Preparing to smoke a cigar can be a wonderful experience in itself. You will be spending quality time with a quality product and it will be to your benefit to reflect upon its creation before lighting up. Unlike cigarettes, you do not simply pull out a cigar, light the tip and start puffing. First of all, almost every premium cigar has a closed head that must be cut before you can begin to smoke.
Where to cut? Well, first of all, you are cutting the uncut portion of the cigar – the head. The basic rule of thumb is to cut just past the shoulder (where the cigar stops being round). A half-inch inch (or 1.5 cm) usually does it, but that measure isn’t a universal guideline because of the various shapes in which a cigar may manifest itself. That’s why we’ve created this guide.
Cigar heads come in three basic shapes: Round, torpedo and pyramid. Follow the graphic guidelines here when cutting each of these shapes. You’ll notice that in the case of a torpedo, you can’t cut it behind the shoulder because the head of the cigar inclines too gradually (you?d loose too much cigar!). And, although a pyramid straightens itself out much more quickly, in this instance you should cut it slightly before you pass the shoulder.
Now, it’s on to the actual cutting.
There are three basic methods for cutting your cigar.
THE STRAIGHT CUT
A guillotine cutter traditionally consists of a thumb-operated plunger which slides a blade through a circular window in the body. The blade cuts on an angle like a true guillotine and slices off the head of the cigar poking through the hole.
A newer version of this cutter provides a much cleaner cut by using two opposing blades which cut from both sides of the hole. Instead of a thumb plunger, the thumb and middle finger use loops for withdrawing and slicing with both blades.
The best models to buy are those which use a crescent-shaped cutting edge to capture the cigar head and hold it in place for the slice.
THE “V” CUT
For many years the “V” cut was considered the best because it creates an ample two-sided surface to provide adequate draw. Again, the thumb activates the cutting blade. The blade forms the “V” and slides sideways across the head of the cigar, slicing a wedge-shaped notch across the head.
This cutter does not work well on tapered cigars or cigars larger than a 48 ring. The larger the ring size of your cigar, the more shallow the “V” cut will be. The cut does not expose enough surface for easy draw and full flavor for the larger ring sizes. This cutter also tends to tear the cigar unless you make a brisk, decisive snip.
The V-cutter does offer its own unique benefit for smaller ring cigars. This cutter places a V-shaped notch in your cigar tip when it makes the cut. This is sometimes desirable because the V gives you more surface area without exposing your tongue to loose tobacco. Increased surface area is desirable because it allows you to draw more air through the cigar.
“Oh, dandy,” you say, “I’ve got a pair of those in my desk drawer!” Not so, we respond. Cigar-cutting scissors are specifically manufactured for the purpose of snipping cigars only. Forged from high-precision surgical-quality stainless steel, they are your optimum choice for a cigar cutter. Small, pocket-sized versions are commonly available.
This style is one of the more traditional cuts and can be used on any sized cigar. A piercer bores a hole into the head of the cigar. There is a risk of compressing the tobacco which, in turn, will interfere with the cigars drawing ability and cause overheating, thus affecting the taste.
A sharp, open-ended cylinder which is placed on the head and rotated. This will remove a round plug of tobacco. Stay within 1/16 of an inch into the head to avoid collapsing the head of the cigar.