Many devoted pipe smokers will tell you that allowing your pipe tobacco to age creates a more pleasurable smoke. Aging pipe tobacco isn’t as simple as just buying bags and / or tins and squirreling them away in a dark cabinet.
First of all, aging benefits certain types of tobacco more than others. Virginia and Virginia/Perique blends probably are the ones that change most noticeably and generally become sweeter and smoother. English and Balkan style blends will also be helped if you find the tobacco to be harsh or overpowering when first opened. Time mellows and takes the edge off the sometimes in-your-face power of Latakia. Burley blends and aromatics in general don’t seem to benefit much, if at all, from aging.
So, how do you actually cause pipe tobacco to age? There’s a misconception that tinned pipe tobacco is easy to age. While a sealed tin will allow the tobacco within to age, if it is vacuum sealed, the aging process will move a snails pace at best. Aging any pipe tobacco requires the presence of oxygen (aka, air.)
Some tinned tobaccos come sealed, but not vacuum packed. In the case of non vacuum sealed tins, simply hide them away and they will age without any further help. However, just because the tin is new doesn’t mean the seal is secure. It’s always safer to treat every tin you buy as if it has been unsealed, unless it has a peal-back top (like a can of nuts.) For vacuum sealed tins and bulk tobacco, you’ll need to take some specific steps to encourage proper aging.
No matter whether you’re aging your pipe tobacco or simply storing it for future use, keeping the humidity level at about 62% produces the best smoke. If thew tobacco you want to age is too wet, spread it out and let the humidity level drop a bit. If it’s too dry, spritz it with distilled water OR place it in a glass jar with a humidifying medium such as a Boveda pack or disk humidifier. If you don’t maintain the humidity, all the aging in the world won’t help.
The best vessel to use for aging pipe tobacco is the Mason Jar. Fill the jars about three quarters of the way, leaving the other quarter empty. This air space is crucial to the aging process.
If you were jarring jelly or tomatoes, you’d usually put these jars in a bath of boiling water, but that level of heat would change the tobacco. So, just use hot tap water (temperature below 140° F.) Place the jars in the sink so that the water is about as high as the level of tobacco in the jar. Let them sit in the water for about 15 minutes, and screw the lids in place. Remove them from the sink, and as they cool, a slight vacuum will pull the lids tightly into place, which is important as the tobacco’s humidity level should remain at about 62%.. Some folks like to use a vacuum sealer and bags to age tobacco, but this has the same problem as vacuum-sealed tins. Using ziplock bags or Tupperware type containers just won’t work as there will be too much air exchange, the plastic will transfer a chemical flavor to the tobacco and, since these type containers aren’t air tight, the tobacco will dry out.
When you’re ready to finally smoke the aged tobacco, open the container and allow the tin or jar to remain open for an hour or so before loading a bowl, to let the air bring out the flavor.