Smoking Kills

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Cigar Basics - Cutting Your Cigar

A bad cut will ruin even the best cigar, so it is important to cut your cigar correctly to avoid disappointment later.

While it would seem that cutting a cigar is quite possibly the easiest part in the process, poor quality cutters and a poor technique can cause havoc.

The good news is, it really isn't that hard - just takes practise.

Ask anyone that's been in my cigar lounge, they'll happily tell you I can still totally botch-up a cigar cut (even sober)...


Does the type of cigar determine the type of cut?

This is a great question, yes would be my answer after many years of experience.

Some cigars (newer shapes) have a completely flat cap (RoMa Craft Neanderthal; Viaje Super Shot etc) and they can really only be cut with a clean, double-blade cut that just slices the cap off (about 1mm deep) or classic cigar-scissors.

Other cigars like a Torpedo or La Flor Dominicana Chisel can actually be cut with a V-cutter, it seems odd; but it really does work.

Experimenting generally doesn't cause harm; if you follow logic and know that the cap is only 3mm to 5mm deep, you obviously don't want to go crazy; but you can have some fun.

Cutting too far down the cap will result in a potential unravelling of the wrapper.


Below is a quick list of cigar cutting tools I know of...

Basic cutter (single-blade) - the cheapest of cheap, throw it away!
Guillotine cutter (double-blade) - from the basic ($9.95) version to the exotic Xikar Xi3 ($199) they all work the same and honestly, provide pretty much the best cut; because they apply EQUAL force during the cut
Also, the Xikar XO adds a bit of mechanics to this design and lastly Colibri call theirs the S-Cut
Punch cutter (7mm, 9mm & 11mm) - these are great, but you can cause damage if the blade ever gets dull
V-cutter - these cut a cats-eye shape out of the cap; they are fantastic and can be doubled-up to form a X and even trippled for a large gauge cigar (70 or 80 gauge)
Cigar Scissors - absolutely love my cigar scissors, clean and perfect everytime
Select Draw - sorry, throw this in the bin; the only use these have are to hold your cigar to save burning your fingers! If you tried one to actually smoke a cigar (I did half a dozen times) you'll have found the punch-holes just clog with tar, bluck!
Shuriken cutter - this I am going to assume produces the same result as the Select Draw, but maybe slower; see below for the picture on how these cut
Cigar knife - looks fancy, but also looks like a lot of work for a single-blade cut; unless the thing was Jack The Ripper sharp, I wouldn't honestly bother
Teeth - if you want to do a Clint Eastwood, best of luck to you; best saved for a cheerot and not an expensive cigar
Sharpenned finger-nail - not kidding, Gary Griffith from House of Emilio has a sharpenned thumb-nail that he uses to cut his cigar cap

The Perfect Cut

This is it - this is how I cut my cigars and how I teach fellow aficionados on how to cut their cigars too.

First, just try to slice the cap off with a precise, shallow cut - you can always cut more off if you get some tar or a poor draw (it happens).

That is the key, a clean, straight cut - obviously a V-cutter eliminates this as it does a pretty precise cut at the right depths.

If you use a Xikar Xi1, Xi2 or Xi3 and have a normal cigar (Corona/Robusto/Toro) - simply lay the cutter on the table top; firmly hold the cigar down and close the cutter; it will cut off the precise amount every time.

Using a basic cutter, a Xikar XO or scissors; then you need to pay careful attention as to how much you are cutting.

Likewise a punch cutter, centre it as best you can and cleanly twist it into the cigar; cleanly and sharply; try to form your finger around the cap, to prevent the cap splitting when twisting the punch cutter down and into the end of the cigar.


What can go wrong?

The main thing that can go wrong is cutting too much off; this will sadly result in the cigar unravelling.
It can be saved, just be patient and enjoy as much of it as you can.

Same thing if the cap splits/cracks; if you can cover the split/crack then you can generally still get an enjoyable cigar experience.

Lastly, if you manage to cut on an angle this can impact the burn of the cigar, yes even the slightest of an angle will do this; most of the time you can smoke through it; if you are handy with your cutter, you can also trim it straight (scissors work best for this).

All of a sudden my cigar tastes HORRIBLE!

This happens, it is most likely a build up of tar and your tongue has touched it; there is no quantifiable amount of bourbon, whisky, rum, gin or anything for that matter that is going to get rid of that horrible taste (trust me, I've tried).

Now we call it tar, but it is a natural substance and most times excess sap from the stem or leaf of the tobacco plant which failed to evaporate during the fermentation/curing process.

So it is actually tobacco juice, resin, sap which we call tar for some reason.

What can you do - RE-CUT!

It really is that simple, you'll either clean it up in one good cut; or have to keep a vigilant eye on the cap of your cigar and re-cut multiple times.

The good news is, most cigars I have continued to enjoy 100% but there will always be that lingering taste on the tip of your tongue, sorry.

Choosing your style of cut 

Really, this is all about personal choice, experience and the type of cigar you are about to enjoy.

Don't put too much thought into it, as long as it is a clean, sharp cut.


What about moistening the cap?

This comes to personal preference honestly; in cigar lounges it is 100% frowned upon, moistening the cap and then using the cigar lounge cutter.

In theory, a perfectly humidified cigar won't need this; but in all my years of experience, I still do this for every cigar I cut, that little bit of moisture can save a split in the cap and a less than ideal cigar session.

How do you do it? Simply roll the cap between your lips to add a little bit of moisture before cutting.


Why do I get a poor draw?

Generally this happens when not enough cap has been cut; other than an over-packed cigar which is a fight you won't win in a hurry.  In my years of experience, cutting another 1mm or 2mm off the cap generally opens up the cigar further.


My cutter seems to crush my cigar?

This is normally caused when your cutter is getting dull and blunt; our $9.95 basic cutter is really only good for a few cigars, after that; it is time to invest in a quality cutter made with surgical stainless steel blades.

They last a lot longer and they are very sharp and Xikar even has a lifetime replacement warranty; so when the blades get dull; we will replace it for you.


Check out this video from Cigar Aficionado magazine:

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