Start up a discussion about lighters and utter the phrase triple flame, and it would seem that almost without fail, the visual in everyone’s head would be of a torch lighter, as well it should. However, there’s a soft flame lighter fighting to be part of that triple flame club.
In May 2020, XIKAR announced the Meridian, a triple soft flame lighter.
WHAT IS IT?
There are three separate streams of butane under the burner plate that combine to form an oversized candle-style flame. The lighter itself is an elongated, nine-paneled metal body, with a prominent roller cylinder front and center that is used to spark those three flames.
The lighter also offers a large, red-tinted fuel window on its rear face and an oversized flame adjustment wheel on its base. Additionally, the flints are user-replaceable by way of a small mechanism near where the flame comes out.
It measures 3 inches x 1 7/16 x 1 1/8 and weighs 4.7 ounces.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
There are six different color options.
- Black with gunmetal accents
- Gunmetal with gunmetal accents
- Red with gunmetal accents
- Blue with gunmetal accents
- Black with gold accents
- Black with rose gold accents
A set of 10 replacement flints costs $4.99, though as of this writing, they have not yet arrived at retailers due to shipping delays attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic, though they are said to be close. As with all XIKAR products, the Meridian comes with the company’s lifetime warranty. (Update: As of Aug. 17, 2020, the replacement flints have begun shipping.)
HOW DOES IT WORK?
In a nutshell, flip open the lid to start the butane flowing, then give the cylindrical ignition a solid spin to the left. As long as there is butane in the tank, you will then get an oversize soft flame, the result of three traditionally sized soft flame butane lines coming together for a noticeably bigger flame.
WHAT MAKES IT SPECIAL?
The phrase triple soft flame sums up the biggest selling point of this lighter, and while there is just one flame, it is noticeably bigger than what you will find from other soft flames. It is the result of three heating elements that are angled to create the large, singular flame.
Beyond that, the oversized flint wheel is a standout, arguably the easiest-to-light soft flame on the market.
ARE THREE FLAMES BETTER THAN TWO?
There are soft flame lighters that use two flames to create a bigger overall flame, so it’s worth asking if that third flame makes that much of a difference.
I’d say it does, as it definitely adds more firepower to your task of turning a non-combusting roll of tobacco leaves into a combusting one. How much of a difference is more of a scientific undertaking than I wanted to undertake and the subjective benefit will largely be tied into how comfortable you are with the price; that is, how many seconds are you willing to save in exchange for paying a premium of $50 to $100 for this lighter? With more flame comes more the risk of charring the sides of the cigar, but that was one thing I can’t say I experienced.
If you know how to handle a soft flame anyway, having that extra flame shouldn’t present too much of a learning curve, while delivering some noticeable benefit.
- It’s Incredibly Easy to Use — Just flip the lid and spin the cylinder—generally both with your thumb—and the butane lights, producing a good-sized soft flame with which to light your cigar. I love that there’s nothing to hold down in order to keep the flame burning.
- It’s Definitely a Bigger Flame — If you smoke bigger cigars and like a soft flame with which to light them, this is a great option. It won’t be as fast as a torch, but it will be faster than a typical soft flame.
- The Cylinder’s Texture — It’s one thing to add some texture to the main ignition mechanism, it’s another to add angled ridges that make it almost impossible for your finger or thumb to slip while igniting the lighter. I love the texture and this one part of the XIKAR Meridian is fantastic.
- It Is Still a Soft Flame — Make no mistake, this might be a large soft flame, but it is still a soft flame, meaning it is subject to the whims of the wind and any breezes, which makes it hard to get a steady flame unless you are only in fairly still air. There is little if any protection for the flame other than the lid and your hand.
- It Might be Too Big for Some — In my review of the JetLine Avalanche, I described that quad-flame torch lighter as being neither pocket-friendly nor pocket-impossible, a size range I feel is applicable here. If this is going to sit on a tabletop, this won’t be relevant, but if you want to put this in your pocket or five-count travel humidor, you will find that it takes up some space.
- Be Sure to Close the Lid — When the lid is up, butane is flowing, so be sure to close it when the lighter is not in use so you don’t drain the tank.
The XIKAR Meridian is a rather new and innovative product, meaning its competition is fairly limited to lighters that attempt to offer a larger flame or a premium-priced design. While there are a number of traditional soft flame lighters available at a range of prices, there are a few that are a bit closer to being head-to-head competitors for the XIKAR Meridian:
- Colibri Julius ($125) — One of the Meridian’s most direct competitors was also designed by the same person, Jimmy Miúdo, who worked for Colibri before joining Quality Importers/XIKAR. Colibri’s Julius is a double soft flame that features a large roll bar ignition, tinted fuel window and flip-top lid, as well as a pachymar texture on the body for added grip. While it’s not a triple flame, one of the soft flames is positioned at a 45 degree angle, giving it a big flame that puts it very much in the conversation. I haven’t used this in some time, but it was certainly a capable option.
- S.T.Dupont Initial ($250-$450)— I reviewed this in April 2017 and found it to be a very solid single flame lighter, though it seems to have begun disappearing from the market, so its availability might be limited. It’s one of the more affordable S.T.Duponts on the market and retains what I think most people would refer to as the classic lighter design and aesthetic.
- S.T.Dupont Ligne 2 ($800+) — You can’t have a discussion about soft flame cigar lighters without the S.T.Dupont Ligne, the lighter known as much for its signature ping when opening the lid as anything else. A very solid lighter, but it comes at a cost, starting at $800 and going up from there depending on the design, making it almost more of a showpiece than a functional lighter. It should be noted that most of the S.T.Dupont soft flame lighters are functionally identical, two flames that come together to form a wider soft flame.
- XIKAR Forte Soft Flame ($69.99) — For just under half the price of the Meridian, the Forte Soft Flame deserves consideration. A more traditional design with a push-down ignition, it also offers a fold-out punch cutter and a more compact design.
- XIKAR EX ($59.99) — A slightly different design than the Forte and no punch cutter, with an even lower price tag and still solid performance.
- BernzOmatic ST2200 MicroTorch ($26.97) — By no means is this your traditional cigar lighter and by no means a prestigious accessory, but it works. This is generally found at hardware stores and is billed more for light soldering than it is for lighting a cigar. But it features the option to switch between a jet torch and a soft flame, and if calibrated correctly, will offer a decently sized soft flame. It’s not pocket- or travel humidor-friendly, so plan on leaving this where you smoke, but for a unique, versatile and unconventional option if you just want a big, soft flame. Vertigo offers some similar products—namely the Grasshopper and Zeus—as does JetLine with the Echo.
COULD THIS BE YOUR ONLY LIGHTER?
If: you never smoked outside; you never smoke in a breezy environment; you are fairly patient with how you light your cigars. You could also listen to vinyl records instead of streaming music. It’s a choice to use something like a soft flame lighter, generally done to enhance the ritual of lighting a cigar while using something that doesn’t reach four digits of temperature. That said, the versatility and convenience of a torch lighter—for me, a single flame version works just fine in seemingly every circumstance—makes it hard to say you should pick anything other than that if you only had to have one lighter.
If I only had to have one lighter and it had to be a soft flame—assuming neither money nor the desire to flex my ego were issues—the XIKAR Meridian would likely be in the final group of consideration. Unless you need a built-in punch cutter, there’s pretty much nothing to complain about with the Meridian. I wish there was a way to shield the flame from the wind a bit better, such as is done with the XIKAR Forte and XIKAR EX, but no soft flame to my knowledge is truly windproof, they just sit at different points on the scale of wind resistance.
To put it another way, while making the XIKAR Meridian my primary lighter during the past few weeks for this review, I almost always had a single flame torch on hand just in case I ran into a situation where the environment made it too challenging to use.
SHOULD YOU BUY IT?
Yes. From both a form and function standpoint, the XIKAR Meridian is a solid choice for fans of soft flame lighters. Other than the qualms I would have with any soft flame lighter, the Meridian didn’t really add any to the list. The size may be a bit odd for some—and the price tag will almost certainly provide some pause—but in terms of how it works when it comes to lighting your cigar, in my experience with it, the Meridian is as capable as any soft flame on the market, if not more so.