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Properly cutting a cigar means removing the least amount of tobacco from a cigar’s head to provide enough of an opening for a good draw without damaging a cigar’s structure. Cut too little of the tobacco away, and you’ll be puffing on that cigar until you’re red in the face with very little delicious smoke to enjoy for your effort. Cut too much tobacco away from the head and your cigar is likely to unravel, affecting its burn and flavor characteristics. Achieving the proper cigar cut is essential for the maximum enjoyment of every handmade premium cigar.
There are many ways to cut a cigar, including single-blade and double-bladed guillotine cutters, punches, v-cutters, scissors, knives or just simply using your fingernails. Each requires a steady hand and a firm grip on the cigar to get a good, straight, and clean cut. While some cutters, such as v-cutters and punches, do not work with Figurado-style cigars with tapered and conic heads, the style of cutter you choose to use relies solely on your preference. A v-cutter will cut a c-shaped wedge out of the cigar’s head that provides more exposed surface area for an easier draw. A punch will typically remove less of the head and provide a tighter draw. Scissors are most often preferred by experienced cigar aficionados who insist that they provide the straightest and cleanest cut. Knives require the most care to ensure that neither you nor your cigar is damaged, and if you’ve forgotten your cutter altogether fingernails can do the trick unless you’re trying to smoke a Figurado…then you’re out of luck!
No matter what style cutter you choose to use, always make sure that its cutting edge is sharp because blunt blades may tear the wrapper and spoil your cigar enjoyment.
Guillotine Cutters – Guillotine cutters are by far the most commonly used tool for cutting a cigar because they are the simplest to operate and may be used to cut the head from cigars of almost any shape or size. Double-bladed guillotine cutters are preferable to single-blade guillotines because they simultaneously cut across the cigar from both sides, lessening the likelihood of damaging a cigar and providing a cleaner and straighter cut. Target the cigar’s shoulder – the area where the sides of the cigar begin to straighten, which is approximately 2mm from the tip of the head- and grasp the cigar firmly. Insert the cigar into the guillotine up to its shoulder and gently press the blades against the cigar’s sides to keep it in the proper position. Then make a quick, firm, smooth, and decisive cut to avoid tearing the wrapper. If you’re having trouble identifying where to properly cut, place your guillotine cutter on a flat surface and then insert the cigar head-first into the guillotine between the open blades and then quickly snap the blades together through the cigar to guarantee the perfect cut.
V-Cutters – Use the same methods with a v-cutter as you would with a straight guillotine cutter. V-cuts are often deeper than those performed by a normal guillotine cutter, so placing the v-cutter a fraction above the shoulder point is recommended to prevent damage to the wrapper.
Cigar Scissors – Often made from high-grade steel and considered to be the most luxurious cigar-cutting accessory, cigar scissors are used in much the same way that guillotine cutters and v-cutters are used. The big difference is there is no hole to insert a cigar into so a little extra firm grip on the cigar is needed to perform a precision cut.
Cigar Punches – A cigar punch features a small circular blade that’s inserted into a cigar’s head to remove a piece of the wrapper. The removed tobacco can be ejected with a spring-loaded mechanism or poked out of the punch by its screw cap. They are ideal for smaller ring gauge cigars, and they may be used for larger ring gauge cigars that are too large for a guillotine if multiple punch holes are made. It’s typically best to avoid using cigar punches on figurado-shaped cigars, such as Drew Estate’s ACID Blondie Belicoso, Deadwood Leather Rose, or Joya de Nicaragua’s Cinco Decadas Diadema.
Knives – Some specialized cigar knives, including an indentation along the handle to hold the cigar to be cut, are now being produced, however, the simplest method is to place the cigar on a flat surface and quickly press the knife down into the shoulder and through the cigar. It’s very critical that the knife you use is very sharp, otherwise, you might significantly tear your cigar.
Fingernail Method – Popular among the old-school and old-country tabaqueros working inside cigar factories or tobacco fields, the fingernail method takes a little practice to perfect. Using the thumbnail and index fingernail, lightly dig into the cigar’s head and rotate the cigar. After a few turns, it should be possible to remove enough of the wrapper and binder at the head without damaging the cigar.