Even if you have never smoked a cigar, you have likely seen others cut off a small piece of the cigar before they smoke it. Or maybe you’ve watched a movie where the tough S.O.B. hero bites off a chunk of his cigar and spits it out before lighting up his choice stick, like a boss. This is likely confusing to you if you’ve never taken a close look at a cigar.
So, why the hell do you cut a cigar?
It’s simple really. When you purchase a cigar, the head of the cigar (the part you put in your mouth) is closed off with a small piece of tobacco called the cap. Out of necessity, you cut the cap to create an airflow that helps you smoke the cigar.
There are 3 common cigar cuts: straight, v-cut, or punch. Sharp blades and firm grips are important aspects of every cut.
The Straight Cut: Also known as the guillotine or traditional cut. Straight cutters can come in a variety of styles such as an open guillotine, a safety guillotine, or a double guillotine (not pictured). Ideally a straight cut will not pass the shoulder (the curved part of the cap). It is important that you do not cut past the seam that marks the end of the cap. The safety guillotine is a good option for beginners as it has a plastic backing that limits the amount of cigar you can cut off at a time.
The V-Cut: Also called the diamond, cat-eye, or wedge cut. This is known as the most invasive cut as the v-shaped blade digs into the filler tobacco, removing a wedge from the center of the head of the cigar. While invasive, this cut does provide a barrier between your mouth and the filler tobacco as well as an increased air flow.
The Punch: Also known as a plug. This cut can be made with a small, hollow, circular blade twisted into the cap. The blade removes a distinct area of the cap, resulting in it being the most precise and consistent cut. Punches come in a variety of diameters. A small punch on a larger ring gauge can result in diminished air flow.
Which cut should I use?
Truthfully this is all about personal preference. Just as some people prefer to drink from straws and others don’t, everyone has their own preference of cut. Your preference can even change based on your mood, if you just ate, what cigar you are smoking, etc. Experience is the best way to discover what your preferred cut is.
Personally, I vary my cuts based on the size and roll-tightness of the cigar. Generally I do not care for the straight cut. I don’t like that it takes away so much of the surface of the cap as this can result with pieces of the filler tobacco piecing off and getting all over my teeth, tongue, and lips. Not an attractive sight. This is what I do:
- If the cigar is small (like a corona or petite corona) or loosely rolled – punch cut
- If the cigar is bigger (a robusto or larger) or has a tight roll – v-cut
- If the cigar has a torpedo/pointed head – straight cut
Again, everyone is going to be different. Trial and error is the only way to see what’s best for you!