Written by Puff Staff

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

User Rating: / 33

basmaenglish blends
flavors and aromasizmir

pipetobacco01What kind of tobacco should I smoke?  The oft asked question we all hear from newer pipe smokers.  Heck!  It’s the question many experienced pipe smokers ask as they’re trying to decide what to smoke!  Since that’s a question that everyone who smokes a pipe eventually asks, I think the thing we need to talk about is the different tobaccos that are out there.

Probably one of the largest single categories of tobaccos is English blends.  By largest, I’m talking about the sheer number of different English blends out there.  An English blend, by definition, is a blend that uses oriental tobaccos to add different flavors.  Because of tobacco purity laws in England up until fairly recently, no additives were allowed to be put in tobacco.  Therefore, they used oriental tobaccos and perique to add flavors to a base of Virginias.  Latakia is arguably an oriental tobacco and it was one of the most widely used tobaccos in English blends.  Most American blends contained a base of burley tobacco.  So that’s where English blends get their name.  English blends vary greatly.  You have Virginia and oriental blends that are considered English.  You have Virginia, latakia and oriental blends that make up the bulk of English blends.


Virginia tobacco, or Brightleaf, is probably the most used tobacco in pipe blends.  It was the one of America’s first cash crops ever.  Most is flue cured to help it keep it’s bright yellow, red and orange colors.  It is usually matured for some time after being pressed into blocks.  This helps give it the sweet and subtle fruit flavors.  Young Virginias tend to have a grassy, mown hay type flavor that can be quite pleasant.  Since Virginias have the most sugars in them, they also tend to not give as much of a nicotine kick as a burley with the same nicotine content.  If you’ve smoked pipe tobacco before, chances are, you’ve smoked Virginia.

Latakia tobacco comes from two areas, Syria and Cyprus.  Originally it was named for the port of Latakia in Syria but recently Cyprian latakia is far more prevalent that Syrian.  Smoke cured, latakia has a strong flavor that many people don’t like in large amounts.  The two latakias vary quite a bit in flavor.  Syrian being the most sought after has a more pungent campfire flavor than it’s cousin Cyprian latakia.  Both, however, have become the hallmark of English blend tobaccos.  Much more could be written, and has been, about the differences between the two but right now, we’ll just leave it at what I’ve said so far.

Oriental, or turkish tobaccos are another component of English blends.  These tend to be far smaller in leaf but not flavor than other tobaccos.  These tobaccos bring such a tanginess and zest to a tobacco that, personally, it has become a favorite.  Some types are Basma, Izmir and Yenidje.  These highly aromatic tobaccos tend to have less nicotine than other tobaccos as well.  Small quantities can bring big flavor to a blend.  McClelland has a line of tobaccos dedicated specifically to orientals called the Grand Orientals line.  With a Virginia base there’s an explosion of oriental flavors from these blends.


Those are the main components of an English blend.  They can also contain other tobaccos as well.  Some will have a “pinch” of perique to give it a spicy peppery flavor.  True perique tobacco comes from St. James Parrish in Louisiana.  At present, there is only one farmer left growing perique.  Percy Martin supplied the world with perique.  I’ve read recently that there are two types of perique.  St. James perique is straight perique tobacco and Acadian perique is a blend.  One way perique is made one of the most unique condiment tobaccos is it’s fermentation process.  It’s put into oak whiskey barrels and pressed with incredible pressure.  It’s worth mentioning here that the newest tobacco component to come out in many years takes Kentucky and Virginia tobaccos and ferments them the same way perique is fermented.  McClelland is using this in their Royal Cajun line now.

Burley is another type of tobacco used in pipe tobacco blends.  As stated before, most American blends were once made with burleys.  It’s said that it is descended from a mutation discovered in Ohio in the 1800’s.  Burley, by itself has a nutty, vaguely chocolatey flavor.  It’s known as a chameleon tobacco since it tends to take on the characteristics of the tobaccos it’s blended with.  Burley can give a big nicotine kick.  For that reason, it’s the primary tobacco used in cigarettes.

Cavendish tobacco is probably one of the most misunderstood term in pipe tobacco.  Cavendish isn’t a variety of tobacco.  It’s a process that is done to infuse sweetness into a tobacco.  After a Virginia is flue-cured or a burley is air-cured, it is steamed with water that has sugar and/or flavorings in it.  The steaming process helps the tobacco accept the flavoring better.  It’s then pressed into large squares for a period of days to weeks to make a tobacco that is usually used in an aromatic tobacco.  Of course, it’s also used in other blends as well.  I’ve had it in a Virginia/perique as well as an English blend and it always brings something unique to the blend.


That brings us to aromatic tobaccos.  Previously I said that English blends were probably the largest category of tobaccos.  I could be wrong about that when I think about aromatics.  Aromatics are cased or topped with just about any flavor you can possibly think of.  The most used seem to be cherry, vanilla and caramel.  Aromatics can be, if done right, wonderfully flavorful tobaccos.  But if done poorly, they can be horrible and can bite terribly.  Aromatics will ghost a pipe due to the flavorings.

This is definitely not a comprehensive discussion of the different types of tobaccos.  There are kentuckys and marylands as well as some others that aren’t used as extensively as the ones I’ve talked about.  So, next time you hear, “What should I smoke?”  Whether it comes from within or from someone else, perhaps this will help you or another decide.  Thanks again for spending some time with me!

Happy smoking!


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