Ask SakaSquatch!

Each month, we ask Steve Saka some interesting questions about cigars and the cigar industry.

Hoochly: What is the BEST way to cut a handmade cigar?

SakaSquatch:

Almost always, the best way to cut a cigar is quickly and decisively – but before we get into how, let’s talk about “where” to cut.

The proper place to cut depends on the cigar. First, you need to closely examine the head of the cigar. You are looking to see just how far the cap (this is the round of tobacco used to seal the head) extends down the barrel. On a parejo (a parallel-sided cigar), this is typically 1/4″-3/8″; wherever the caps stops you should regard as your limit as to how far down you should cut.

Courtesy of Neptune Cigar

Courtesy of Neptune Cigar

The best cut is one above this “cap line,” which will open up 75%-85% of the cigar’s surface. You want as large an open cut as possible to allow for an easy draw, but you do not want to cut bene
ath the cap line, as the cigar may start to unravel. Sometimes this means a thin cut of 1/32″ is perfect, while other times you may need to cut 3/8″ – it depends entirely on each cigar’s construction.

For figurados such as torpedos, perfectos, etc., you may have to cut significantly more in order to open the head enough for a sufficient draw. Exactly how far is a personal matter. Typically, people smoke cigars with tapered heads because they like how the narrowing ring concentrates the smoke against the palate, so unlike with a parejo, most figurado smokers want less of the cigar’s surface opened by the cut. And because of their shape, figurados seldom unravel, even when cut beneath the cap line, so it really is a judgment call. Personally, I suggest you cut less at first, smoke the cigar for awhile and, if you decide you wish for a more open draw, just recut.

As I said before, the key to a good cut is to be quick and decisive. Once you find your spot, you should not hesitate – just clip it. Quicker cuts tend to be cleaner cuts, however, you must have the right tool to do this well. The prime criteria of any cutteXikar2-300x300r is that it be sharp – the sharper the better.

Most single-bladed guillotine cutters are inadequate, so I suggest you opt for a double-bladed guillotine if possible. Typically, double-bladed cutters work better, as the two opposing blades work together. However, there are exceptions to this rule. There are some single-bladed cutters that are great, and some double-bladed ones that are just plain junk. Single or double, what is important is that the cutter be sharp; if it isn’t, you will just end up crushing the head of your cigar.

There are a quite a few other tools you can use to cut a cigar.

One that is frequscissorsently seen at cigar store counters and in the movies is a pair of cigar scissors. Personally, I would steer clear of most of these; they look cool, but most of them just plain stink. They are seldom sharp enough and it is very common for the smoker to torque the scissor blades while trying to cut a cigar, resulting in ruined smoke. If you do decide to buy a pair of scissors, buy the best you can find… oddly enough, some of the most expensive ones are the worst so it is important you test them. And be sure to practice a bit on some very cheap cigars before attempting to use them on a premium cigar.

Another option is a punch cutter. These are very easy to use, as they simply punch a hole of a fixed diameter into the head of the cigar. All you need to do is line up the cutter dead center and push it in with a slight twisting motion. Punch cutters can provide a very clean cut; their only real drawback is that many do not cut a large enough hole for 52+ ring cigars – but this may not be an issue for you. Also with the advent of so many monster ring gauge cigars, it is now possible to buy larger punches.

A unique cut is a “v-cut,” which requires the use of a specialized v-cutter. This tool cuts a wedge-shaped notch in the head of your cigar. Another unique, but similar, cut is the “cat’s eye.” While the edge of the v-cut is straight, a cat’s eye- cut is curved like a pointed ellipse. Both of these cuts tend to concentrate the smoke on the center of the palate – some folks swear by these cuts while others hate them. Both styles of cutters need to be extra-super-sharp to work well.colibrivcut-225

A sharp penknife can also do an excellent job but, unlike with a cutter, you must slowly and meticulously cut a full 360-degree circle along the head of the cigar. Once done, you can remove the cigar’s cap just as you would lift the toupee off a bald guy’s noggin. I am known to do this often with my own carry knife.

This very same technique can be applied by using your thumbnail (or teeth) to gently pierce through the wrapper, in a circle, to separate the cap from the cigar. Although a cigar snob would snicker at this practice, this is the most common cutting method used by those who actually farm the leaf and make the cigars. With a little practice, you can become quite deft at doing this quickly and cleanly.

And, if you managed to read all of this, here are a couple of quick, neat cutting tricks:

If you lay a guillotine cutter down flat on a table, then insert the head of your cigar so that it rests against the table’s surface, then clip, you will almost always take off the right amount on almost all cigars….

If all you have is one of those cheap giveaway cutters, try cutting your cigar while it is still in its cellophane sleeve. This technique will produce a much cleaner cut with a dull cutter. However do not do this with a sharp cutter though; the cellophane will actually inhibit a clean cut.

Courtesy of talkingtobacco.com

No conversation about cigar cutting would be truly complete without mentioning the “Dick Cut.” Now stop laughing and let me explain… It is named in honor of its biggest proponent, Joe Dickman, formerly a well-known Fuente-Newman West Coast Sales Rep. This is a straight cut, but done at 45-degree angle. This cut opens a tremendous surface area and directs the smoke down onto the palate – the idea being that it will maximize the cigar’s flavor.

Courtesy of JR Cigar

Courtesy of JR Cigar

I hope this primer on cigar cutting provides you with some insight and ideas but, in the end, how you choose to cut your cigar is really just a matter of personal choice. Whatever method works best for you is the best method!

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Steve Saka, aka SakaSquatch
, is regarded as a cigar expert throughout the industry, he is credited as being an experienced cigar blender and maker, a prolific author regarding cigars and black tobaccos, a forefather within the online media segment and a dynamic tobacco industry executive. In 2000, he worked directly for Lew Rothman, the former owner of JR Cigar, as an executive consultant for four years and he subsequently served as the President, then CEO of Drew Estate from 2005 through 2013. In 2015, he established the family held Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust to craft and distribute traditional handmade puros. For more information, please visit: www.dunbartoncigars.com.