get out of whack again, which happened with the Spectre.

Second, the finish has begun to wear off in spots, and while I was expecting this to happen, to actually see it is a disappointment. It was never destined to be a showpiece, but I would rather pick a lighter that has a solid, clear plastic body with no paint to rub off than see this steady degradation of the appearance.

As for the body of the lighter, it’s certainly not as heavy or substantial as better built—and more expensive—competitors on the market. The ridges on the side show this best of all, as the rest of the body is passable for a decent low cost option. Tack on the fact that the punch cutter didn’t sit quite flush with the base, which made the Spectre a bit harder to stand up in a stable position. It’s not an egregious misalignment, but like a table that wobbles just a bit, you notice it.

vertigo-spectre-size

That all said, I do like the large fuel window that the Spectre offers; it may not be totally necessary but is a plus, falling between the typical fuel window found on many lighters and the translucent bodies of several others.

While I like the proposition of a wallet-friendly quad-flame lighter, the Spectre falls short in too many ways for me to be a fan of it. The housing feels thin and it feels to be loosening with repeated use, the lid has already shown some issues, and if I didn’t know better I might think it’s slowly leaking fuel. But most importantly, the ignition process is inconsistent more times than a single push of the button does the trick, and that’s something I refuse to accept from any new lighter that I would use on a daily basis. Knowing that there are much better products on the market at similar price points makes the Vertigo Spectre a no-deal decision for me.

The Vertigo Spectre is available in two colors: black matte and metallic silver, each of which comes with an MSRP of $14.99.

The lighter used for this review was provided by The Lotus Group/Integral Logistics.

Patrick Lagreid

I strive to capture the essence of a cigar and the people behind them in my work – every cigar you light up is the culmination of the work of countless people and often represents generations of struggle and stories. For me, it’s about so much more than the cigar – it’s about the story behind it, the experience of enjoying the work of artisans and the way that a good cigar can bring people together. In addition to my work with halfwheel, I’m the public address announcer for the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks during spring training, as well as for the Salt River Rafters of the Arizona Fall League, the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury and the Arizona Rattlers of the Indoor Football League. I also work in a number of roles for MLB.com, plus I'm a voice over artist. I previously covered the Phoenix and national cigar scene for Examiner.com, and was an editor for Cigar Snob magazine.