Preparing a cigar is a ritual that is unique to the smoker. Some use guillotine cutters and torches; others use a V-cut and matches; others use cedar strips and punches. Mix and match, and season with a favorite beverage or smoking activity, and you see that enjoying a fine cigar is an almost spiritual event that sometimes says something significant about the smoker.
Tony and I used to be straight-cut men. We had lovely cutters and trimmed away the cap with ruthless abandon. Then, having temporarily misplaced my cutter, I made due with the punch embedded in my torch and became a convert. Since then, we’ve both been primarily punch dudes.
I like punches for three reasons. First, it’s cleaner — less worry about scraping the cap and leaving tobacco flecks everywhere. Second, you get to pull the smoke through the filler, leading to a slightly different flavor profile. Third, my punch is built into my torch, so I have one less thing to lug around.
But punches have their quirks, too. Some tips:
- Make sure your punch actually pulls out a plug at least an eighth of an inch deep. More shallow than that, and your run an increased risk of getting “cigar spit” all over your lips, leaving you with an unhappy burning, sour sensation and yellow stains on your lips. A punch with a dulled edge is less likely to pull out a clean plug.
- Cigars with tight caps, or sticks that are too dry, may prove more difficult to punch — you may even tear the wrapper trying.
- Especially for cigars with large ring gauges, a punch (typically a quarter inch in diameter) may lead to stiffer draws and more frequent plugging.
- When in doubt, and the punch isn’t working, just grab a cutter and lop off the rest of the cap.
Readers: What’s your preference for cutting/punching, and why?