4 Feb 2013
I’ve seen it time and again in cigar shops, cigar bars, or at other cigar-friendly locales: misinformed smokers who hastily tap, smash, or smear their cigars in an ashtray after almost every puff. They know not the damage they cause.
Cigar smoking is all about taste, relaxation, and enjoyment. So while I’m all for the “to each his own” mentality, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out the danger of over-ashing.
First, let’s remember that smoking a cigar is a lot like cooking dinner. You need the right amount of time and the right temperature to achieve the optimal flavor. In order to properly “cook” tobacco (i.e., in order to properly caramelize its sugars), I’m told the target is 494˚F at the foot.
No need to crack out that thermometer, though. Smoking cigars is more of an art than a science. Just remember that taking time between puffs and allowing the ash to build up will help maintain the proper temperature. You want cool, flavorful smoke. Over-ashing may increase a cigar’s heat and harshness by exposing the foot to excess oxygen.
Now I’m aware that some occasions call for more frequent ashing than is otherwise optimal. For instance, if you’re wearing new pants and don’t want to run the risk of a lapful. Or if you’re indoors and want to avoid spillage. Or if you’re trying a new stick and aren’t sure of its ash threshold.
No occasion, however, calls for the sort of over-ashing that I often observe. Likewise, it’s hard to imagine a scenario that merits stubbing out a finished premium cigar like a cigarette. Doing so results in a mass of foul odors and unpleasant smoke. An artisan craft like a handmade cigar deserves a respectful death—extinguishing in the ashtray peacefully on its own.
All this said, I’ve never considered myself one of those cigar enthusiasts who obsesses over achieving ashes of great length. Ashes that were featured by Nub in an ad campaign several years ago (pictured) are too intense for my liking. Cigars, after all, aren’t about competition. But any smoking method that produces the intended flavor profile and enhances enjoyment is worth practicing and promulgating.
photo credit: Nub Cigar