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Making The Cut

By: Lindsay Heller

It's a good thing Zino Davidoff isn't alive to watch some of you bite toff the cap of your cigar—he never recommended the action, nor condoned it. Being a man of precision in everything he did, it's no wonder Zino advocated a true enthusiast always keep a cutter nearby. 

Cigars until the last half of the 20th Century had relatively small ring gauges (RG), so a gentleman's knife of what's probably considered the first real cutter, a perforator (or piercer), did the trick. As cigarettes increased in popularity, so did the prevalence of machine-made cigars and those didn't require any type of cut at all, as they already came pierced through the cap. What fascinates me personally are not the innovative or artistic designs of modern cutters, but rather how the style of cut effects the delivery of what I smoke.

CLASSIC GUILLOTINE OR SCISSORS

Whether a guillotine suits your fancy or you prefer a pair of cigar scissors, one thing is for certain: you control removing the greatest amount of surface area from your cigar. Both of these tools need to remain clean and sharp to attain true precision, but they're viable options for cigars of nearly any vitola. (And yes, companies like Xikar manufacture a guillotine that works up to a 75RG.)

While I prefer my scissors, I tend to follow one rule: if it's a Maduro and/or could be a spice-forward blend, I always use a straight-cut if I'm unfamiliar with the cigar. I want the draw to be smooth and open, and I need my palate to understand what's going on in the easiest way possible. Becoming more familiar with the tobacco, and based on my impressions of the blend, the next time I light up, it will either merit another straight-cut or my coveted V-cut. 

PUNCH

Most deter from utilizing a punch if working with less than a 50RG or a tapered head; however, for those who desire a highly-concentrated experience, they serve a purpose. The right amount of force is required with this cutter which, like a guillotine, needs to remain sharp to work properly; too much energy with a punch can result in cracking the remainder of the surrounding cap, so tread with patience.

If you enjoy mellow to medium-bodied blends and are looking to train your palate, then I highly recommend using a punch: you will undoubtedly taste notes previously unaware to your taste buds. On the opposite end, there are full-bodied smokers who like to use a punch to create even greater intensity. I don't recommend this for two reasons: 1) you'll blast out your palate; and 2) you'll create a focal point for the build-up of harsh elements and tars. These problems tend to occur when an enthusiast also smokes too quickly.

V-CUTTER

This is, without a doubt, my favorite way to cut a cigar that is anything but a Lancero or Panatela. (I even V-cut certain blends in a Belicoso or Torpedo format!) Also known as a Cat's Eye, I learned to appreciate this style as the youngest Tobacconist on staff at Nat Sherman in New York City, as it's a Sherman family favorite. It is simple physics: the divot created by the angled blade concentrates the smoke and nuances of your cigar on the palate.

Truth be told, I V-cut probably 75% of what I smoke on a regular basis. With it, I don't have issues with filler falling into my mouth during the last third, and there's something magical about really tasting every detail. Instead of hoping you get that hint of citrus or that niche baking spice, a cigar speaks very clearly with a V-cut, and it looks pretty cool, too. 

HOW DO I KNOW WHAT'S RIGHT FOR ME?

The best cigar is really the one you enjoy the most, ad the same can too be said for style of cut. Season cigar veterans always discuss which cut is most appropriate, but I urge you to figure that out for yourself. Set aside multiples of a favorite blend and cut each one differently, smoking on a clean palate each time—and take notes, too. This is an exercise I've often done with test blends over the years, and it really forces my nose and brain to process every little detail. Plus, if anyone asks why you're doing this, you can just wink and say, "Science."

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