If you stay up on developments in the cigar lighter world, or if you’ve gone lighter shopping recently, you’ve undoubtedly seen a steady increase in the number of flat flame lighter options. What was once a rarity is now getting close to common, and while certainly not as numerous as the number of traditional torch options, there are options from multiple manufacturers and in a number of designs.

In addition to being an alternative to a traditional torch, one thing those flat flames have generally had in common was a higher price tag. That meant MSRPs around $100 for a while, then backing down a bit but never getting much under about $60. That was until the Vertigo Zephyr came out, an option from The Lotus Group—one of the pioneers of flat flame lighters—that gave consumers a much more wallet-friendly option.

For those unfamiliar with flat flame torch lighters, the concept is fairly easy to understand: take a single flame torch lighter, create an elongated oval or rectangle shaped opening, and get a wider flame that consumes about the same amount of butane but delivers a soft, wide flame option that works well for most—if not all—ring gauges.

WHAT IS IT?

The Zephyr is a flat flame torch lighter that is squarely aimed at the price-conscious consumer. It is offered with a single action ignition, lightweight anodized aluminum housing, and is also pocket friendly, measuring just over 2.5 inches tall, 1.5 inches wide and only about .33 inches thick, while weighing just about 2.3 ounces. For those who smoke at higher elevations, the company says the Zephyr will work at up to 11,000 feet above sea level.

It comes in three color ways: black crackle and brushed gunmetal, which you see in the review; brushed chrome and brushed gunmetal; and maroon crackle and brushed copper,

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?

The MSRP of the Vertigo Zephyr is $19.99, which includes a lifetime warranty.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

To get the Vertigo Zephyr going, you simply give it a squeeze, as pressing in the side-squeeze ignition starts the flow of butane and sparks the piezo ignition which lights the fuel. When you’re done, simply release the ignition lever and the flame will extinguish itself. Refills are done via a valve on the base of the lighter, as are adjustments to the height of the flame.

WHAT MAKES IT SPECIAL?

It’s the price.

The Vertigo Zephyr broke through a price barrier that prevented a good number of cigar smokers from considering a flat flame. It’s a barebones lighter, though outside of the occasional punch cutter, a good number of flat flames didn’t offer much in the way of added features. Beyond that, the slim body style is one that will appeal to those looking for a lighter that can slide into a pocket without creating a noticeable bulge.

PROS

  • It’s Very Portable — If you like small, thin, portable lighters, this is a great option. Not only is the Zephyr lightweight, you can slide it into a pocket without creating an obvious bulge.
  • The Ignition is Great — It is very easy to use: cradle it in your fingers and then either use the tip of your thumb or the fleshy part at the base of your thumb to squeeze the ignition. I won’t say that it is perfect as you will get the occasional click without ignition, but it is otherwise about as solid as you could ask for.
  • The Price to Performance Ratio is Solid — While this is a budget-friendly lighter, its performance is anything but cheap. While I don’t think it’s quite as good, I have a hard time thinking that the performance of my favorite flat flame—the Porsche Design Heber—is 9-10 times better than that of the Vertigo Zephyr.

CONS

  • The Fuel Tank — If there is a fatal flaw with the Vertigo Zephyr, it’s the size of the fuel tank, a tradeoff that one has to make in order to achieve the size of the lighter. I tended to find that I needed to refill my Zephyr after two or three cigars, which for me was an annoyance, but may not be for you.
  • There Is a Real Reduction In Flame Height When Fuel Gets Low — This is more a note of comparison, but a lot of lighters seem to work pretty well even when the fuel level gets low, but the Zephyr really drops off, going from a pretty solid spade of flame to a gentle gurgle.
  • There Isn’t a Fuel Window — One of my more common gripes with lighters, and one I repeat here. I get that it may not be practical for every design, and if you’ve got a supply of butane on hand it’s not that big of a deal. But I still like knowing when I’m running low so I can top up.

THE COMPETITION

As noted above, flat flame lighters have generally come with a fairly high MSRP, and my favorite in the category—the Porsche Design Heber—hardly qualifies as competition given its MSRP of $150. But there are some to consider:

  • Vector Spade ($35) — Easily the most direct competitor to the Zephyr, the Spade is nearly identical, with the biggest difference being the movement of the air vent; on the Spade it is on the skinny side opposite the ignition, while the Zephyr offers two vents on the wider sides, a bit below the flame. It is also more expensive, though I haven’t used it to see if it is worth the splurge.
  • Vector Defiance ($45) — This lighter was just announced so I haven’t had a chance to use it, but it offers a punch cutter and a visible fuel window. Plus, it’s offered in six color options.
  • Thunderbird FT Flat Flame Insert ($20) — If you have a Zippo lighter, this is an interesting option, as you swap out your original lighter core for a flat flame. Several manufacturers offer similar units; butane capacity is a problem here as well.
  • Vertigo Cyclone ($15) — If you’re shopping in the sub-$20 range, you have a number of options to choose from, including base model options from JetLine, Vertigo, Firebird and others. Most if not all of them are very good and worthy of consideration, so it comes down to whether you want to save a couple of bucks or splurge a bit for the flat flame of the Vertigo Zephyr, with the caveat of the smaller fuel tank. Personally, the smaller tank is enough of a drawback that I’d pick the Vertigo Cyclone—or its competitors—especially since a Google search turns up some deals that outshine the Zephyr’s MSRP.

SHOULD YOU BUY IT?

Yes. If you’ve been looking for an affordable flat flame lighter, the Vertigo Zephyr is a lighter you need to pick up. Even if you weren’t looking for a flat flame lighter, I’d still recommend dropping the $20 or so to get one. Yes, the fuel tank is painfully small, small enough that it may have you cursing its size. But the performance of the lighter when filled will have you overlooking that fact. This is a lighter that is good enough for daily carry on its own, but one that is worth picking up simply to experience the merits of a flat flame for yourself—a lighter style that may have you swapping in your traditional torches, whether it be for this one or a higher priced competitor.

The lighter used for this review was purchased by halfwheel.

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.