Cigar 101: Cigar Cuts

Welcome to another edition of Cigar 101, today we’ll be talking about the different ways to prepare your cigar to be smoked, mainly, the cuts.  While it may seem like it doesn’t make too much of a difference, the type of cut you use can alter the flavors, strength, smoke thickness and multiple other factors in the enjoyment of a cigar.  Now I will throw a big caveat here, if you are a beginner to cigars, the type of cut likely won’t really matter to you.  Also there is no “best” way to cut a cigar, just what preference each smoker has.  The shape of the cigar can also affect which type of cuts to use, but before all that let’s walk through the different cut types.  There are 3 main types of cuts, the straight cut, the punch cut, and finally the V or wedge cut.

The Straight Cut:

This is the most common type of cut you will see on cigars. Using a straight cigar cutter or scissor cutter, it is a straight chop off of the tip of the cigar.  This is the most effective for torpedo or tapered style cigars, as the other cuts can be difficult to do properly on those shapes.  This cut will expose the entire cap, allowing for maximum smoke to exit with minimum buildup.  Buildup is when the oils and tar accrue in the head of the cigar (the part that goes in your mouth) and can occur when you smoke a cigar too fast.  A heavy buildup can sometimes lead to flavor changes or bad mouthfeel, but can usually be remedied by cutting the cigar again to remove the buildup.  To properly cut your cigar using a straight cutter, identify where the shoulder of the cigar ends. This is the curved part of the head and where it ends is where you should place your cutter. You can close one of your eyes as you place the cigar into the cutter so as to line it up properly at the perfect spot. Make sure that you use as much force as possible in one smooth motion to give it a clean cut.

The Punch Cut:

The punch cut is when you use a small circular blade to create a small circle in the cap for the smoke and inhale to go through.  It is preferred by smokers who want to expose less of the filler and binder and reduce the chance of tobacco ending up in the mouth.  The down side is sometimes the smaller hole does not allow as much smoke to come out and the hole can get clogged with a saliva and tobacco buildup.  Different size punches also will be needed for different gauge cigars, so sometimes you may need more than one if you smoke a wide range of cigar sizes.  To punch cut a cigar you just insert the blade slowly into the cigar’s cap as you rotate it to fully create a hole (it can be handy to wet the cigar cap with saliva first as a dry cap can sometimes cause loose cuts or debris). The punch cut generally doesn’t work well at cutting torpedo or small ring gauge cigars as it can be difficult to size the punch to the cigar.

The V Cut:

The V or wedge cut makes a unique notched hole in the cap of the cigar, that doesn’t expose the entire cap like a straight cut, but also makes a larger hole than the punch cut.  Many V-cutters penetrate deeper into the filler than straight cutters, and some smokers prefer them for thicker gauge cigars.  Cutting with V-cutters can be tricky as you do not want to cut too deep into the cap of the cigar. When this happens, the draw will be too good and your cigar will smoke quicker and hotter than intended. In essence, you should hold the wedge cutter on the dominant hand and the cigar on the other, and then push the stick towards the cutter as you squeeze both ends together. 

While each type of cut has it’s different pro’s and con’s, what it ultimately comes down to is what tools are available when you are about to smoke.  Again, no cut is “the best”, so using any cutter in a pinch is fine and will likely not affect your smoking experience greatly.  The good news is these cutters are pretty cheap for the most part and you can have multiple in your home, just keep an eye on the precision of the cuts as the blades do dull over time.  You can buy a high end cutter that will probably last longer, but the cheap (almost disposable) ones work fine for quite a while too.

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