It’s inevitable. You’re relaxing, enjoying the flavor and aroma of your cigar and suddenly the time comes to “ash” your cigar; in other words, tap the ash off into the ashtray. It’s possibly the most effortless thing you have to do with a cigar besides puffing. There’s no right or wrong way to ash your cigars, so let’s digress and look at the ash itself.
Cigar ashes vary in color, texture and firmness. The colors can range from a variety of light to dark grays, to a gray with black lines, to more of a marble-like pattern to almost black. The color of the ash is generally determined by the minerals in the soil in which the leaves were grown.
Ash texture can range from silky smooth, to a series of slim ringlets, to toothy, to very rough and jagged.
A firm ash is preferable to a flaky one. It will also burn longer before having to tap it off. (How many times have you let the ash go only to find it in your lap a few seconds later?) A flaky ash will sprinkle flecks on your clothes as you smoke, and if it’s windy, it will blow off before you even have a chance to tap it.
The sign of an “ideal” ash is, when you tap it into the ashtray what remains is a “cherry” (ball-like) or a cone-shaped ash (bullet-like). That means the cigar is burning well. A lot of times the ash breaks off more squarely. In that case, if you’ve still got about a quarter-of-an-inch or more of ash left, you can “roll” the ash along the inside of the ashtray to form a more cone-like ash. This can be done with longer ashes, too. Simply place the ash-end of the cigar anywhere the base and the wall of the ashtray meet, and gently turn it, rounding-out the sharp and flakier edge of the ash.
How do you know when to ash? It should be obvious, but let’s say about every ½ to ¾ of an inch or so depending on its firmness. If it’s really firm, about every inch. When you’re ready to ash your cigar, test the ash by very gently touching it against the side of the ashtray wall. If it has a decent amount of resistance, you can probably go a little longer. Some cigars will burn three, four, and even five-inch long ashes before they’re tapped or fall off under their own weight. If it’s soft, it will begin to break up once it makes contact, in which case it’s simply tap-tap and let gravity do the rest.