There are many different methods and tools for cutting a cigar, and many aficionados will often have a preference for one way, as well as some reasoning behind it. This ultimately does come down to personal preference, but that is something that can only be developed over time.
For those not yet initiated in the world of cigar smoking, the different ways to prepare a cigar for smoking may be overwhelming or even seem arbitrary. While it may be confusing to those who do not understand the reasoning, the way you may choose to cut your cigar is far from arbitrary, and will certainly make a difference in how a cigar smokes.
Cigars have been around for over a millennium since Mayans first started to roll tobacco in palm and plantain leaves. As a result of being a practically ancient tradition, it is natural that a multitude of methodologies and cutters have been developed by the various cultures that interacted with the practice.
While the different kinds and styles of cigar cuts are practically limitless, there are a few cigar cutters and cutting methods that have been accepted as more common or standard as the practice has developed.
Usable for all kinds of cigars as long as you do so with care, cigar scissors are pretty self-explanatory. These cutters are smaller, wider, and stouter than a standard pair of scissors. They have thick, wide blades that can make a clean slice through the paper and filling without catching and tearing at the cigar’s end.
Similarly to how you should not use duller children’s arts and crafts scissors on fabric and other materials, you absolutely should not attempt to use any scissors that are not explicitly cigar scissors, on your cigars.
Standard scissors are not sturdy or powerful enough to cleanly cut through the materials in a cigar without getting messy cuts. Most likely, you will wind up with a messy and torn-up end of the cigar, and find yourself spitting out bits of tobacco and paper.
One of the cleanest and most efficient methods for cutting your cigars is using a punch cutter. Unlike the other various options that slice off the end of your cigar to create the opening for smoke, the punch cutter simply pops a little hole in like a hole-punch might. There are a few different kinds of punch cutters as well, but they all work pretty similarly.
The main characteristic that defines a cigar punch is that the blade is circular. Depending on the style of cigar punch, you may need to pull apart the device to use the blade, or it could be on the end of the punch. The punch cutter may even be controlled by a button on the side of the device. Regardless of the specifics of your particular punch cutter, this rotary blade pushes into and cuts out a small cylinder of material from the end of your cigar.
This makes for a very attractive-looking cut, and significantly less loose tobacco coming into contact with your mouth. These may not be the best option for thinner cigars or cigarillos, as the hole may be too large, but they make for very easy and efficient cigar cutters.
The straight cigar cutter is by far the most famous cigar-cutting tool available, and you are sure to have seen one before. These cutters can have one or two blades and are often referred to as “guillotine” cutters due to their appearance.
These guillotine cutters have a hole in the center for you to insert your cigar, and one or two blades attached that meet in the hole. When you press the blade or blades into the hole that has a cigar in it, the blade(s) neatly slice through the captive cigar.
It is critical to use a sharp enough straight cutter, and it is often beneficial to opt for a two-blade straight cutter. Doing so will ensure that you get a clean cut, and minimize the risk of tearing. A dull cutter will hack away leaving you with an unpleasant mess to clean up, possibly ruining the cigar. Dual-blade guillotine cutters also help by applying equal pressure from both directions, helping you get a more even slice out.
A bit of a cross between the guillotine cutter and the punch cutter is the V-cutter. Much like the punch cutter, this tool does not cut the entire end off of a cigar but rather removes a smaller, more exact amount of material to make for a cleaner and more simplified experience.
That said, in appearance and usage, it can strongly resemble the straight cutter. The V-cutter has a hole in the center, much like the guillotine variety, though it is in a slit shape rather than being large enough for the entire width of the cigar to fit into.
After pulling the blade out, you can insert the end of your cigar, and again press the blade back into the device through the cigar. This will cut a wide slit into the end of your cigar if that is your preferred method for cutting.
In fact, another popular style of cutting a cigar with a V-cutter is the X-cut, also known as the star cut. To get a proper star cut in a cigar, the smoker uses a V-cutter to punch a slit in the cigar, then rotates the cigar to punch another slit perpendicular across the first. This leaves them with an X shape cut into the cigar, depending on their preference.
The taste and overall experience of smoking a cigar is greatly impacted by how the cigar is cut. What this really comes down to, though, is simply the amount of smoke that can pass through a cigar. Much like the way that each cutter works in a particular way, the quality and concentration of the smoke can come down to the hole you leave for it.
As mentioned previously, a punch cutter removes a very neat and exact cylinder of material from the end of a cigar. This results in a fairly small opening for smoke to pass through, which means that the flavor and aroma will be significantly more concentrated.
If you prefer a stronger, more intense flavor from your cigars, punch cuts will likely be your ideal method. Some do argue that punch cuts concentrate not only the flavor, but also the heat from your cigar, and maybe a bit overwhelming for the average cigar smoker.
Straight cutters and cigar scissors are on the other end of the spectrum. While a punch cutter only leaves a small gap for the smoke to escape from, guillotine cuts and cuts made from scissors are often less precise, and remove a much larger portion of the cigar’s cap.
With these cuts, the cigar will burn a little cooler and the flavor will be less concentrated. This should provide you with a more mellow, well-rounded flavor profile.
A bit of a happy medium between the wider straight and scissor cuts and the more precise and narrow punch cuts, V-cuts and X-cuts cut directly across the cap, without removing it entirely. While the smoke is still more concentrated, it should not be nearly as powerful or warm as a cigar with a punch cut.
Generally speaking, guillotine cutters and cigar scissors allow you the most control over how much of the cigar cap is removed. While this can be helpful for a cigar lover with more experience, this can be trouble for those newer to the hobby. Cut too deeply into the cigar, and you can destroy the structural integrity of the cigar as a whole.
Cutting the cap entirely off will not only strongly impact the flavor (much of which is picked up just by having the cap in your mouth), but can cause your cigar to unravel and fall apart.
The benefit of tools like V-cutters and punch cutters is that there is a limit to how much of your cigar they are able to remove. So long as your cutters are properly maintained and sharp enough, they will remove a finite amount of the cap, and should not be able to cause the cigar to fall apart.
William Henry has a gorgeous selection of luxury folding knife straight cutters. These knives have a titanium frame fitted with stunning exotic materials and a 52-gauge hole for your cigars. Attached is an artisan Damascus steel blade, with quality you would have a hard time finding elsewhere. Whether as a gift for a friend or a treat for yourself, take a look at this collection of cigar cutters by William Henry.