Cigar ash, with its varying shades of black, grey, and white, is more than just a byproduct of smoking; it’s a window into the quality and character of your cigar. Understanding these colours isn’t just about aesthetics – it offers insights into the combustion process and, ultimately, the taste of the cigar.
The Spectrum of Cigar Ash Colours
When you torch cigar ashes that are black or grey, a remarkable transformation occurs – they turn white. This change is a telltale sign of incomplete combustion. The black particles, often partially burnt organic molecules, are too large to be fully combusted. In contrast, a white ash indicates near-complete combustion, suggesting a better burn. This often results from the efficient breakdown of complex molecules, a process aided by fermentation or the ageing of tannin long-chained polymers.
White Ash and the Evolution of Taste
The colour transition in cigar ash offers a plausible explanation for the evolving strength of a cigar’s taste over time. Initially, complex substances that are difficult to burn remain in the ash as black particles. Over time, these substances become combustible, intensifying the cigar’s flavour. This is particularly noticeable in cigars that exhibit a bitter or harsh green taste when new.
The Deceptive Nature of White Ash
However, a white ash can sometimes be deceiving. While the outer wrapper ash may appear white, the interior could still be grey. Observing the cigar’s foot vertically can reveal this contrast. Generally, the ash of a cigar begins to turn white around 5 to 6 years of age, reaching a snow-white colour by 30 years.
White Ash in Young Cigars
Interestingly, some young cigars also boast white ash, typically associated with a smoother taste. However, this is not directly linked to the long-term ageing process, where complex and mysterious chemical reactions take place.
Grey Ash and Humidity Factors
A grey ash in a cigar, especially when others in the same box have white ash, could indicate suboptimal humidity levels. Both overly dry and excessively moist conditions can hinder proper combustion, affecting the ash colour.
Cigar ash colours serve as more than just visual appeal. They are indicators of the quality of combustion, the ageing process, and the intricate chemical changes that occur within a cigar. As a cigar aficionado, understanding these nuances can deepen your appreciation and enhance your smoking experience.
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