We have over 65 pipe tobacco blends from which to choose. Cornell & Diehl, G.L. Pease, Briarworks International, Peterson of Dublin, Lane Limited, Peter Stokkebye, Dunhill, and others…
- Peter Stokkebye
Pipe tobacco can be purchased in several forms, which vary both in flavor (leading to many blends and opportunities for smokers to blend their own tobaccos) and in the physical shape and size to which the tobacco has been reduced. Most pipe tobaccos resemble fine ribbon-cut cigarette tobacco, but are substantially more moist (62% rh suggested) and are cut much more coarsely. Too finely cut tobacco does not allow enough air to flow through the pipe, and overly dry tobacco burns too quickly with little flavor. Pipe tobacco is best kept in a 62% RH humidor (not with cigars, which require higher humidity or in some other airtight container, such as a Mason jar.
PIPE TOBACCO CATEGORIES
Most commercially available pipe tobaccos fall into three general categories:
- Aromatic — tobacco blends that have flavors such as honey, cherry, vanilla, Bourbon and many more… added. The smoke from an aromatic tobacco is usually pleasant, even to non-smokers, as it smells like cookies cooking.
- Non-Aromatic — these tobacco blends are unflavored and stand on the scents of the raw tobacco in harmony with each other.
- English / Oriental / Turkish — whatever you choose to call these tobaccos, they are typically blends of diverse tobaccos that have been aged in a manner that brings together several savory scents. Many people compare the fragrance of an English blend to be like smell of a campfire burning.
Some pipe tobaccos are cut into long narrow pieces called Ribbon. Others are cut into fairly fine sized squares, called Cube Cut. Some are pressed into flat Cakes which are cut up in the factory or cut up by the smoker at the time of use. Others are tightly wound into long ropes and then, sometimes, sliced into discs. Cut up Cake and Rope tobaccos are called Flake.
Whether you enjoy Cake, Rope or Flake, the tobacco needs a little more preparation before it can be smoked. These three styles of tobacco may be prepared in several ways. Generally it is rubbed out with the fingers and palms until it is loose enough to pack. It can also be crumbled or simply folded and stuffed into a pipe. Some people also prefer to dice up very coarse tobaccos before using them. The added effort freshly releases the oils that carry much of the flavor hidden in the tobacco before heat is applied. While the oils trapped in Ribbon and Cube Cut are drawn out as it burns.
The tobacco plant is unique in that the plant develops different characteristics and flavors contingent on the type of soil and climate it is grown in. Many tobaccos blends have added natural and artificial flavorings added, but if the climate and soil is of poor quality the tobacco will never be a quality smoke. That is why tobacco isn’t grown in the UK. Good soil but too wet a climate.
VIRGINIA — comes in an almost infinite variety red, brown, black, lemon, orange, wheat orange-red etc.
It is the mildest of all blending tobaccos but because it has the highest natural sugar content by itself it can often burn hot. Virginia is used in almost all blends as it burns well.
Its characteristic is a natural sweetness but certain types have to steamed or stoved to eliminate their tannic acids which can impart an acidic taste.
BRIGHT VIRGINIA — is from the Carolinas and is normally very pale in color almost white.
BURLEY — “white burley” – is a mutation of Virginia that developed in Maryland after the Civil War. It has natural tobacco taste, almost nutty, and will never “bite.” It takes flavorings and casing especially well as it has very little taste of its own. It is the most common base tobacco in drugstore blends.
CAVENDISH — Cavendish is a process of curing and/or a method of cutting tobacco leaf. A steamed Virginia is a Cavendish. Cavendish takes aromatics very well. “Black Cavendish, is Kentucky Green River Burley steamed with either sucrose or fructose and not washed,” Craig Tarler of Cornell & Diehl. The best Cavendish is washed out after steaming to remove the sweetness. The treating and/or the cut bring out a natural sweet taste that is typical of Virginia tobacco. Cavendish is a tobacco that has a light taste, is mild and packs easy.
All Virginia tobaccos have high nicotine content because they typically are grown in nitrogen rich soils.
CONDIMENT TOBACCOS — These have a very strong taste and often aroma. They are rarely smoked straight. They normally used as flavoring in blends and to modify the burning characteristics of a blend.
PERIQUE — is grown in only in St, James Parish in Louisiana. It originated with Native Americans who steeped the tobacco in its own juice in hollow logs. Today, its produced by fermenting twist in their own juices under pressure for 9-10 months. It is still steeped in its own juice to make it Perique. It is very strong and few blends have more than 10-15% added.
HAVANA — Is grown in the Vuelta Region of Cuba – in Santiago Province. Some claim the best cigars in the world come from there.
DEER TONGUE — is the leaf of the wild vanilla plant. It is very hot if over used. It is added in small quantities to blends and has a unique aroma.
ORIENTAL TOBACCOS — They are typically very fragrant, variable sugar content and have virtually no nicotine because they are grown in nitrogen poor soils in arid regions of the Middle East and Greece, Bulgaria and the former Yugoslavia. They are bought up in massive quantities by the large cigarette companies.
There are two broad types of oriental Turkish and Greek.
The Greek includes Basma, (Frog Morton on the Town), Mahalla, Xanthi, (Ashton Old Dog), Dubek, Yenidji (original Balkan Sobraine).
The most common Turkish type is Smyrna, the best of which is called little ears in Turkish.
LATAKIA — From Syria/Cyprus (smoked Oriental tobacco). It was accidentally “discovered” after a bumper crop in the 1880’s. The surplus tobacco was stored in the rafters of Arab farmhouses. Arab peasant farmers, “fellahin” used wood and when short of wood camel dung for cooking and heating in the winter. The smoke cured tobacco imparted a unique flavoring and taste that was discovered when it was smoked.
Cyprian latakia is smoked over a banked fire of mountain shrubs, pine trees, myrtle and other native woods in sheds.
Syrian latakia is smoked over different woods and herbs. The main one is Syrian oak. Syrian latakia is normally lighter in color and smokier to taste than Cyprian.
DRAMA — Macedonia – Greece – is a strong condiment tobacco. It is used very sparingly in blends.
One of the characteristics of Latakia and other Oriental tobaccos is that they are grown in nitrogen poor soils. This means a low sugar and nicotine content but makes the tobaccos naturally spicy.
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