How to Cut a Cigar – Techniques, Do’s and Don’ts:
Now that you have purchased your cigar it is time to cut it prior to applying fire and lighting it. There are so many options on how to cut your cigar that it can be just as overwhelming as picking it out. Cuts that are straight, V cut, punched, small razor cuts to make openings, one or multiple holes in the head of the cigar using a special tool, or just your fingernail are all options. What is important to understand is in the end how you choose to cut a cigar is your personal preference. I prefer a straight cut which removes the cap of the cigar at the head with a clean straight cut. Second choice a V cut.
Now, why are all these types of cuts available? Again, it is preference, but each does really have a purpose in the end. Let me discuss the two extremes with you. A straight cut opens the most surface area straight across the back and allows the smoke to freely be pulled from all parts of the cigar without a deviation from the cut itself. Think about it like this, you created a cut that basically makes the cigar act like a straw and it is about as equally open on both ends, the lit end, and the draw end. Of course, you need to be careful to not cut off too much with a straight cut and we will explore that in a moment. On the other extreme is a small hole or holes in the head of the cigar using a tool that has a small sharp poker on it. I have seen people use toothpicks, ice picks or a new cutter in the market, that has several of these types of picks on it, to create multiple holes in the head of the cigar. By having a smaller hole, it concentrates the smoke into one opening and gives a stronger impact on your palate and how the smoke tastes.
Let us explore the different types of cutters and cuts they make:
Straight Cut – This is the cut that makes the largest opening at the head of your cigar. When making a straight cut first look at the cigar and the head where you will cut it. The head is the closed end, or the end you will draw from and not light with fire, and on most cigars, it looks rounded and has a small cap on it to seal it off. The goal with a straight cut is to just clip the cap off but caution do not take off too much since if you do the cigar can unravel. One guide is standing the cigar on the foot or point it straight down with the foot facing down (foot end that you light with fire) and look at the head. You should see that it goes from the straight side to the rounded cap. Think about that as two lines the straight side rounding as one line and the end of the cigar as the other. You want to cut in the middle of those two lines with a straight cutter. By doing so you will keep the cigar intact and create the widest opening which will offer you the most smoke output from your cigar.
I get asked a lot does it matter how many blades a cutter has, and the real answer is no as long as the blades are sharp. However, my preference is a double-bladed straight cutter which has 2 blades that join in the middle. The reason is that if they start to dull a little, they will still work very well and tend to not pinch the cigar’s head. There are lots of other types of straight cutters in the market, but I recommend a double-bladed cutter or cigar scissors.
V-Cut – This type of specialty cutter creates a deep groove or V shaped cut in the back of your cigar. Many people prefer this type of cut for its ease of use and the fact that even though it would seem smaller than the straight cut it offers an expansive opening and a good amount of smoke output. The V cut basically creates a fold in the opening at the head of the cigar. This will concentrate the smoke some but if you took the opening and laid it flat it is as much open surface area as a straight cut. The key here is to try and find a V-cutter that has an inverted blade, a blade that has the V visible and backwards, so that it cut a clean and precise V. These types of inverted cutters are more and more on the market from the big-name accessory companies. Another thing to remember is that you need to apply a slight amount of pressure to hold the V-cutter to the head of the cigar and make a quick precise cut.
Punch Cut – A punch cut uses a tool that makes a small circle in the head of the cigar to open it. The reason people like punch cuts is that it concentrates the smoke and people feel a stronger smoke on their palate. The trick to using a punch cut is that it needs to be sharp, free of dings or blemishes and used slowly and gently. I start by first aligning the punch in the center of the head and slowly turning it back and forth applying gentle pressure to cut the tobacco leaf. I keep adding pressure and eventually I the process cuts a whole in the end of the cigar and the punch cutter can go no deeper. Then I just simply pull the punch straight out from the end and look to see if the cap came along for the ride. If not, I use my fingernail to peel the cap off, yes this happens sometimes but not anything to be concerned about.
Creation of Holes – There are devices in the marketplace that create a small hole in the back of your cigar to allow you to draw. Personally, I am not a fan, but some are. The basic principle is that you make the smallest hole, or smallest set of holes, in the head of your cigar and this will super concentrate the smoke. For me this does not work well for few reasons. First, I do not believe that you get enough smoke output to truly taste the cigar on your palate with this. Second, if you tend to be a wet smoker (a person that makes the end of the cigar wet with their mouth while smoking) these holes tend to close up and then you are making new ones. Lastly, it just seems wrong to me. But, for you this might be the best way to smoke a cigar and I always suggest people try something at least once to see if they like it.
As part of this section I will also discuss a device that creates small cuts in the head of the cigar using tiny razor blades. Basically, you push the cigar into the device, and it creates several (I think 6) slices in the head to allow you to draw. This device is novel for sure, but the same reasons above apply to this and it is not a choice of mine.
Fingernail – If you spend a lot of time around cigar smokers you will eventually see someone just use the nail of their thumb to open the head of the cigar. This is how many of the master cigar makers in the industry cut their