The ash can tell you a lot about the quality of your cigar. It gives insight into everything from the quality of the leaves, to the workmanship of the cigar, to the type of soil it was grown in.
In any good-quality cigar, the ash should measure one inch before falling off. This is important because the length of the ash impacts the flavor of the cigar. Having one inch of ash at the foot of the cigar controls airflow to keep the cigar burning cooler and steadier, and ultimately softening the smoke. Ashless cigars, on the other hand, burn too hot and lead to a harsher, stronger smoke.
One of the main factors that impacts the length of the ash is the quality of the leaves used in the cigar. Long-filler tobacco and better wrapper leaves provide the best smoke because quality leaves produce a denser column of ash that will burn longer. Torn or short leaves won’t allow the ash to stick together as long.
Hand-rolled versus machine-made impacts the ash as well. Hand-rolled cigars are firmer and produce longer-burning ash. Machine-made aren’t as stable in construction, so the ash won’t last as long before flaking off. However, even in hand-rolled cigars, the quality of the rolling has an impact as well. If the cigar wasn’t rolled firmly enough, it will lead to an uneven burn and weak ash that will fall off too easily.
When the ash does fall off, the remaining ash from quality cigars will have a cone shape, as opposed to being flat or hollowed in the middle. This is because higher quality cigars have more of the center leaf, which is what gives the cigar its taste. The center leaves burn longer than the outer leaves because they contain the most nicotine and sugar. This causes the outer ash to fall off before the center because the center is still burning.
The color of the ash is equally important. Next time you light up, notice whether the ash is light or dark. White (or light gray) ash is ideal because it indicates tobacco that is grown in rich, nutrient-dense soil. Black ash, on the other hand, indicates fewer minerals in the soil. Why is mineral content important? Again, because it impacts the flavor. The fewer the minerals, the more acidic the cigar, which can produce an unpleasant taste and smell.
One final thought. Even the highest quality cigar won’t hold on to a long ash if you’re not smoking it right. Inhale lightly, smoothly, and evenly for the best, longest-lasting ash.