The final part of the preparation of a cigar is unhurried as the leaves used in the making have received years of care and attention to be allowed to mature. Even the most experienced cigar smoker takes a few minutes carrying out these tasks. It’s important not to rush and to do a thorough job when preparing a cigar for smoking. The aim when cutting a cigar is to create an aperture at the head of the cigar broad enough to ensure an unobstructed draw while retaining enough of the cap to prevent the cigar unravelling.
There are many different methods of cutting a cigar and several different tools available to help with the job. The most popular type of cut is known as a ‘straight cut’ and is made using a single or double-bladed guillotine or cigar scissors. When using one of these cutters, make sure you make the incision on the “shoulders” of the cigar. This will leave the bottom of the cap intact. On Figurados (cigars that are tapered at the head) the cut should be about 3mm in from the pointed end.
Simply place the cigar into the cutter and, once you have the correct positioning, be firm and decisive when making the cut. Always try to cut the cigar as straight as possible.
The two other main types of cutter are the punch cutter (also known as a plug or bullet cutter) and the V-cutter. The punch has a circular blade and cuts a round hole out of the top of the cap, but can’t be used to cut Figurados or double Figurados. The V-cutter cuts a V-shaped wedge into the cap but the blade of these cutters must be very sharp to avoid tearing the wrapper leaf.
Never pierce the cap with a match, cocktail stick or a toothpick. This compresses the tobacco inside the cigar and impedes the draw. The hole will be too small so oil and tar may form around the edge and leave a bitter and unpleasant taste.
When lighting a cigar it is important to use an odourless flame such as a butane gas lighter, match or cedar spill. Never use a candle or petrol lighter as they will taint the taste of the cigar. Never remove the band before lighting as this will risk damaging the delicate wrapper leaf.
Let the tip of the flame play across the foot of the cigar whilst rotating between your thumb and forefinger until it is evenly lit, this might take a minute or two. It’s perfectly acceptable to place the cigar in your mouth when lighting a cigar for yourself.
Although the guiding principle regarding the smoking of a cigar should always be ‘If you’re enjoying it, you are doing it correctly’, here are a few suggestions to obtain the most enjoyment from a Havana cigar:
Firstly, always remember that the satisfaction taken from a cigar is found in its flavours and aromas, so do not inhale the smoke – it’s not a cigarette.
Gently draw the smoke into your mouth and allow it to play across your palate. Relax and savour the subtle flavours and aromas of the tobaccos in the blend.
A Havana cigar should be smoked slowly. It should be sipped rather than gulped or it may overheat as this can affect the evenness of the burn and harm the flavour.
Allow the ash to build, rather than tapping it constantly. The ash also insulates the ember and allows it to burn at a slightly lower temperature, giving a cooler smoke.
If the cigar goes out you can relight it, but remember to clean the end of any excess ash first, otherwise it can be a struggle to reignite. It’s best to do this within an hour or so of it going out.
When finished, do not stub the cigar out. Lay it to rest in an ashtray and let it die with dignity.
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