|ALL about ASH
Your cigar ashes are a telltale sign about some of the characteristics of your cigar. A cigar that is well rolled (packed) can burn slowly and create a stiff ash up to two to three inches in length without bending or breaking. It merely looks like the cigar itself, except its grey.
Should your ash break up quickly, or burn in a less than tightly contained manner, or expend, it is probably not packed well and its' smoking characteristics are probably below par. If the ash color begins to vary into the darker tones the leaf mix was not up to standard either.
The quality of the smoke is not affected by the length of the ash. Hot or bitter smoking taste, or any other kinds of less them smooth variations that occur WHILE smoking the cigar, are other indications of poorer quality, either in the leaf mix or the rolling.
A great quality cigar can usually be smoked down to the nub (way past the Band). Sometimes, as you smoke a great or good one down, the taste will change from "lovely smooth", to beginning to be "bitter" or have a distinct "after taste". Most experts suggest tossing it, but I practice more patience. I simply put it down and let it burn itself gently in the "proper ashtray". A good cigar can maintain its slow burning qualities from 3 to 5 minutes without being puffed. Quite often it will burn itself past a "tar" spot easily and a resumption of your smoking it (without it going out) will confirm its' return to its original wonderful flavor. Give it a chance to re-prove itself. I find the last two inches really satisfying and "Hard to put down"! It's almost like a love affair, when it's that good!
What is the proper way to tap the ash from a cigar?
Ashing involves more of a turning than a tapping. There's no need to repeatedly tap or flick a cigar's ash like that of a cigarette. Handmade cigars are crafted from long-filler tobacco, which holds a far longer and sturdier ash than a cigarette, whose ash flakes and end up in your lap if left to any length. Fiddling with the ash with too much force can break off the ember, or "cherry," of the cigar, which will leave you having to relight.
Ashing - Step by Step
The best thing is to first have patience. Wait until the ash is about an inch long, or until you see a crack develop, before disposing of it in your ashtray. (If you wait a very long time, the ash will no doubt drop on your shirt or pants or on the floor. And while some say ash on the carpet is a preservative, on the whole, it is considered bad form).
When it is time to ash, rest the cigar against the side of the ashtray and gently press the end of the cigar against its bottom, turning or rotating the cigar at the same time. Take care not to press too hard. This will allow the ash to break off evenly, and you'll avoid any of the pitfalls mentioned above. If the ash is not breaking off, rest it on the side of the ashtray for a second, and then repeat the process.
ASHTRAYS Critical to the fulfillment of the pleasures of smoking are an assortment of the proper cigar ashtrays to match the size of your cigars AND your personal technique of how you physically handle your cigar while smoking, or how you hold it in your mouth (wet vs. dry, etc).
Antique ashtrays picked up in fleamarkets, are usually old enough to have been designed specifically for CIGAR smokers. I avoid the modern, lead crystal ones with the very long cigar rest. It gets very dirty quickly, and it is hard to handle the cigar (the, "I'm not looking", reach for it) as it smokes down.
For me the proper ashtray has a "Rest" (landing) for your cigar that has generous proportions, such as about 2 inches long and 7/8 to an inch wide, with at least a generous curve on its' sides so as to contain it EASILY, i.e., prevent it from rolling to the side.
The tray itself needs to be big enough to take, at least, the ashes from two big cigars, or else there is an annoying build up of a mountain of ash that constantly has to be played with (distracting to the purist), or else emptied frequently. Should a friend visit you need an ashtray with two holders for cigars and an even larger size to hold the ashes without ash-buildup.