How to cut your Cuban Cigar
One of the most important steps to enjoying a fine Cuban Cigar is the cut. The simple act of removing the cap from the closed end of the cigar may seem inconsequential, a mere snip ahead of the serious business of lighting, but it can affect the performance of our stick greatly. To remove too much can cause the wrapper to unwind, too little and the smoke may not flow properly or be concentrated too intensely on one part of the palette. It is not a step to be ignored or neglected, but it is a step for which we are fortunate to have many tools to help us perform with ease.
Exactly how we choose to cut each cigar will largely depend on size, shape and of course the preference of the smoker. In general, larger cigars will require a larger aperture for the smoke to pass through and sticks with a pointed end, such as a torpedo or perfecto, may benefit from a slightly angled cut. There are some general rules that can be followed that will help us cut each stick correctly each time: always cut just below the line of the cap to avoid accidentally cutting the wrapper, always make sure the tool you use has a sharp blade that will pass through the tobacco cleanly and leave no ragged edges, and line up the blades carefully before pushing through in one firm, confident motion.
The Straight Cut
This is probably the most common and most practical style of cutting the cigar, and can sometimes be known as a guillotine cut. It is perfectly suited for the classic parejo shape and will work just as well on a 33 ring gauge panatella as on a 54 ring gauge torres. Best performed with a twin-blade steel cutter like the elegant and sturdy ST Dupont MaxiJet in copper this style of cut will, when performed properly, ensure the enjoyment of any cigar. If you are new to the world of Habanos and struggle with an accurate cut, try this technique: lay your cutter flat on the table with the blades open, stand the cigar straight up between the blades with the closed end on the tabletop and firmly squeeze the cutter shut. This will help you cut to the correct depth until you get more practice and avoid unravelling the wrapper of your chosen stick. Alternatively, if you are already a seasoned smoker, cigar scissors can offer an elegant alternative to a cutter.
The V-Cut is a modern revival of a Victorian style of cut, taking advantage of new tools made available by brands who specialise in cigar accessories. The intention is to expose more surface area of filler so as to allow more smoke to flow through, delivering better flavours with minimal risk of damage to the body of the cigar. When using this method the cutter, like Xikar’s excellent VX2, will do the bulk of the work for us and reducing the risk of cutting too deep. Some aficionados who enjoy sharing images of their sticks on Instagram have even become quite artistic with their V-Cut, using it to form patterns like crowns on the end of their puros.
A V-Cut can be a useful alternative to the classic straight cut. Image from Pintrest.
The Punch Cut
This technique involves using a small, circular blade to create a round hole in the centre of the cap, leaving the edges of the cigar intact. This will result in all the smoke from the cigar being concentrated through a smaller opening and onto a particular area of the palette. On a large cigar this can cause the taste buds to be overwhelmed but on shorter and slimmer smokes, such as the Montecristo Media Corona, it can offer a refreshing take on the flavour profile. The Punch Cut has the added benefit of convenience; most punches are less bulky than conventional cutters and will fit on your keyring, offering an ideal emergency solution if we ever forget to pack our equipment when heading out for a smoke.
Left: A rather satisfying dead-centre punch cut. Right: An elaborate crown cut. Image from Imgur.
The Cuban Cut
When smoking a vitola with a pointed end we can encounter problems with the cut – either we snip off just the tip, leaving an opening too small for adequate flow, or we cut far too high up the body of the cigar, attempting to open a wide enough aperture but inadvertently unravelling the wrapper. The Cuban Cut offers the solution: simply perform a straight cut at an angle and the gap is wide enough for smoke to move through but no damage is done to our stick. The perfect compromise, and easily achieved.
The Montecristo Open Regata is a piramides that will benefit from a Cuban cut.
Like every aspect of cigar smoking, the most defining factor for what cut to use is whichever will afford most enjoyment to the individual. Some may prefer the intensity of a punch-cut Partagas P2, some may enjoy carving a deep v-cut wedge into the tip of their Cohiba Piramides. The most important thing is, whichever cut you select, carry it out with care and attention – and the proper tools. Clint Eastwood may have looked cool biting the end off his cigar, but it will often leave ragged strands of tobacco dangling from the end and ruin the experience of the smoke. Better to savour an hour of cigar than a second of bravado.