Know your pipe tobaccos : Pipes and Tobaccos Magazine

Know your pipe tobaccos

Taking some of the mystery out of those tin descriptions we all read

by William C. Nelson

In late June in North Carolina's eastern tobacco belt, a field of Virginia is getting a strong start

In late June in North Carolina’s eastern tobacco belt, a field of Virginia is getting a strong start

As with the making of fine wines, the creation of a pipe blend can depend on any number of constituent varietals. Most avid pipe smokers would like to know more about what goes into the blends they love, and even what goes into the blends they don’t like. This is for the same reasons that wine lovers seek to understand the varietal grapes constituting blended wines: With more knowledge can come greater pleasure. Most tobacco producers, aware of consumer interest in how blends are created, disclose considerable information about the types of leaf and flavorings that go into their products. A typical blend description might read, “This product gets its body from the finest Kentucky Burleys we could locate. We then add a measure of flue-cured leaf out of Zimbabwe for sweetness, and a touch of our house Cavendish for mildness and an even burn.” As pipe hobbyists, we can be grateful we live in an era when such disclosures are commonplace. However, even the most forthright product descriptions are of no use to the consumer who is not familiar with the predominant leaf varieties, and with the smoking qualities each distinctly brings.

A lot of this kind of knowledge comes to us best through experience. Still, we can all use some grounding in the basics. To that end, here is a primer on the most prominent leaf varieties used in formulating pipe tobaccos.

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Category: Feature Article, Winter 2016

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