Before we can enjoy all the goodness a fine handmade cigar has to offer, we must first prepare the cigar for that glorious moment of first light. Most all handmade cigars require the creation of an aperture or cut to draw in the flavorful smoke.
Anatomy of a Cigar
A cigar is broken down into three basic parts: The “foot” is the open end which will receive the flame upon lighting, the “body” which makes up the bulk of the cigar and the “head” which is the end that will be cut and used to draw through. It is the head we will be cutting. There are many variations of cigar cutters, yet the following guide features the most popular of the recommended types. As with all things, patience, practice and safety will bring an easier, almost second-nature to your cigar enjoyment. And no matter your choice of cutter, following these simple steps will help make your cigar smoking journey a frustration-free and most pleasurable experience.
Different Cutter Types
Generally, cigar aficionados will find themselves with the option of several different cigar cutter types. These different options will give a slightly different draw and take off a different slice of the head of the cigar.
Predominantly, cigar fans will use guillotine cigar cutters, scissors cutters, a tool for a ‘V’-cut, or a punch cutter or hole punch cutter.
The Guillotine Cigar Cutter (aka Straight Cut)
“Off with their heads!” This is the most preferred way to cut a cigar, as it is usually the cleanest cut and provides the most surface area to draw through. Double-bladed guillotines tend to work best, as they generally do not fray one side or the other as some standard single-blade guillotines tend to do.
The Guillotines will trim the cap or flag (a small bit of leaf placed over the head of the cigar to help hold the wrapper leaf in place) thus exposing the tobaccos. You never want to cut below the cap, as the cigar can unravel and make for a truly frustrating experience. Most cigars have visible “cap lines” making it easy to locate the best cutting area. If cap lines are not readily visible, then the general rule of thumb is to cut just above where the body of the cigar begins to curve or round into the crown of the cigar’s head.
Xikar’s Xi3 cigar cutteris a popular high-end guillotine style cutter that is good for thousands of clean cuts.
To Use:Remembering not to cut below the cap line, keep the cigar still as possible to make the cut quickly yet with a level, steady and controlled motion. The resulting cut should provide for a smooth and unimpeded smoke.
The Scissors Cigar Cutter
Scissor cutters are an elegant alternative to the guillotine and, similarly cut a larger surface area off of the cap. Scissors can often times be tricky to use and, especially if they are too small or dull, can fray the cigar if mishandled.
To Use: Much like with the Guillotine, select the best area to cut and place the open scissors over the selected area and carefully snip the head. Remember to make the cut fairly quick and precise, so as not to get the dreaded “squeezing” action that can crush the cigars head and, even worse, tear the tobacco.
The V-Cut (aka Cat-Eye or Wedge Cut)
A V-Cutter is a unique tool that cuts a V-shaped wedge out of the end of a cigar. The idea being that each side of the “V” combines for more surface area and therefore more smoke directed onto the palate and taste-buds, while keeping the exposed filler tobacco from direct contact with your mouth. Most popular during the Gilded Age, the V-cutter is a stylish and crowd-pleasing blend of Old World tradition and a wholly singular character. The V-Cutter, however, is one of the trickiest of all cutters to use, as most V-cutters are made for a relatively small range of sizes and can wreak havoc on your cigar if it is not cut precisely with the proper size.
To Use: Placing the cigar into the V-Cutter band side up, firmly without pressing the cigar too hard, make a quick and controlled cut top (face of cigar band) to bottom, being careful not to remove the cigar until you have released the cutter back into its full open position. Otherwise, the cigar can be caught in the cutter and tear when you try to pull it out.
The Punch (aka Hole Punch or Bullet Cut)
The Punch Cutter is a popular choice for those on the go or who simply do not want the bulk of a larger cutter. The Punch is a circular cutting device that usually has a diameter of 8 to 12 mm or about the size of a .44 caliber bullet. The Punch, working much like a cookie cutter, literally “punches” out a circular hole on the head of the cigar. The Punch Cutter is versatile and great for travelling, yet is not recommended for smaller cigars or shaped cigars such as a Belicoso. For extra -large diameter cigars, however, you may carefully cut two or three overlapping holes which will allow for greater surface area, much like that of a guillotine.
To Use: Hold the cigar firmly in one hand and place the Punch cutter precisely where you wish to make the cut. It is a good idea to lightly twist the cutter onto the cigar first; as this leaves a faint line of cut that allows you to make sure you are cutting precisely where you want to. Then with a carefully steady force, push and twist the cutter until the sufficient amount of tobacco has been cut, being mindful not to cut too deep as to interfere with the filler tobaccos or impede the draw.
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