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Cigar 101

Does How You Cut a Cigar Make a Difference?

Shane K. K's picture

Shane K.

When it comes to cutting your cigar, you’ve got some options. Straight cutters, or guillotine cutters, are the most common. But what about a bullet cutter or a V-cutter? Does how you cut a cigar make a difference in how it smokes? The answer is yes. Let’s dive into the difference your cutter makes.

Straight Cutter (or Guillotine)

Straight cutters, also called a guillotines, are the most common. Most are constructed with a pair of stainless steel blades housed in a sturdy chassis. For most straight cutters, the blades open to reveal an aperture where the head of your cigar is placed. Squeeze the blades together and the cap comes off.

The key to using a straight cutter is NOT to cut too deeply. You want to cut above the outline of the cigar’s cap and remove roughly the circumference of a dime from the cigar’s head. If you cut your cigar too deep, you can get loose tobacco in your mouth and the wrapper leaf can potentially come off while you’re smoking.

Straight cutters permit the coolest, loosest, and easiest of draws. You can use a straight cutter on any shape or size of cigar, however, you may have to factor ring gauge into the equation if you smoke ultra-thick 60 to 80 ring gauge cigars. Luckily, plenty of brands manufacture extra-wide cigar cutters to accommodate the craze for extra-fat cigars.

Punch Cutter (or Bullet Cutter)

A punch cutter, or bullet cutter, punches a small cylindrical hole in the end of your cigar. The reason cigar lovers favor a bullet cutter is for the added concentration of flavor and intensity they create. By drawing the smoke through a smaller, more concentrated opening in your cigar’s cap, the heat and flavor are magnified. A punch cut results in a tighter draw. If your cigar is particularly oily or you have a tendency to transfer moisture from your mouth to the head of your cigar, a punch may not be the best option as the draw can become plugged. If that occurs, however, you can always open up the draw by performing a straight cut over the hole left by a punch cutter.

Besides a more concentrated draw, one reason connoisseurs prefer a punch cut is that it keeps the cigar’s cap intact by leaving a tidy opening at the center. Gently twist the blade in when performing a punch cut. If your cigar’s cap is fragile or too dry, a punch cutter can crack the cap, especially if the blade is dull.

You can find punch cutters with varying aperture sizes, too, for thick and thin ring gauge cigars. You can also punch the head of a thicker cigar two or three times for a more open draw. Many torch lighters integrate a punch cutter into the bottom, ensuring you’ve always got a cutter as long as you’ve got your lighter. One drawback to a punch cutter is that it won’t work on a Torpedo-shaped cigar or other formats that taper at the head. If you like Torpedos and Belicosos, you’re better off sticking with a straight cutter.

V-Cutter (or Wedge Cutter)

Although a V-cutter, also called a wedge cutter or a cat’s eye, is the least conventional type of cutter, its popularity has grown exponentially in recent years. Brands like Xikar, Colibri, and Visol manufacture a variety of V-cutters. Many feature an inverted blade for an ultra-precise cut.

A V-cutter slices a V shape out of the head of the cigar. Like a punch cut, a V-cut results in a more concentrated draw. With a V-cut, smoke is pulled from the top and the bottom of the cigar equally before it converges on your palate with more intensity and heat. V-cutters work on most types of cigars, including Torpedos, although the draw will be especially tight on a tapered shape. Bigger ring gauge cigars can be more of a challenge unless you’re using a V-Cutter with an oversized aperture.

Alternative Cutters

Cigar scissors deliver a straight cut. Although many scissors are not pocket-friendly, Xikar’s MTX Cutter folds up in a sturdy, lightweight design you can attach to your keyring. One advantage most scissors offer is that the blades can extend to accommodate ultra-thick cigars without sacrificing precision.

When you’re in a pinch, you can gently peel the cap of your cigar off with your fingernail. Be gentle, as you can also cause the wrapper to unravel if you take too much of the cap off. Some guys prefer to simply bite the cap off with their teeth. If that sounds like fitting protocol for your man cave, go for it. Just try to keep the head of your cigar as neat as possible to avoid an uneven draw or an unraveling cigar.

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