The Art of the Good Cigar

A Matter of Taste

Herfergrrl Basics: Cutting Your Cigar

Posted by herfergrrl on June 19, 2009

Before you can light up and enjoy a good smoke, you’ll need to remove just enough of the closed endpiece, called the cap, to be able to get a draw. You want just enough of an airflow through the cigar to encourage that nice, slow, even burn. If you make too small an opening, you can get an unpleasant buildup of tars and an uneven burn. Too large an opening, and the cigar may unravel, or the draw may be too loose.

You want to leave enough of the cap on to hold the wrapper together, and it’s important not to cut deeply enough into the cigar to damage the inner leaves. Cap and wrapper construction will differ between cigars, and your experience will teach you how where to cut to remove just about 3/4 of the surface area of the cap without cutting into the inside leaves of the filler.

Everyone agrees that you need to make a hole in the cigar in order to smoke it, but after that, opinions go all over the map. Listed below are the most commonly used methods of cutting, punching and snipping cigars. There are smokers who swear by each of them, and others who deplore them, so it’s best to experiment and find the one that best expresses your personal style – and tastes best to you. 

1. Simple and primitive: Bite off the cap.

* Pros: No special tools needed. Your teeth follow you everywhere. May be a good flirtation gambit – or one that can decisively end unwelcome guy-flirting.

* Cons: You’ll be spitting little bits of tobacco afterward. Ragged and imprecise cut may cause the wrapper to unravel. Looks somewhat unsophisticated, at best.

2. Just slice it: Using a knife

* Pros: A small folding knife is multifunctional, and easy to carry. An extremely sharp knife in the hands of a skilled cutter can remove exactly as much of the cap as you want, no more and no less. A smoother cut means fewer little flecks of tobacco stuck between your teeth from the end of the cigar.

* Cons: Maintaining a very sharp knife takes some work and the ownership of a good sharpening stone. If you’re not a skilled cutter, or you don’t know from experience exactly how much of the cap you want to remove, you can easily make mistakes, or damage the cigar.

3. A keychain cutter: The punch method

* Pros: Those small, elegant punch cutters are easy to carry, and look really sharp on your keychain. A punch-sized hole can work well for a panatela or a corona, the smaller ring gauges of cigars, and can also serve to concentrate the flavors of a larger, milder cigar through a smaller hole.

* Cons: A punch cutter can easily go too deep into the cigar, damaging its inner structures and causing too much airflow. It’s more difficult to remove just the 1-2mm of the cap. A punch-sized hole in a robusto or larger ring gauge cigar can concentrate the oils and tars unpleasantly. Won’t work at all on a torpedo and other figurado shapes.

4. Snip it right off: Cigar scissors

* Pros: Looks snazzy and elegant, like they cost a lot. Shows you’re really serious about investing in your cigar habit.

* Cons: They do cost a lot, can be difficult to use and position, and can cut too deeply into the cigar in the hands of an inexperienced user. Heavy and hard to carry around.

5. Off with their heads: The guillotines

* Pros: You can get a good positioning, especially with the double bladed models, and see almost exactly where the cut will fall.

* Cons: The cheapie single bladed models can crush or damage a cigar. Guillotines are more difficult to carry than the smaller punch cutters. Many models, especially the less expensive ones, leave a fairly rough cut with a few flakes of tobacco left over that can migrate unpleasantly into your mouth.

6. Give’em a wedgie: V-cutters

* Pros: Some experts swear by them, claiming that a wedge cut “catches” the harsher elements of the smoke and smooths it out on the palate. Consistent v-shaped notches.

* Cons: Other experts deplore the buildup of tars and stronger flavors on the sides of the cut. Uneven burning is a possibility, especially if the cut is too deep. Cheaper models have the same flaking problem that the cheaper guillotines do.

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