Cigars 101: Types of Cuts
When it comes to your cigar, the first thing you are likely to experience are the different types of cuts. Straight cutters are the most common. But what else is there? How does the experience of smoking change depending on the cut? Let’s dive into the difference your cut can make.
Straight cutters, also called guillotines, are the most common. 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 making sure you don’t cut too deeply. You’ll want to cut above the outline of the cigar’s cap and remove as little of the filler as possible. If you cut your cigar too deep, you can inhale some loose tobacco 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, though pay attention to the gage of your cutter if you have a preference for cigars wider than a 60.
An angled cut is pretty similar to a straight cut, but, as the name suggests, tilted at a 45 degree angle. This allows the smoke to hit your palate at different angles, creating a unique smoking experience. It is used most regularly on torpedo or chisel shaped cigars.
A punch cutter, or bullet cutter, punches a small cylindrical hole in the end of your cigar. The reason some 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. On the flip side, a punch cut results in a tighter draw. If your cigar is particularly oily a punch may not be the best option as the draw can become plugged. 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 but beware- f 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, 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- the so called “clover cut”. 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 doesn’t work well on a Torpedo-shaped cigar or other formats that taper at the head. If you like Torpedos and Belicosos, you’re likely better off sticking with a straight 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.Many feature an inverted blade for an ultra-precise cut that 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 a wider cut.
The X-cut does not come from its own cutter but, like the angled cut, is a variation. Some connoisseurs prefer to use the V-Cut twice on opposite axes to create an X shape on the bottom of their cigar.
The final, rarely used cut comes from the Shuriken cigar cutter, which looks like a giant capsule, has six razor-sharp blades inside that cut slits around the top of the cigar, giving the appearance of a shuriken. Though rarely used, this cut works best with shorter filled cigars.
Ultimately, the cut you use comes down to personal preference and experimentation. What feels right to you? What gives you the best combination of draw and temperature? And if you are buying your own, remember that the cost, while an important factor, is not the end-all-be-all. A forty dollar cutter may last longer and cut slightly better than a five dollar cutter, but you are going to be a whole lot less upset if you lose the five dollar one- and it will still get the job done while you have it. Once cut, it's all about the smoke.