Cigars 101

Who Cares About Your Cigar Ash?

What the Color of Your Cigar Ash Means, and Why You Don’t Need to Worry Too Much About It.

Back in my days in customer service for a cigar retailer, I would receive an occasional customer call insisting their cigars were bad. In fact, they were always the worst cigars the customer ever tasted. No, even worse; they were so bad, they would make people violently ill to the point where hospitalization would be the only means of full recovery, and even still, that person would have to undergo decades of psychiatric therapy to free his mind of all the horrors the cigars had on his life. I’m not being dramatic here; I actually received calls just like this. But like a good employee, I pried into why they were the worst cigars in the world since that was my job. Nine times out of ten, the answer would be because the ash color was black instead of white.

Again, I seriously had people call and give me stories like these. The flashback to the dark days in the call center actually came to mind when I was speaking to a cigar blogger over the weekend named Peter. The issue came up since I was smoking a Cusano 18 and the ash was relatively dark, and I pointed it out to him. His reaction was as normal as the sun is bright; he slapped me on the back of the head and told me to stop whining. He was right though, I shouldn’t be complaining about a dark ash. Ash color is perhaps the most insignificant thing you can analyze when smoking a cigar.

Let me explain: Ash color really only has to do with the levels of magnesium contained in the tobacco leaves. The lighter the cigar ash, the more magnesium there is and the opposite is true of darker cigar ash. However, the level difference is so minimal in the cigar, it is nowhere near noticeable on your palate. Instead of looking at color, look at the overall ash quality. This tells the story of your whole cigar as you puff through it. Say your cigar ash is flaky. This might mean that you are smoking a short filler, and it can become a nuisance since the ash will most likely break off constantly. If this is the case, don’t smoke and drive without an Ash Can. Also, if the cigar splits in the middle, this usually means the middle is not keeping pace with the perimeter of the cigar. When the wrapper is burning faster than the filler and binder, this is a caustic burn issue and can alter the flavor of the smoke, so you will not taste the blend the manufacturer intended. To fix this, just stop puffing for a few minutes so the inside can catch up.

If you really want to analyze your cigar ash to ensure a quality smoke, do not look at the ash color; it is insignificant in the grand scheme of things. Instead, pay close attention to how the ash splits and breaks off as you smoke in order to better analyze the quality of your burn. After all, the quality of the burn is what really helps to define the flavor of the cigar.

Jonathan DeTore

Jonathan DeTore

My job here is pretty simple - I write stuff, I post stuff to Facebook, and I take it to the house consistently at the weekly slam drunk contest. I do it all while sipping on a fine glass of cognac at my desk (don’t tell my boss), and wearing cashmere slippers. Let’s just say "The Hef" has nothing on me.

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