Like most things with cigars, how they should be cut is a matter of preference. I mean really, I’ve seen people bite the caps off their cigars, use pocket knives, scissors, cutters of all varieties and even fingernails! And while I’m sure they’re all very effective for that cigar smoker’s needs, I find that the proper tool depends on your comfort level with cutters, the shape or size of your cigar (vitola) and how you prefer the draw.
Three most popular instruments to prep cigars are Guillotine cutters, Cigar Punches and V-Cutters. There may be slight variations to the taste as the draw of the cigar may affect the amount of buildup that collects in the head or cap area, but doing it right with either method helps to enhance your experience. Here is the quick and dirty…or quick and clean, depending on which method you use and how precise your cut is.
The most recognizable and common method of cutting a cigar. This cutter consist of one or two sharp blades (guillotine) that cut a significant piece from the cap (round, closed end). Of the three techniques, this one takes the most practice and attention to get it just right. If too much is cut, your cigar wrapper (and your experience) will unravel. If too little is cut, the draw will be unbearable and the veins will start to pop out of your head from the constant pulling.
Many guillotine cutters are considered to be “Perfect Cut” instruments because you should be able to place the stick in the cutter or on a flat surface, close the blades and have just the right amount taken off of the cap. Depending on the shape of the cap and the depth of the cutter, a second cut may sometimes be necessary to achieve the ideal draw from the cigar.
Guillotine cutters are best used with traditional capped cigars or torpedoes with ring gauges under 60, as many of these cutters are not large enough for anything larger.
For the slightly more experienced cigar smoker that is comfortable knowing just how much (or not to) cut and has a steady hand. Person that enjoys a medium to loose draw.
Punches are the most convenient and safest way to prep your cigar. A punch is a small circular blade that is designed to basically “punch” a hole in the cap of the cigar. While other methods are designed to cut a significant portion of the cap off, the punch leaves the cap intact, with a small, circular opening that allows smoke to be drawn out in a smaller capacity.
For those concerned that they will ruin the construction of their cigar, the punch is a great way to go that eliminates the fear of the wrapper unraveling. Many also say that this method adds complexity to the flavor, as the smoke must travel through a smaller opening.
Cigars with ring gauges larger than size 40 or those too large to fit in guillotine cutters. This tool works well with Box-Pressed and cylindrical stogies.
For the beginner cigar smoker…until they feel comfortable recognizing how and where to cut with a guillotine. This is a great instrument for the cigar smoker on the go as most punches are made with a key ring attached and requires less measuring. The person that enjoys a tighter to medium draw.
This cutter is a hybrid of the two instruments mentioned above…the body of a guillotine with a blade that only cuts through the center of the cigar cap, leaving a larger portion of the outside intact. This cut will go the length of the cap in a “V” shape that looks much like a trench.
Much like the punch, cutting too much shouldn’t be a concern as many v-cut cutters will only allow so much of the cigar inside the cutting area, guaranteeing not to go too deep into the stick. Because of the shape of the blade, it must be very sharp to avoid a ragged cut and the risk of loose tobacco finding its way into your mouth.
Box-Pressed cigar are great candidates for the V-cut as guillotines are circular, which sometimes cause problems for the reticular shapes.
The cigar enthusiast that likes to cut cigars, but possibly fears taking too much off. Person that enjoys a medium to loose draw.
When it comes right down to it, those that enjoy cigars merely want to enjoy their cigar with a smooth, clean cut. The right vitola, proper humidification and a great light can all be negated by a less than precise cut. So whether on the go or in a pinch without your usual tools, do what you have to do to get that cigar ready. One’s preference is greatly impacted by the setting, time needed and the practice in getting them just right. And while several factors go in to ensuring that you get the most from your experience, the satisfaction really begins with knowing that you prepped your cigar like a pro!