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What’s the big deal about BIG ash?

  • August 10, 2015
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So what is the big deal about big ash? Everywhere you look you see pictures of BOTL and SOTL with their big ashes, but what does it all mean? Is it really that big of a deal? Well, today we are going to look into just that, what does it all mean and what is your ash telling you? Let’s get into it!

As I said earlier, you see pictures all over the net of all these giant ashes, some as long as the cigar itself, but what is the bench mark for a good cigar? Well, within the cigar community 1 inch is the benchmark that has been set. Don’t get me wrong there is nothing wrong with bigger ashes, but at a minimum 1 inch is what you want to reach. But why? Because I said so. Just kidding! It is because better quality leaves create a denser ash which stay on longer because it is a denser and stronger ash. Why does a longer ash matter? As the air travels through a longer ash, it is given the opportunity to cool, making the smoke cooler and smoother, thus enhancing your smoking experience. For example, have you ever been smoking a cigar and when the ash falls down the flavor profile completely changed? Well that is due to the smoke not being able to cool while traveling through the ash, therefore making the smoke hotter and changing the profile.

When my ash does fall, what should I be looking for? When your ash does decide to fall, hopefully after an inch, what you want to see is a nice cone shaped ash, and here is why. The leaf at the center of your cigar, that one that gives your cigar its flavor, is known as the ligero leaf and better quality cigars will have more of it. This leaf is made from the leaves at the top of the tobacco plant which will have the most flavor and will be the most bold due to them having a higher concentration of nicotine and all the things that make your cigar good. This youthful concentration makes the leaf burn slower than the leaf used on the outside of the cigar, thus creating a nice cone shaped ash.

What about the way the cigar is made, does that affect the ash? The ash of a cigar will tell you a lot about how a cigar was made. If your cigar was made with long, quality leaves than the cigar should have a solid, nicely stacked ash that will most likely go right past that one inch benchmark. But, if your cigar was made with torn or short leaves, than typically the ash will not be able to hold on past the one inch mark. You will have similar effects if your cigar was not rolled firmly enough, besides not reaching the one inch mark, you will experience flakiness and crumbling in the ash.

Everything that we have talked about above is very important when inspecting your cigar, but there is still one more story your ash is trying to tell when it displays its beautiful ash to you. That is the story of where it came from, well maybe not where it came from, but rather, what type of soil environment the tobacco was grown in. Soil contains many different chemical and mineral deposits, and all of these are carried into the tobacco leaf when the tobacco soaks up the water from the soil, causing different colors in your cigar ash. Take cigars that are made from central Cuban Remedios tobacco, this tobacco produces a near white ash. Unlike cigars made from Vuelta Abajo tobacco that produces a gray ash with white veins. The difference in the color is caused by the different mineral in the soil, Remedios soil is predominantly potassium, whereas Abajo Vuelta soil is full of different minerals in roughly even amounts. Anyone of these two colors are signs of a good cigar, it’s when you start getting cigars with more black than white, or all black ash, that you should start to worry. This means the tobacco was grown in a mineral poor environment, and the tobacco did not receive all the nutrients it needed in order to reach maximum performance. Ash like this will usually cause a very unpleasant taste and smell.

With all this being said, it doesn’t matter if you have the best leaves in the world rolled by the best roller in the world, if you mistreat your cigar while smoking you will never reach your one inch benchmark. Take care of your cigar while smoking, draw easy and don’t treat it like a drum stick banging it on everything. Be good to your cigar and your cigar will be good to you.

And there it is folks, why a big ash is such a big deal! Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed it, and remember ALWAYS keep it on the LEVEL!

Tony

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Tony Rubio

Owner/ Author at Tony's Cigar Corner
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4 thoughts on “What’s the big deal about BIG ash?”

  1. Very informative post. But one thing doesn’t make sense at all to me. Long ash makes the smoke cool down while traveling through it? Well to me I see two faults in that statement. First, smoke doesn’t travel through the ash towards your mouth, it travels from the burn point behind the ash, amd through the unburned part of the cigar. That’s why a short cigar produce a warmer smoke, because it travels a shorter path, not allowing it to cool as much as when traveling through a long cigar. And even if the smoke was traveling through the ash, it certainly wouldn’t allow for a cooler smoke, as the ash can retain a lot of heat for a long time. So, either you got it wrong or I misunderstood you completely? The change of flavor I agree with though, for better or worse. But again, thanks for an informative post, the mineral content part especially!
    Regards,
    Josef

    Reply
    1. I had this question asked to me earlier, and what it should of said was that as air travels through the ash not smoke.. The correction was made but and i appreciate you taking the time to read.

      Reply
  2. Ligero is the position of the leaf on the plant, not within the cigar. Because the ligero is younger, at the top of the plant, it has more strength and a spicier flavor profile. Yes, it’s generally used as filler because it burns more slowly, but not in every cigar.

    Reply
    1. Penny,

      You are correct the ligero leaf is the younger thicker leaf that is harvested from the top of the tobacco plant. When I speak of the ligero leaf in the cigar I am referring to the fact that if and when used in a cigar it is used in the center of the cigar because if it is not it will cause tunneling due to the slower burn of the ligero leaf. Thanks for reading alway enjoy your insight

      Reply

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