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How to Cut and Light A Cigar

Updated: Apr 10

Aka How to Arm the Cannons and Not Get Blown Up

Three cigars laid over a map with a compass and the ADVentura logo


The etiquette of properly cutting  and lighting a cigar is an essential skill to master on your cigar enjoying journey. They say there’s 100 ways to skin a cat, but when it comes to preparing the perfect smoke, keep it simple and remember  these  two crucial points: Tip the cap, and toast, not roast.

How to Cut A Cigar:

The most important part of properly cutting a cigar is protecting the cap, and ensuring you cut off enough to create proper airflow without causing damage. When a cigar is being rolled, it is finished or “capped” with a small, round piece of tobacco and “glue” called pectin or vegetable gum, derived from plants and used as a food-safe adhesive. This cap holds the wrapper leaf together, and if you cut below the cap you risk damaging the entire cigar, causing it to unravel and giving you a loose, unenjoyable smoking experience.

A cigar being capped in a factory in the Dominican Republic

That’s why it’s important to “tip the cap” – cut off just enough of the cap of the cigar to get the airflow and draw you need without causing the cigar to unwrap.

However you decide to “tip the cap” is personal preference, but there are three main ways to cut your cigars – with either a straight cut, a punch cut, or a v-cutter.

  • Straight Cut: Also known as a “guillotine” style cutter, this is the standard type of cigar cutter that most enthusiasts are familiar with. A straight cut allows the most airflow, and as a beginner it may be good to help introduce flavors within the thirds of the cigar with potential for the easiest draw. We suggest cutting just below where the head of the cigar rounds, literally, try to remove only the cap of the cigar without cutting into the top third. Remember, you can always cut more off, but you can’t put the cigar back together if you cut off too much.

  • V-Cut: A V-Cut takes a lot of the guess work out of how deeply to cut your cigar and concentrates the airflow while leaving the edges of the cap still intact and avoids disrupting the wrapper. However, you need to be sure you use a v-cutter with confidence. If you cut the cigar too slowly with a v-cutter, you risk pinching and damaging the wrapper.

  • Punch Cutter: A punch cutter creates a small hole that concentrates the airflow even more, and some say it can help alleviate bitterness, but  that has to do with how quickly you smoke as well. Punch cutters tend to perform better on cigars with large ring gauges. Very skinny cigars run the risk of splitting when you apply the pressure of a punch cutter to the cap.

Cigars showing off the three different styles of cuts available

The only way to know which style you really prefer is to try all 3 and see what works best for you. Either way, you’ll want to ensure you keep your cutter clean and sharp – remove any extra bits of tobacco after cutting your cigar, and if you notice that your favorite cutter starts dulling it may be time to switch it out. The biggest enemy to a good cut is a dull cutter!

How to Light a Cigar:

Once your cigar is cut, you’ll need to properly light it and ensure you’re getting a consistent, even flame across the entire end of the cigar. This is a tricky and essential part of the cigar enjoying process – you need to make sure you have enough flame on the cigar to keep it lit and burning evenly, but if you make your cigar too hot by providing too much fire or drawing in too much air, the cigar will create burnt, bitter flavors.

When selecting the tool to light your cigar with, remember that not all fire is the same. When it comes to properly lighting a cigar, we stand by a few rules to avoid altering the flavor of the blend. For that reason, we’ll avoid lighter fluid fueled lighters and opt instead of butane torch lighters or fires of cedar wood or all natural matches. These are free from fragrances that can alter the aromas of the tobacco – after all, you spent a ton of time selecting  an amazing cigar, so let’s make sure you can actually taste it!

Unlit cigars laid out on leather with a box of matches

The most important part of lighting your cigar is to remember  to TOAST not ROAST.

Think about S’mores. We’ve all roasted marshmallows, and we all know that one person that lets it catch fire and blows it out when it’s an all-black piece of charcoal. Take that approach with your cigar, and you’re going to get a rough, bitter experience. Instead, our goal is to caramelize the tobacco gently and coerce the wrapper, binder, and filler to create the perfect billow of white smoke.

When lighting the cigar, make sure to avoid placing the foot directly in the flame – instead, hold the flame close to the cigar and  allow the residual heat to begin warming up the tobacco. Rotating the cigar slowly  during this process  will create an even light, instead of keeping one side of the cigar hotter than the other.

Once the foot is warmed up, keep the cigar close to the fire (but not directly inside it), and  take a few short puffs until the end  of the cigar is completely lit and flaming orange. Take your time during  this process – just as it took the time to harvest, blend, roll and age the beautiful cigar you are about to smoke, it’s important to set yourself up for the perfect experience.

In Conclusion:

Learning to properly cut and light cigars is an essential skill in your journey throughout the cigar process. If you’ve got other questions or need any advice,  please feel free to reach out to us on Instagram or at the next event we see you at. And remember, with Swiss Precision and Dominican Passion, we’ll be able to keep your cutters sharp,  your lighters hot, and your cigar experience perfected.

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