The cutting, lighting and smoking of a premium hand-crafted cigar has been described as an elegant ritual, an experience to enjoy and savor, either alone or with fellow cigar enthusiasts. Few things in life will afford you the tranquility that is derived from smoking a cigar in the company of fellow cigar smokers, or while gazing at a sunset alone on your deck with a glass of wine or favorite spirits. Cigars should never be rushed, but rather should be savored and enjoyed in a relaxed atmosphere. In this article, we hope to enlighten the novice (and perhaps the experienced) cigar smoker on some of the nuances of cutting a premium cigar.
We would like to offer you some guidance regarding the proper cutting instrument options and cutting techniques for your cigar. It is important that you begin the cigar smoking process by obtaining a sharp, quality cutting instrument to insure a clean, precise cut. A poor quality cutting instrument can set the tone for a less enjoyable cigar smoking experience by yielding a jagged or crushing cut. One should never bite the closed end of the cigar (referred to as the head of the cigar) with your teeth. This may result in loose tobacco particles ending up in your mouth and also increases the risk of the cigar wrapper unraveling. A quality cigar shop will offer a variety of cigar cutting instrument options that are sure to suit the needs of the most discriminating cigar connoisseur. There are a host of excellent cigar cutting instruments available. Some recommendations to consider are Xikar, Lotus, Davidoff and Colibri.
DOUBLE GUILLOTINE CIGAR CUTTER
The double guillotine cigar cutter is probably the most popular cutting device used by cigar enthusiasts. A quality, double guillotine cutter will almost always insure a clean, sharp cut. The advantage of double-bladed cutter is that the cutting proceeds from both sides of the device, simultaneously, for a precise cut. This opens the head of the cigar to enjoy maximum flavor and draw. Despite the fact that a myth has been propagated about double guillotine cigar cutters being self sharpening, this simply is not the case.
SINGLE GUILLOTINE CIGAR CUTTER
The single guillotine cigar cutter is a handy cutting tool suitable for most cigar smokers. With this cutter, one does, however, run the risk of a slightly jagged cut to the cigar. This due to the fact that on the cut using the single guilotine, the cigar will only have a sharp cutting edge on one side, while being compressed against the metal or plastic dull edge on the other side of the guillotine opening. This device would be our least favorite option, but does the job if it is the only cutting device available.
“V” CIGAR CUTTER
A V-cutter creates a notched opening in the headof the cigar. The advantage is that it can offer you more surface area to the head of the cigar without exposing your tongue to the filler tobacco. It also allows you to draw more air through the cigar. This is a good choice for small to medium ring gauge cigars. Some cigar aficionados prefer this method of cutting on torpedo shaped cigars. You simply place the head of the cigar in the circular opening and compress the device, similar to the guillotine, to create the v-shaped notch.
PUNCH OR BULLET CIGAR CUTTER
A punch cutter, also called bullet cutter, is a circular, razor sharp blade that you push gently into the head of a cigar and then gently rotate. This method cleanly cores out an opening without the need to cut away the cap. However, punch cutters are usually not the tool of choice for torpedo shaped cigars, or small ring gauge cigars. Occasionally, the punch cut will create a slightly bitter taste on the palate as it tends to concentrate the smoke and burn a little hot. This would be a good choice for a flat capped box press cigar.
CIGAR CUTTING SCISSOR
Cigar scissors are specifically manufactured for the purpose of cleanly and precisely cutting just below the cap of the cigar. The best examples are crafted from surgical-quality stainless steel and are extremely sharp to ensure a clean cut. A high-quality cigar scissor will guarantee you swift, precision cuts. The benefits of the cigar scissors is that they will open wide enough to accommodate a variety of ring gauges and will also do an excellent job on the pointy ended figurado vitolas like perfectos and pyramids.
The Cigar Perforator is a relatively new, handy tool that is used to open up the cap to allow a smooth draw, while sparing a good portion of the cap. It is a five prong piercing device that creates 5 small holes to allow smoke to easily pass through the cigar during the draw. It prevents tobacco from getting into your mouth that can be experienced with a more traditional cut. You place the head of the cigar into the Cigar Perforator opening. You then depress the plunging device several times, each time allowing the sharp prongs to penetrate deeper into the cigar. It is manufactured using high-quality stainless steel and aluminum alloy.
ANATOMY AND CUTTING YOUR CIGAR
The closed end of the cigar is referred to as the head. The head is covered by a cap (see image at left), which a circular or pointed piece of the wrapper tobacco (depending on which style of cigar you are smoking – parejo [straight sided cigar with round head] or figurado [torpedo or other shaped cigar with a pointed head]. The cap is the part of the finished cigar that helps keep the wrapper from unraveling. You will notice a fine line (refer to the image at left), indicating where the cap is affixed to the cigar (typically referred to as the cap line) with vegetable glue. The junction of the cap line and main body of the cigar is referred to as the shoulder area of the cigar. Many novices believe that the cap line is the area in which the cigar should be cut. Unfortunately, this is not the optimal location on the head of the cigar to remove the cap of a premium cigar in preparation for lighting it.
THE PERFECT CUT
In actuality, one should make the cut between the closed end of the cigar cap and the cap line (see image at left) to obtain the ideal cut for properly removing the cap from the head of the cigar. If executed properly, this will create the “perfect cigar cut” and allow for a better draw of the cigar smoke and prevent unraveling of the wrapper (this can occur if you cut too much of the cap). A sharp and precise cut will also lessen the likelihood for the binder and filler tobacco to crumble or the cigar wrapper from unraveling. This can be easily accomplished with the guillotine cigar cutters or cigar scissors. If the draw of the cigar is too tight and you are not getting a mouth full of smoke, you might want to consider clipping a tiny bit more of the cap to improve the draw. Of course, if you are using a punch or V-cut, you do not need to worry about cutting the cap as these devices avoid cutting a good portion of the cigar cap (see cutting device option page) and only remove a small portion of the actual cap.
ENJOY YOUR CIGAR
You are now ready to enjoy your premium hand-rolled cigar. Remember, smoking a quality cigar should not be a rushed or frenzied event, but rather a tranquil moment during your day, so find at least 30 – 90 minutes (depending on the length and ring gauge of your cigar) of peaceful time in your day to enjoy the experience of smoking your cigar, either alone or with your cigar smoking friends. Typically, one should wait approximately 30 to 60 seconds between the draws of your cigar to avoid overheating and bitterness that might come if you smoke the cigar too rapidly. Again, the cigar is to be enjoyed and savored. If you do not have much time to enjoy the smoking experience, consider a shorter cigar with a smaller ring gauge.
*Gary “Doc” Laden is the executive producer and co-host of the Smooth Draws Radio Show airing every Saturday from 10:00 AM until Noon EST on ESPN Radio 1230 The Fan 2 in Atlanta and broadcast worldwide, streaming, at SmoothDraws.com.